It started off as a joke, a goofball stunt. I ran Chicago’s big season-starting 8K, the Shamrock Shuffle, and I didn’t have a goofy costume to wear. I did, however, have a full beard leading up to the event, so I shaved down to mustache and that became my goofy costume.
If you don’t understand the necessity of a goofy costume during massive 8K events, then you probably don’t run, and therefore probably don’t care. That’s all right, no one here is judging you.
Anyway, part of the Shamrock Shuffle sponsorship came from Nike, who invited participants to post a photo of themselves on the Fleet Feet Sports Chicago Facebook wall. I did exactly that, thinking a hearty mustache would raise some eyebrows.
Indeed it did — my photo was one of five chosen for a special prize from Nike. No one knew what that could be, so we all assumed it was a lifetime’s supply of unicorns.
The photo even came in a close second place to the ultimate mystery prize, provided by Fleet Feet, but I didn’t win it so I’ll never know what the prize was.
I’d never really participated in one of those photo contests before, so I was worried that if I shaved my ridiculous mustache off before the end, they wouldn’t recognize me at the prize claiming booth (or whatever, I had no idea how it worked) and I’d get turned away.
So I kept the ‘stache. I even went to work with it. I felt strange, because what you never realize until you spend some time with one is that a mustache changes your entire face. It puts the focus in a different spot. You don’t recognize yourself in the mirror.
You feel somehow more distinguished, even if you really look like a redneck.
And you don’t know if you look like a redneck or not, you only know that you FEEL more distinguished, and this odd combination brings with it a whole new set of insecurities.
But the really weird thing is that this new set of insecurities COMPLETELY REPLACES all your old insecurities. You become more confident in almost every aspect of your life. You actually stop worrying about money and the inevitability of World War III. You only worry about whether people think you’re distinguished or think you’re a redneck.
It was the first time I’d ever spent any real time with one. I’d done the shave-down-for-a-laugh before, but always took some photos right away and then shaved it entirely before going to bed.
As I walked around the office for a week looking like that, I began to notice how tall I really am — or, it would more accurate to say, I felt taller than I might actually be in a physical sense.
I began to accrue compliments. Actual, genuine compliments that implied this was the best possible look for a man of my height, with my facial features.
Here’s the biggest difference I noticed: everything I said carried an air of quiet authority. I intended none of it, but I got the distinct impression that people took everything I said more seriously. And when I made jokes, more laughter accompanied.
It dawned on me at some point: this mustache makes me more powerful. I was like Spider-Man discovering his new radioactive Spidey-powers.
I caught myself thinking things like, “Yes, perhaps this is the best facial hair configuration for me.”
But at some point, something inside my brain sprang up and shouted, “WAIT A MINUTE! STOP IT, BOY! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”
This was the insecurity of the past, making one final attempt to hang on before falling entirely out from my brain.
“Don’t do it, Bil, it’s not right. It’s not you. It’s some kind of weird adult you. You’re no adult.”
“Okay, fair enough,” I replied, “but people seem to like it for various reasons, and anyway, I should really be an adult now because I’m going to be a father very soon.”
“No, Bil, that’s exactly what they want. They want you to kiss Never-Neverland goodbye. They want you to move on to a new phase in life.”
“Oh, man, that’s not cool. Not cool at all.”
“No, Bil, that’s the opposite of cool. This mustache will destroy you. There will be no original Bil left, and one day you will look into the mirror and see the truth…YOU ARE YOUR FATHER.”
“Search your feelings, Bil, you know it to be true.”
“It can’t be…It’s impossible!”
This conversation with my insecure subconscious went on like this for several days, and in the end I decided that I’m not ready to commit to being That Guy With The Mustache.
I’m also not ready to be compared to my father. Admire him though I do, I’ve always believed that I wouldn’t wear a mustache without being ironic, and that core belief is not so easily shaken. So off it came after seven days.
But now I’ve got a taste for it.
There may be a sequel.
P.S. The prize for the photo contest was shoes. Nike sent me shoes. Rad.