It was large, dark, fuzzy, and lived above my upper lip. I was a 15 year old with a serious mustache. And by serious I mean a real, mean, Groucho Marx caliber mustache. Ever since the age of 10, I had to deal with the monstrosity stealing the gaze away from those whom I was talking to. Nobody looked me in the eye when they talked to me, always a bit lower; they kept constant eye contact with my “stache”.
At school I was a pretty normal kid — that was until around the age of ten when hair started to spurt in the region above my lip, below my nose. Everywhere I went people would inquire about the status of my facial hair. I couldn’t hold a full conversation without it being brought up. I didn’t blame them though, my mustache was unavoidable and so large that someone put it perfectly: “It looks like a ferret”. At the start when people would ask me why I never shaved, I would answer with something lame like “Because real men have facial hair”. However, the real reason I didn’t shave was simple: My parents told me I was too young and, due to my respect for them, I deferred shaving.
As my journey went on, and I started high school, I became embarrassed to discuss my mustache — let alone acknowledge it. I despised that thing. Slowly, I started getting detached from others: I wouldn’t talk to new people, in the classroom or out, for the fear that if I did they would point out my difference. Whenever someone asked me why I didn’t shave I simply tried my best to ignore him or her and changed the subject.
It was as though I was trapped in a glass box and as much as I wanted to be myself and get out, I couldn’t. I wanted my facial hair removed for reasons far beyond simply aesthetics. Frankly, I didn’t really care how I looked. I was far more concerned about what other people thought about me. I had the perception that most people looked down upon me and did not take me seriously because of my facial hair.
Six years after the first hairs sprouted, on the night before my 16th birthday, my parents gave me a shaving set and finally let me shave. I thought it was a glorious moment in my life representing my transition from adolescence to manhood. I expected that everyone would suddenly look at me differently, that people would finally begin to respect me, that people would finally begin to talk to me, and that somehow I would suddenly have so many more friends. The next day, I went to school expecting some kind of hero’s welcome as though I had just won the Super Bowl.
Instead, I was greeted the same way as I had been before. Literally nothing had changed; nobody had noticed my magnificent transformation! I had spent the greater part of my youth brooding about something that, in the end, nobody cared about.
The ill perceived notion that my mustache was the problem resulted in me having very few friends and made it difficult to maintain conversations with them. It wasn’t that people never talked to me; the truth was that I never talked to people. I was afraid of something that never even mattered to begin with.
I have since become more vocal: I started volunteering, I started making people laugh, and I have made my life meaningful.
I have realized that I do not need the approval of others to be my true self. I learned the value of confidence and have transformed into the person that I am today. And maybe that is what my parents wanted me to realize when they told me I couldn’t shave.