I don’t pay attention to fashion. Truthfully, I don’t pay attention to anything—I’m the most unobservant person I know. But I really don’t pay attention to fashion. Clothes, hairstyles, makeup. Ask me about anyone outside of my family and I’ll draw a blank. You say “Kate’s pretty, but she wears too much makeup.” I say “Oh, I never noticed she wears makeup.” Usually, I can’t even remember if someone wears glasses.
In the library where I work, we have three floors: fiction and children’s on the bottom floor, nonfiction on the second floor, the top floor is split between a large community meeting room and staff offices. The librarians who work the circulation desks sit on the first and second floors, everyone else is up top, with me. Back in the old days, when people still went to work, I saw this top floor crowd several times a day—passing in the hallway, hanging out in an open space chatting about weekend plans or a new restaurant, sitting in long meetings together,
On Monday, thinking about people working from home unshaven in their sweat pants and unwashed hair (I might just be talking about myself here), I started to question whether my coworker Brett has a beard. He sits two offices away from me; I see him at least a half dozen times a day. If I’m in a meeting, he’s in it too. I have absolutely no idea if he has a facial hair.
There’s a certain type of guy who wears a mustache. A guy older than me. When I think of mustaches, I think of the Doobie Brothers and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I think of the Vietnam War. I think of Mustangs and Corvettes. I think of men who became adults in the late sixties and early seventies. That’s the crowd who wears a mustache. And then the trend went away. There’s a magic dateline. People born after 1957 don’t have mustaches.
But those people born before ’57? They wear their mustaches to this day. Because I occasionally watch something on TV with my family, I know that a few hipster types are trying to bring back the mustache trend, but not in any meaningful way. Not like 1965.
I don’t spend much time googling around the internet or scrolling through Facebook, so I don’t know if this is correct, but don’t you think there must be a ton of facial hair growing right now? Everyone’s stuck home with nothing to do, skipping showers (again me) and probably too lazy to shave. No reason to look crisp all day, all anyone will see is a tiny, grainy image on Zoom. A few days after the United States shut down, my kids started in on me. “Dad, quit shaving. This is the perfect time to grow a beard.” But I hate beards… on me.
I actually think some people look good with a beard. I’m one of those people. A few years back, I decided to give Noshavember a try. The idea is that for the whole month of November, a man stops shaving. I was still working at the Y then. I typically saw a couple hundred people a day. By the twentieth, compliments were pouring in. “Dude, you grew that in twenty days? Respect!” Salt and pepper, even, thick, it covered my bulbous chin. I loved it, but God how it itched. I felt like scabies burrowed in my face. Everyone said “give it time, that goes away,” but it got worse every day. I shaved off my beard on November 29th.
About a week ago, sporting a three-day scruff, I headed to the bathroom to shave. Susan said “Maybe you should leave the mustache?” She said this to benefit our kids. She’s not so crazy about poky facial hair either. So here I sit. Me and my ten-day-old mustache. No one outside my family has seen it except my in-laws, social distance and all. I’ve been Zooming without a camera. It will be a big surprise when the world reopens for business. The goal is handlebars (again, my kids’ influence), but I can’t see keeping it that long.
“Eli, what’s going to happen if I show up to coach your mountain bike season with a handlebar mustache?”
“Everyone will think you’re a character. They’ll love it.”
Since my early adult years, I swore: No mustache for me! I hate the Doobie Brothers. And I’m not so crazy about Corvettes either. I’m not the right age—when I show up at the emergency room with Covid-19, they’ll accidentally put me in the over sixty-five group.
But then, I think: why not a mustache? Possibly it jibes with my rekindled mountain biker vibe. Maybe Eli’s league needs a character, that guy everyone recognizes from race to race. Maybe I’ll even wind up liking it.