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Don Yarber Don Yarber
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Ah Your (Grand) Father's Moustache !


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She had a friend.

A true story about my lifelong quest to grow a moustache.


Ah Your (Grand) Father’s Moustache!


“Are you growing a moustache?” my wife asked me this morning.
“No, I was kissing the cat and it stuck to my lip,” I said, grinning a Clark Gable grin.
“Well you need to shave,” she said, a note of finality in her voice.
“Right after deer season,” I said.  “It’ll help keep my lip warm while I’m hunting.”
“No, right after breakfast,” she said.  “You can get a wool facemask for deer season.”
I wasn’t sure whether she meant I could get a facemask after I ate my breakfast or I had to shave after I ate my breakfast.
We go through this ritual every time I decide to grow a moustache.  
       “Why do you want a moustache?” she asked.  “It makes you look older.”
“My Grandpa had a moustache,” I said.  “He didn’t look old.”
“Well I never kissed your grandpa,” she reminded me.  “Moustaches tickle my nose.”
“How many men have you kissed with a moustache?”
“I don’t have a moustache.”
“No, I mean how many men with a moustache have you kissed?”
“Just you,” she admitted.  “But one is enough.  I don’t like moustaches.”
“Really?”  I asked.  “Boy, you could have fooled me.”
“Why do you want a moustache?”
“You’ve already asked me that.”
“Well?”
I had to stop and think about it.  I’ve actually wanted a moustache since I was big enough to look into a mirror and know that the kid in the glass was me.  My grandpa had a moustache.  I always admired him.  He could make me laugh when I was not in a good mood.  
Once Grandpa decided he was going to shave his moustache.  He was about 85 at the time.  He told my grandma he was going to shave it off.  
“Don’t you shave your moustache, Bill!” she admonished.  “I like that moustache.  You know that if you have to shave every day, I’m the one who’ll have to shave you.  It’s hard enough on me to just shave your face, let alone your lip.”
Grandpa had the palsy.  His hands shook so bad he couldn’t even feed himself, let alone shave.  Grandma had to feed him like a baby.  There’s no way he could have shaved himself, so I didn’t know what the big fuss was about.  If he couldn’t shave, how could he shave his moustache?
“I’ll walk down to the barber shop and have him shave it,” he announced.
“Bill, I told you, I like that moustache.  If you shave it, I’m a gonna leave you.”
Well the next morning, Grandpa walked a block and a half to the barbershop and had the barber shave his moustache off.  When he got home, Grandma took one look at him, went in the bedroom and got an old suitcase down off of the closet shelf and started to put her clothes in it.  
“Where you going, Nan?” Grandpa asked.
“I told you I was a gonna leave if you shaved your moustache, I’m leaving.”
It took Grandpa half a day to convince Grandma not to leave.  He promised that he would let it grow back.  He promised a whole lot of other things too, like putting indoor plumbing in the house and getting a new linoleum for the kitchen floor.  That shave cost him a whole lot more than he bargained for.
I remember the first time I shaved.  I guess I was fifteen or so.  I had a little peach fuzz on my chin but nothing on my lip.  A bunch of us kids were playing ball out in the street.  I liked a little girl who lived up the street a ways and I wanted to impress her.
“I guess I’ll go home and shave,” I announced, after the ball game ended.
“What are you going to shave, pimples?” she asked.  Everybody laughed and my face turned a shade of red that glowed more than the setting sun.  I felt like hitting her with the ball bat.  
When I was in basic training at Great Lakes Naval Recruit Center, I stood personnel inspection one brisk November morning.  The battalion commander stopped when he got face to face with me and looked right in my eyes.
“When’s the last time you shaved, sailor?” he screamed.
“When I was fifteen, sir!” I said, shaking in my hip-hops.
