Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ride the Moustache Wave

Somehow in the course of our relationship, my fiance and I became equal parts ironically and erotically obsessed with Burt Reynolds. It's one of the many elusive little quirks we share that has a muggy, mysterious origin.

I bought James a book of perverse love letters written to Burt in the Playgirl years. I made James a birthday card with a masterfully cropped image of Burt's famous bearskin rug photo on the front. I bought James an unauthorized biography.

Okay, so perhaps I was the purveyor of this ridiculous obsession and I am therefore the one to blame.

Regardless, we talk about Burt all the time. And the one thing it always comes back to is the 'stache. It's glorious. Sure, the moustache does not make the man, but Burt's moustache is so closely tied to how we remember, perceive, and celebrate him.

The Burt Reynolds moustache is also important because it defies the three most common/seedy moustache associations: Burt's lip fur doesn't belong to:

1. A child molester (we're pretty sure)
2. A porn star (not that he couldn't be one if he wanted to)
3. Hitler

And maybe it's the reason that my fiance, my darling James, felt that it would be okay for him to at last sport some man-baleen.

At first I was pretty excited about the possibility of my man shedding his full beard for a more streamlined look--something that would require one of those neat little metal combs. When the idea surfaced (again, muggily) in one of our late night conversations, I had recently purchased "The Darjeeling Limited" on DVD, in which Jason Schwartzman sports a very sexy, brooding, full moustache. If it works for him, why couldn't it work for my fella?

And so, armed with the most convincing of arguments...

Jason Schwartzman had a moustache for a while. He's hip.


Burt Reynolds.

...I somehow managed to convince my fiance and myself that this moustache would be a good idea.

And so, last Saturday, I waited nervously outside his bathroom door as he shaved with a fully-charged electric razor.

First the sideburns, then the beardy mass. Eventually, he got his face fur down to a simple classic goatee that made him look sort of like a veteran closing pitcher and sort of like a stuffy literary critic (both turn-ons, in case you didn't know).

Then came the Fu Manchu. Ridiculous. Standing shirtless in his tiny bathroom with a sloppy moustache dripping all the way down to his chin, James looked like he was the father of one of the kids in "Gummo," posing for his proudest MySpace picture.

I was at last glad to see the jowel hair go, making way for an adorable moustache-soul patch combo. It looks perfect--all the trappings of a power-stache plus the sensitive hipster presence of the patch. I could really get used to this look. It kind of works for--no, no! Please don't shave off the soul patch, James!

But he did. And there it was. A shocking, straightforward strip of orphaned beard hair, bristling above his grinning upper lip.

Throughout the day, the moustache took turns surprising me, mystifying me, and warming up to me.

It's kind of an okay look for him, really. But I still can't get over the 'moustigma.' The next day we happened upon a pretty low-rent community fair, and there were three things that the good country folk were celebrating there: cheap hot dogs, cut-off jean shorts, and--you guessed it--moustaches. Every burly dude we came across had a well-seasoned bushy moustache and the kind of stiff upper lip that comes from years of working in a factory or lifting weights on a bench in the garage beneath a poster of Tawny Kitaen on the hood of a Firebird.

This judgment is deeply seated within me, and I don't know how to respond now that I'm engaged to marry it. Poor James.

And yet, when I look at Burt I feel no trepidation. I feel not a tinge of doubt. I don't associate him with a good ol' boy eating Funions at a truck stop.

Perhaps then, it's one thing to grow a moustache, and quite another to grow into a moustache. To allow the stern and brooding power of a well-trimmed patch of lip hair tell the world, "why, yes, I do enjoy Russian literature." Or, "come. Let's spend the evening savoring small plates at a tapas bar and then retreat to the veranda for cigars and aged scotch. What? Did you think I was some sort of rube?" Or maybe even to let your moustache say to the world, "Why, yes, I did once go out for a pass with a bare ass in an issue of Playgirl. And you know what? I'm still here."

Prove me wrong, honey. Prove 'em all wrong just like Burt did. And maybe someday, your facial hair will also have a band and a sex act named after it.