What It's Like To Be A Lady With A Mustache

Photo: Ivan Emashev / Shutterstock
What It's Like To Be A Lady With A Mustache

"Mommy ... you know, I can see your mustache." It was one of those innocuous things kids blurt out as they observe the world, not meant to be any more or less rude than pointing out how gross it is when people smoke or that the streets of New York are filled with garbage.

Some things are just true: smoking's gross, New York is filthy, and I'm a lady with a mustache.

I laughed at my keen little kid and replied, "Yes, I know. I like it."

She looked at me as if I were a sad puppy who just needed a little help better understanding the world and all of its complications. "No," she said, quite seriously. "It's bad."

It still makes me laugh just thinking about it. Her implication was that if I didn't do something about my visible mustache, something terrible might happen. Like the crashing of the patriarchy or the collapse of the beauty-industrial complex or — worst of all — other people might see it. Female + facial hair = certain death. I mean, we've all heard of bearded ladies, but have you ever actually seen one at the circus? I'm pretty sure those animals are extinct. From being hunted down. BY THE MAN.

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I'm not sure why my mustache was so concerning for my 8-year-old daughter, or how she even knew visible facial hair on a woman is a no-no. It's almost as if she was paying attention all of those times I wandered around our apartment with Nair on my upper lip, talking about how important it is to get the removal process just right. If you don't leave the chemicals on long enough, the hair doesn't fall out. If you leave them on too long, you get a chemical burn. Because I never did find the exact algorithm required for painless 'stache removal, I quite often found myself left with a half-hairy lip and giant red scabs on each side of my mouth. AM I PRETTY ENOUGH FOR YOU NOW, AMERICA? Who wants to makeout with Scabby McScratchyface?!

So that's why, about 9 months ago, I decided to stop removing my mustache.

I didn't want to get chemical burns anymore, and I didn't have any dates coming up, so there was no pressure for me to present myself anywhere as a supple, hairless creature. You know, like a Canadian Sphynx. Cute. Sweet. Demure.

After a month or two, a funny thing happened. A chicken/egg sort of relationship developed between my dating habits and my facial hair. I can't tell which caused what, but the longer I waited to book another date, the more willing I was to sit with my mustache. And the longer I lived out in the world with my mustache WITHOUT DYING, the less willing I was to book another date, because I didn't want to feel any pressure to wax/bleach/burn off my mustache.

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Growing out my mustache hair (and refusing to remove it) became symbolic for all of the changes that were going on inside me.

It was an act of rebellion, meant to show the world that I was not going to emotionally contort myself any longer to accommodate what I feel are unreasonable expectations on the part of others. I am a human being. A woman with gorgeous, thick brown hair ... on my head, and everywhere else.

There is a very thin, not-too-dark-but-certainly-visible bit of hair on my upper lip. DEAL WITH IT. I will shave my legs and my armpits and even pluck the middle part of my eyebrows, but right now, at this moment in time, I don't want to brutalize my precious, delicate upper lip anymore. Hopefully I can stay off of Nair for the rest of my life if I do all the steps and keep going to meetings. But, as they say, one day at a time.

I have yet to show up to a date with my Burt Reynolds on full display, but I plan to. I just revamped my dating profile on a paid site to reflect all of the ways I've embraced myself over this last year. I started making those profile changes as a joke, using my real sense of humor (both feminist and ridiculous) instead of trying to prove myself witty and clever, but I liked my answers so much I actually clicked save. As soon as I did, I got three messages within five minutes.

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I took that as a sign that the world is ready for me to be my true self, mustache and all. I'm ready to go on dates with strangers again and take trying to find love seriously, or at least as seriously as a lady comic with a villainous mustache can. I have a good feeling about finding someone who can accept and love me the way I now accept and love myself.

It's possible I may decide to remove my facial hair again at some point, but I want that decision to come from me, and not due to any outside pressure or influence.

If I come into a lot of money and/or a steady gig on television, I will probably laser it off and be done with it. Until then, though, I'll keep it. Even if it's bad, because I think it's kinda great. 

Carolyn Castiglia is a comedian and mother who lives in Brooklyn. You can also follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.