The Mystique of the Mustache

Rowing his homebuilt Yawl on Pushaw Lake in Old Town, ME

Building a kayak is like growing a good mustache …it takes patience, years of experience and only truly enlightened women seem to appreciate it.
* from a 2013 Old Town Canoe and Kayak advertisement

I have known my husband for over 35 years and I have never known him without a mustache. The all male Catholic High School that he attended in the 60s had strict grooming standards which prohibited long hair (which was very popular at the time) as well as facial hair of any kind. Ready to assert his own style after graduation, he began to cultivate his first mustache and stopped getting regular haircuts. He kept his mustache and longish hair throughout college and beyond.

Don was 26 years old when I first met him. He worked for the County Fire Department and I for Parks and Recreation. The two departments were going to work together on a residential jobs program called the Young Adult Conservation Corps. At that time he had a well groomed mustache that ended just at the top of his lip and extended to the corners of his mouth, the kind that is sometimes referred to as a porn star mustache. But in fairness, it was the style of choice for police, firefighters and others whose freedom of expression was strictly limited by grooming and safety standards. At the time, I didn’t think too much about it one way or the other.

Mustaches of all sorts continued to be popular throughout the 70s and 80s, but their popularity seemed to wane in the 90s and the early part of the twenty-first century. But not for my husband. His mustache had become a part of his persona. As he gained seniority in his job he began to push the envelope of the county’s grooming standards. The edges began to creep past the corners of his mouth and droop a bit over his lip. By the time he retired in 2007, he had a full bushy mustache like Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, albeit with decidedly more gray streaks. Since then he has stopped cutting it altogether. It flows past his cheeks about 4-5 inches and covers his upper lip but grows no longer in either place. It is almost self regulating.

There seems to be a renewed interest in mustaches. Living in a college town, lots of young people stop us and tell him how much they like his ‘stache and how they would like to be able to grow one like it. And of course most of them can’t because like maturity and wisdom it grows and develops as you do. I have grown to love the mystic of the mustache nearly as much as he has. The down side is that all this attention to his facial hair has encouraged him to look for other outlets of personal style. He hasn’t cut his hair in months and has decided there is no reason to. I’m not sure how I feel about a man with a gray ponytail, but I know I will continue to love his spirit.

 

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