“Well, By God, you’ll shave today!” he yelled.  He told my company commander to make me shave and then roll my sea bag.  That punishment I dreaded.  All of my clothing had to be removed from my locker and rolled for packing.  My bunk had to be stripped and sheets (called fart sacks), blankets, and pillowcases had to be rolled and tied with a small chord called a clothes stop.  One blanket was left unrolled.  It had to be folded precisely in half and laid out on the grass outside the barracks.  The rest of my earthly possessions had to be rolled, tied and placed exactly right on that blanket.  I had to dress for inspection and stand at attention at the head of the blanket, razor in one hand, shaving soap and brush in the other, until I, and the blanket, was inspected and dismissed.
You can bet I shaved every day after that incident, up until a year and a half later.
It was then that I tried to grow a moustache and beard even though Navy regulations said, “No moustaches or beards will be permitted”.
I was due to go home on leave for four weeks.  My Dad had written me a letter and sent a picture.  He had a fine beard and moustache.  He mentioned that “Pioneer Days” was going to be celebrated at the exact time I was to be home.  It was a two-week festival celebrating the entry into the Union by the State of Illinois.  As part of the festivities, all men over 18 had to grow beards or go to jail.  They stayed in jail until a judge set a fine, after the fine was paid they were set free but the beard stayed.  It was a way to raise money to pay for the festival.  I decided I would grow a beard so I could avoid jail time and a fine.  
I had a good friend who was a medic aboard ship.  He helped me rig up a bandage over my chin, so that when we had personnel inspection, I could hide my sprouting whiskers.  Each day I wore that danged bandage I as scared to death that someone would ask me about it.  The very first day my Division Officer asked me what happened and I told him I fell down a ladder and cut my chin.
So it was with quite a bit of trepidation that I stood final inspection before I was to get my leave papers and head home.
The Captain stopped in front of me and looked at my bandaged chin.  
“What happened to you, sailor?”
“I fell down a hatch and cut my chin, sir!” I said.  It was my misfortune that the ship made a 45-degree turn to port at that exact moment and the wind came from the bow, blowing right straight into my face.  The bandage blew half off and was hanging by a small piece of adhesive tape.
The Captain looked at me and squinted, looking for a cut on my chin.  
“I don’t see a cut on your chin,” he said.  “Shave that damned fuzz off and have them put new bandages on your chin!”
“Yes, sir!” I said.  
That ended my quest to grow a beard for the “Pioneer Day” festival.  I had to shave my beard and apply a small band-aid to my chin to keep up the façade.  
I really didn’t think too much about growing a beard or a moustache for a long time after that.  As a matter of fact it wasn’t till years later when I saw “Dr. Zhivago” at the movies.  Omar Sharif looked so good with a moustache that my wife was in ecstasy for days.
“Why don’t you grow a moustache?” she asked me the next morning.  
(Let me explain something.  This wasn’t the same wife that didn’t like moustaches.  That came much later.)
So to satisfy wife number one, I tried to grow a moustache.  It was more like a tiny weed patch than a moustache.  And for some reason it came out white, like the peach fuzz of old.  Oh well, I thought, it’ll turn black when it’s longer.  Nope.  It stayed white.  And it was so fine and thin that you really had to get up close to tell I had a moustache.  I tried to thicken it with moustache wax and that didn’t work.  I tried to color it with eyebrow pencil and that didn’t work.  I tried combining the thickening and coloring with eyelash makeup.  That worked for a while, but if I took a drink of any liquid it washed the color and the thickener away and I was left with the tiny weed patch again.  I just could not grow a moustache, after all these years.


