Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do you like being different?

As I should have anticipated, school is busier than I anticipated. I’ve been mustache-less for many days. But last week I went to the contra dance, not to dance but to play in the band, and I put the mustache on. The pick-up band brings folk who don’t come to the other dances, so they hadn’t seen it yet.
I got comments ranging from “Nice mustache,” perplexedly, to “I like your mustache,” amusedly, to “I see you’ve cut your hair… and grown some facial hair….” One person asked, “Did you just come from a costume party?” (To which I replied, simply, “No.”)
But at the break, when I ventured into the crowd of dancers for some cookies, I had the most interesting mustache-related exchange I’ve had since I started this project.
A woman who I’d danced with a few times came up to me and said, “So what’s the mustache for?”
“Oh,” I said, “it’s, uh, kind of, um, it’s sort of a-“
“Are you trying to make a statement?” she said. “Because it’s unconventional? Do you like being different?”
I was surprised that she understood without my having explained.
“Well, just wait ‘til you’re my age and you actually have a mustache,” she said, a little harshly. “I spent a lot of time and effort getting rid of mine. If I’d have known, I would’ve just given it to you!”
I don’t frequently find myself not knowing what to say. I did not know what to say. I think I smiled awkwardly and walked away.
When I find myself not knowing what to say, I think about it and figure it out afterward. But I’ve thought about this and I still don’t know what I could’ve said. A question to my five zombie disciples: what should I have said?

Monday, September 7, 2009

The last day of summer

School starts tomorrow and I really didn’t want to wait any longer, so I put on the mustache today. I got a few weird looks at the office supply store where we bought lined paper and the farm stand where we bought basil. A glance would become a stare for just a few moments. Maybe I was just being paranoid when I thought people were talking about me.
At the ice cream store I was served by a friend who probably knew better than to comment. I forgot that I had anything on my face. I surprised myself when I looked in the mirror. It was heartening. It was what I needed.
“You really have to wear the ‘stache in more controversial places,” said my sister. Do I? If I stay safe and comfortable, am I accomplishing what I want to accomplish? What do I want to accomplish, again?
I guess I can’t figure that out unless I keep this up. It's the tragic last day of summer, and school is going to impede my life, but I’ll try not to be a week before I’m here again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

not today

Today I was going to do the mustache on an outing with my sister and my mom and her friend and her friend's kids to an antique store (read: junk store) far away. I thought that would be good. No one browsing in a junk store is really in a position to make fun of anyone else. And also, since it was FAR AWAY, I would definitely not see anyone I knew.
Except my mom's friend. Today I also had a GSA-related meeting that required me to get back by a certain time. "Don't tell [my friend] what you have to do later," my mom said. "Just tell her you have a meeting."
"Okay," I said, "...why?"
"I don't know if she'd be okay with the concept of GSA."
"So I guess I probably shouldn't wear the mustache," I said.
My mom looked horrified. "No! Definitely not! She'll think that [her daughter who's about to start high school] will go to high school and get a mustache!"
I don't even know if she was joking.

"You're fagonizing* her," my sister muttered.
I think I'm fagonizing myself.

*We've been using this word to mean "antagonizing someone by being too gay, whatever that means." Thank you Courtney.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Let's not forget that eyebrow pencil is water-soluble

The other day I was at school with a friend (summer lasts for eight more days, but we were taking photographs for a zine), and I decided to put on a mustache, using the windows of the school store as a mirror. The first time I wear it in that building needn't be an occasion for terrible anxiety. And it wasn't at all. In fact, I forgot I had it on. Then I went bicycling in the rain with another friend. Her mom eyed my smudged mustache and asked, "So, what's with the mustache?"
"Oh! Oh, it's, um, it's sort of an art project to make people think about gender and beauty."
"Well, it's kind of coming off."
Rain. Right.
We had people coming over for dinner, and I didn't realize that the rain had only sort of washed the mustache off. But, to their credit, they didn't say anything about the vague black smudges on my face.
If I go without the mustache for too long I start to chicken out. I'll have to put it on tomorrow and practice confident nonchalance. Summer only lasts for eight more days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What've you got on your face?

Yesterday I bought a pack of eyebrow pencils. (The pack had two pencils AND a sharpener. Bonus!)
I was ready to debut the mustache in the Real Real World when I went to the library today. I was scared. I stayed in the children’s section shelf-reading. A girl who knew my sister’s name but not mine said, “What’ve you got on your face?”
“A mustache.” I smiled nonchalantly.
She said, “Okayyyyy….” but she and her mom smiled too.
Why was I scared? I don’t know. But why didn’t I venture into the teen section? I don’t know.

I also went contra dancing again. A few people said, “I love your mustache.” One person laughed out loud when she saw it. A friend, a boy wearing a skirt, asked, “Is this becoming a tradition now?”
“Yeah,” I said. “If guys can wear skirts, I can have a mustache!”
He smiled. I’m spreading the smiles with this project, oh yes I am. Bonus!
One woman asked what was up with the mustache. “Just for fun?”
“Um… it’s an art project… and, um, a social experiment,” I said.
I think I will figure this out as I go along.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


This project started to hum in my head on Thursday, when I was struck with divine inspiration. (Kathleen Hanna = as divine as it gets; rock camp = heaven.) “Girls can have mustaches,” she told us. “Girls can totally have mustaches. When people would look at JD funny when she went into the women’s bathroom, we’d just say, ‘Women don’t all look the same.’ And you guys, feel free to use that line if you want.”
I wanted to use that line. I also wanted to wear a mustache at the showcase. So this actually began yesterday, when I drew on my face with eye pencil (eyebrow? eyeliner? who knows?) that had been bought and brought (I. LOVE. ROCK CAMP.) specifically to draw mustaches on girls’ faces. And I was so inspired by all the awesomeness of the whole week that I said, “I want to wear this at school!” And Courtney said, “That would make a good blog!”
So this is the official beginning. This is an exercise in bravery. I want to make people think about gender and self-expression and boundaries and images and perception and beauty, but mostly I want to make myself be able to say what I believe. I think it’ll be performance art, sort of, and a work in progress.

Rock camp is not the best place to garner weird comments if you’re a girl with a mustache. That is closely related to why I love it so much. There were many other girls with mustaches, and no one even batted an eye (eyelid? eyelash? I don’t know). Some people from the Real World (e.g. my parents) kind of laughed and said, “Nice look,” and then were horrified when I told them about this project. But other than that, it was a non-thing. Excellent.
When I got back to where I live, deep in the Real World, I went contra dancing. Contra dances are also pretty gender-bending-friendly. Lots of men wear skirts, and some men wear high heels, necklaces, and fluffy dresses. And women frequently dance with other women, if only because of an uneven gender ratio. The people who said anything said “Nice mustache” very genuinely and smiled as we were spinning around and awkwardly staring into each other’s eyes.
Eventually it got smudgy and my sister said I should wipe it off. Then some people were like, “Where’d your mustache go?!” One guy, who had a mustache himself, said I looked better without it and asked if I’d been in a play.
“No,” I said, “not a play. A feminist rock’n’roll camp!!” Yeah!!