A little over three years ago my wife and I set off on our journey around the world. We prepared as much as we could by researching our travel route, avoiding the most dangerous places, and of course, growing a beard so I looked really tough. My previous attempts at growing facial hair ended in disappointment after being compared to the Joe Dirt facial hair one too many times.
However, thanks to either older age or growing it out more, it finally worked. So the combination of a beard and a tough face would save us. Luckily, I had previously had the same idea of looking tough when I took my passport photo almost ten years ago:
Okay so I didn’t look tough, but it did get me in trouble a few times – mainly in Vietnam where I almost missed my flight because the customs agent kept looking at the passport photo, putting it down, and looking at my much older and bearded face.
Anyway, the beard became a mask that hid my innocence and allowed me to convince myself that we were tough enough to do this around the world trip. It’s amazing how much you can convince yourself if you allow your mind to be open and new ideas to flourish even if it’s a totally ridiculous thought (e.g., Scientology). The tough beard worked in my own mind and looking back at some pictures, I even scared myself:
I didn’t always look this rough, only when suffering from food poisoning in the middle of the Bagan, Myanmar desert heat.
When we came back to the US and I started back at my job in 2014, the beard was the only remaining outward sign of the nine month adventure. Now I was back in my desk, back in the grind and back to reality. The beard transitioned from being my mask of toughness to now hiding the new person I had become after travel. I held onto it like I’d try to hold onto the freedom we once had.
I kept the beard until this weekend. It just seemed like the time to shave it off, like maybe the times could change again. I grabbed the trimmers and went for it. One swipe and my mask began to peel off as I wondered what my face under would look like without it. A few more swipes and I was left with a goatee. I walked in and surprised Jocelyn with my new look… and surprised she was.
Even though we’ve known each other for over ten years, the last three years of bearded Dan easily erased any memories of pre-beard. She was surprised but pretty okay with it. However, I wanted to go further. I went back and grabbed the clippers to finish it off… when I decided a mustache might be interesting.
I shaved off the rest of my goatee, only leaving the hair across my lip that signifies anything but normal in this era. If it was 30 years ago, I’d fit right in… but now, I could hardly even handle looking at myself! My chin looked too small and I swear I never had that double chin that now appears! My teeth looked too big as the balance of my face was all thrown off. And man, did I look creepy!
This time Jocelyn wasn’t prepared for the shock she was about to realize! I walked in and she shivered a little bit as she saw my new look. Her first instinct was to take a picture (maybe so her murderer could later be identified) and we got some dandies.
The on the left was a few minutes before I cut off my beard. The right… well, that was the creepy pose and result.
“Porn turtle” was the best description she came up with. I think it had something to do with my hair which hadn’t been cut in too long, combined with my stache which made me look like a porn star… and the turtle part… well, I guess she just thought I looked like a turtle now! Big confidence booster.
She had to send a picture to family and my brother-in-law said his daughter would no longer get to spend time with Uncle Dan. My friend Jason said Jocelyn would now be one of those ladies people pull aside in the grocery store to ask if she’s okay (and not getting kidnapped by the creepy mustached guy next to her). We had lots of good laughs at my expense.
I decided not to shave it off and see what it was like to keep it for the rest of the day. I wore it to Yoga that afternoon where I got some bewildered looks from classmates who were used to the beard. I could tell people wanted to say something, but instead bit their tongues.
Later that evening we went to Trader Joe’s to get our groceries for the week. Our check-out guy, a few years younger than me, quickly upped my confidence when he reassured me with, “nice stache”. He said he had one the last couple of years but returned to the full beard because his wife just couldn’t handle it anymore. As we left he lifted his hand for a high five. “Take it easy man”, my new stache pal exclaimed.
What was this… in three years, I hardly had a compliment on my beard, but now after only one night I already had one on my mustache?! The renewed confidence made Jocelyn nervous because she realized it probably added a couple of days onto my mustache life. And she was right.
On Sunday I went to my regular afternoon yoga class and had mostly forgotten the novelty now above my upper lip. I entered the campus from a new door and couldn’t find my way to the studio so I asked the security officer who was walking in front of me if he could point me in the right direction. An older man in his 50’s turned around to reveal a well formed mustache. “Right down the steps behind you, Sir”, he said with an extra twinkle in his eye and smile on his lips. That was a little strange, I thought.
After eight sun salutations, I once again forgot about the stache until I left the studio. As I was walking out the door, I encountered the same security guard who gave me a smile and a wave, and I wished him a great evening. I hadn’t seen him talk to anyone else both times I walked by.
It has become clear. I have joined a new band of brothers. Initiated into a club of older gentleman who never gave up the mustache they wore in the 1980s and young hipsters who want to be different. We’re a band of brothers… of mustached men… of Burt Reynolds renegades…
Oh Jocelyn, I’m not sure I can cut my mustache off now. Let’s see how work goes for a few days. So, here’s my question, what do you think of mustaches – an 80’s style that will make its way back, or something that should be left to the outer fringe of society?