As fate would have it, we (my first wife and I) were invited to a cocktail party at that crucial point in my life when I wanted a moustache so bad and couldn’t grow one.
On Saturday morning we were at the mall shopping and I happened to walk by a place that sold a bunch of trick stuff, you know, exploding golf balls, playing cards with naked women on them, magic tricks, that kind of stuff.  I wandered in and was browsing the shelves, thinking I would buy a cheap magic trick to show off with at the party.
Lo and behold.  What to my wandering eyes should appear but a moustache!  A genuine fake moustache!  It was in a little plastic case bout the size of a playing card only thicker.  It was sitting on a picture of a man’s lip, and part of the man’s nose.  It looked great!  Just the ticket, I thought.
I bought it.  I stuck it in my pocket and said nothing about it to my wife.
The night of the cocktail party I deliberately delayed my shower until the misses was half dressed.  I then took my underwear, my suit and tie and my false moustache into the bathroom.  After showering and shaving my peach fuzz and applying after shave and combing my dark hair back and brushing my pretty white teeth, I applied the moustache.  What a finishing touch!   I looked great.  I stood admiring myself in the mirror for a few moments, turning my head side to side and wrinkling my lip to make sure my moustache was firmly attached.  It stayed in place perfectly.
I looked like a young Clark Gable, Dom Ameche, or Omar Sharif himself!  It was perfect!
When I walked out of the bathroom and into the living room, my wife took one look at me and danged near fainted.  
“Wow,” she said.  “How’d you get it so dark and thick looking?”
“I didn’t,” I said, putting on my best Clark Gable grin, “It’s a genuine false moustache.”
“A false one?” she breathed softly.  “A fake?”
“Yep.  Do you like it?”
“It looks great,” she said.  “You look great!”
“Thanks,” I said.  “Are you ready?”
“As soon as the sitter gets here.” She said.
We went to the party.  I was a big hit that night.  The host and hostess were shocked.
“Don, you really look good in a moustache,” the hostess told me.
“Nice moustache,” the host told me.
I mixed and mingled with the crowd, pretended to sip my bourbon and water, but I didn’t take a sip.  I didn’t want to take a chance that the bourbon would dissolve the glue that held my genuine false moustache in place.  
After about two hours of mingling and mixing, I noticed that people were starting to look at me a little odd.  I thought to myself that they were admiring my moustache.
The misses caught my eye and motioned with her head for me to come over to her.
“Go to the bathroom,” she said.
“I’m all right,” I said, and wondered why she wanted me to go to the bathroom.  Maybe my fly was open.  I glanced down quickly and then back up.  He eyes were fluttering and her head was motioning towards the bathroom door.
“Go,” she whispered.
So I went.  I turned the light on and closed the door behind me.  Then I took a good look at my zipper.  My fly was closed.  What the heck? I wondered.
I turned to my right and there was the mirror.  No wonder people were looking at me odd.  One side of my Clark Gable genuine false moustache had come undone and was hanging straight down while the other side was still neatly in place.  Oh crap!
I tried to fix it, but it just wouldn’t stay up.  I needed some glue.  I looked through the medicine cabinet, hoping to find something to reattach the errant side of the genuine false moustache.  The only thing I could find that might have a chance of working was a jar of Vicks salve.  I opened the lid and dabbed a little on my finger, then on my lip.  I pressed the errant hair back in place on my lip, praying that it would stay.  It stayed!  
I made a hasty exit back to the party, took one look at my wife and grinned my Clark Gable grin.  She looked at me and rolled her eyes and made that motion with her head again.  I sidled over.
“You didn’t fix it,” she said.
“Yes I did,” I argued.  
“Go look,” she whispered.
I went and looked.  Now the other side of my genuine false moustache was hanging straight down.  More Vicks salve.  
That Vicks salve worked perfectly to hold the hair on my lip, but people ignored me the rest of the evening.  I don’t know if it was because they had seen half of my genuine false moustache hanging the wrong way or if it was because of the strong, pungent odor of the gob of Vicks salve that was now holding every hair of my moustache in place.  
Towards the end of the evening we bade goodnight to the host and hostess and made our way out to our car.  
“I’ll never go to another party with you,” the misses said.
“Why? What did I do?” I asked.
“You and your false moustache! You looked like an idiot.”
“I thought you liked it?” I said.
“I did when it looked real,” she replied.  “Now it looks like a rat has slid across your lip on a bed of lard.”
Oh well.  I’ll grow a real one now.  Oh it still comes out white.  In all my adult life my moustache never turned dark like my hair.  It was always white.  But now my hair is white too, so it looks fine.  It looks great, actually.  It looks almost as good as my genuine false moustache did.


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