The Stigma on My Upper Lip

Dirtball at preschool pickup.

If you’re an American dude in your twenties and you have a mustache, it’s probably an ironic one. You might also wear skinny jeans and neon-framed wayfarers, ride a fixed-gear bike, and listen to bands with animals in their names.

If you’re in your fifties and wear a ‘stache, you probably also rock button-down shirts tucked into your dockers, held firmly in place with a brown belt that matches your Rockport Oxfords.

Either way, people probably get it. They know what you’re up to.

But if you’re sporting a stand-alone mustache in your thirties or forties, and you don’t have a southern accent or a NASCAR cap, you are a suspicious character.

I’m on my second mustache right now. It’s for charity. Every November, thousands of men (and a few women, maybe?) grow mustaches to help raise awareness and money for research on prostate and testicular cancer, and other diseases that affect men. The movement is called “Movember,” allegedly after an Australian slang word for mustache (“Mo”).

Last year, I grew my first mustache, and even though it looked less hideous than I had thought it would, I was pretty self-conscious about it. This worked out great, in terms of raising awareness, because any time I spoke to anyone, I felt obligated to explain myself: “You probably noticed that I have a mustache. Heh. I’m not… I mean… it’s not, you know, heh, a permanent thing. It’s for this thing called Movember, where guys grow mustaches…” and so forth.

But this year, somehow, I haven’t felt compelled to assuage people’s misgivings about a facial hair decision that hasn’t enjoyed mainstream popularity for twenty years. Maybe I assume that more people know about Movember this year than last.  Maybe mustaches aren’t so uncommon that they arouse suspicion. Or maybe it’s just the slight differences between this year’s mustache and last year’s that’s made me more comfortable.

Last year I went with a standard, no-frills number that stopped at the edges of my mouth. In full-bloom, it made me look like a cop. Or a sexual predator, depending on the context. I felt very uneasy talking to moms on the playground, and they’re usually my key demographic. There was something about the lack of any coolness to it that made it feel inappropriate.

But this year, I let it grow a little beyond the corners of my mouth (my daughter says I have a “sad” mustache), and I balanced it out with a soul patch. The soul patch, while acceptable according to the Movember bylaws, is a bit of a cop-out, I know. But I think it puts people at ease, like: “Oh, that guy thinks he’s cool with his weird facial hair–he looks stupid, but it’s not like he’s a guy with a mustache.” Or else they just think I’m a total dirtball, especially now that I’m doing construction work while the girls are at school and I’m usually wearing camouflage shorts and sleeveless t-shirts when I pick them up.

I’m probably making too much of this, but that’s what I do. Anyway, if you care about men’s balls and other nether parts, feel free to donate here. It’s totally legit and tax deductible. And next year, you should go ahead and grow a ‘stache.

About BetaDad

BetaDad is a fortysomething stay-at-home dad who is sometimes allowed out to build stuff out of wood or teach college students how to write. Most of the time he just chases his toddler twin girls around though. He Dad can also be found at his personal blog as well as Daddy Dialectic, Dad Centric, Insert Eyeroll, and Man Of The House


  1. Anne says:

    I’m in the south and mustaches are currently out for straight guys.
    Although the soul patch does have a bit of the “youth pastor” vibe.

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  2. IzzyMom says:

    I like the sad mustache/soul patch combo. The mustache alone is just too Magnum PI-ish. But you know, these things are cyclical and soon everyone will look like they time-traveled from the 70′s.

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