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Stiff Upper Lip

Your Humble Blogger, as there is no particular reason for Gentle Readers to know, is a man with a moustache.

—Darling, there’s a man at the door with a moustache.
—Tell him I’ve already got one.
Boom Boom

I started growing a moustache as soon as I could, or in truth a few months sooner. I never looked forward to shaving; I looked forward to not shaving. Sadly, the beard thing never happened. In addition to coming in patchy, a moustache suits my face, a beard does not. I did grow a goatee—an echt goatee, not one of those imperials that are called goatees these days (although as a descriptivist, I am obliged to concede that since nobody other than YHB has worn what I would call a goatee in decades, and since the word is actually used by actual English speakers to refer to any beard (with or without a moustache) that doesn’t connect to the sidewhiskers, communication requires that the things called goatees are goatees, curse them all)—where was I? Oh, yes, I grew a goatee for a few months, for comic effect, but as it neither looked particularly good nor improved my morning ablutions, I gave up and shaved it off. My beard comes in dark and impressive down my throat, which is exactly where it should not be.

But the purpose of this note is not to gripe about my facial-hair situation, except to the extent that its purpose is to gripe about my facial-hair situation, as will be seen. You see, I am a man with a moustache. I like having a moustache, I think of myself as having a moustache, and for twenty years or so, the only times I have shaved my upper lip have been for the stage. As I shaved my upper lip on Friday morning.

The first set of publicity photos are set for Wednesday, so there was a terminus for the moustache, and my experience is that it is wise to give the raw skin a few days sunlight and air before starting with the greasepaint. Well, pancake. Nobody actually uses greasepaint anymore. And spirit gum; my mad Hrungarian has whiskers, as Shaw requires. Not the fluffy and luxurious sidewhiskers I think would be perfect for him, but I really don’t have time to deal with fluffy and luxurious sidewhiskers as I make the eight-minute change to Rich Alfie. Particularly as our Dear Director is trying to pick up the pace everywhere, so I may have only a seven-minute change…

It’s Whiskers that’s the problem. Alfie could have a moustache, but Whiskers must have a moustache, and therefore Alfie must not have a moustache, for the purposes of differentiating the two. And as it’s difficult for an actor with a moustache to play a character without a moustache (at least on stage), YHB must shave the lip for six weeks or so. Which is all right. Of all the inconveniences I have inflicted on myself to be in this show, the shaving ranks very low. Even counting washing out the washbasin.

However, it has been dispiriting how few people have noticed the change. My Best Reader noticed, of course, as did (eventually) a G.R. who was houseguest at the time. My Perfect Non-Reader when prodded, felt sure that I had shaved it off the previous day or even earlier. Co-workers failed to notice, or at least to comment, although many of my co-workers won’t see me until Monday. I had lengthy conversations with four of my Perfect Non-Reader’s friends’ parents, and short ones with two more, and none of them seemed to notice. Of the couple next door, the fellow gave me the business about it but his wife did not (although that doesn’t mean he noticed first). It seems in the mirror to be a radical change in appearance. If it isn’t, if it’s not something that people notice is missing, then maybe YHB is not, after all, a man with a moustache, just a man who happens to have a moustache?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


If it helps at all, I think of you as a man with a mustache, though I've not seen you in person for... can it really be 15 years or more? I tend to recall you, in fact, as looking a bit like Nicola Tesla.

Hmm, i actually don't know what the courteous thing to do is on noticing a man with facial hair suddenly-without-facial-hair. In particular, if someone i see every day suddenly came in without a beard or moustache, and i didn't know they'd done it as a style change (which they might have announced) or for a play (which i would have had to have been thinking about), i might think they'd done it by accident, and not want to rub it in.

Can't remember offhand if i ever act this way (unlikely --- i'm not very courteous, generally inquisitive, and tend to assume that people like to have changes noticed by their friends). But, if you take the premise that a substantial fraction of unannounced de-facial-hairings are accidental, it might be reasonable to not comment by default.

Anyway, just wild speculation.

Saaay... There's something... Something different. Are you taller? No...

You shaved your moustache! Don't think we don't notice these things!


I believe the proper thing to say is, "I do like your new haircut!"

I, too, have kept a fine crop of facial hair - moustache, beard, and the oft-unshaved carpet down my neck - for over half my lifetime. The one time I did shave it off, along with most of the remaining hair on top, I was delighted to find that, not only did no one comment on it, but no one recognized me either. The very first friend to mentally superimpose the beard on my hairless chin, looked at me with a delighted bowl-shaped smile, which almost instantly deflated into a slack oval of embarassment and concern. The repetition of this response on the face of several friends over the next few days, along with earnest expressions of concern for my health, made me aware that I must have looked something like a cancer patient undergoing treatment. I have not repeated the experiment since.

Perhaps you are so thoroughly a man with a mustache that the impression of the mustache lingers beyond its literal presence?

As an update, the two women with whom I work most closely at the library saw me for the first time demoustachioed today, and one immediately upon my entry said “You look—wait—you—you shaved!” So that's all right.

Chaos, although it is possible to lose a moustache or beard (or both) as the result of an accident, it is far more likely to be a choice of some kind. Think of it as a woman who had shoulder-length hair coming in with a bob: it's possible that the ends were singed and had to be cut off, but probably not. Certainly a fellow with a beard is not going to absent-mindedly pick up a razor, although I suppose a misstep with a trimmer could well persuade him that he's best shaving it off and starting over...


although I suppose a misstep with a trimmer could well persuade him that he's best shaving it off and starting over...

As a man with a beard (and no moustache) somewhat prone to shaving mishaps, I instantly understood that this was the accidental scenario that Chaos was describing. It was difficult for me to imagine, however, a person who would understand that scenario to be a fact of bearded life and who would be simultaneously so solicitous that she would refrain from comment on that basis. In my experience in fact they mock one most cruelly, but perhaps I just attract mean people.

The scars on the face heal, but the ones inside? Never do.


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