September 22, 2006

First Person:
The moustache got to go

By Al Carlos Hernandez

Latinos come from a tradition that when as soon as you can grow a moustache you do; it is a sign of manhood or for women, over active glands. Ladies, if you aren’t going to wax it off, or spring for electrolysis, at least you can line it up.

As we get older the whole My Name is Earl, Cruz Bustamante, Burt Reynolds look dates you, like my wife told me the other day, “The eighties called and wanted their hair back”. I’ve since gone to a closely cropped, kind of comb it forward while keeping it spiky and messed up. It takes time to mess your hair up so it looks like you didn’t spend too much time on it, but you did.

Many men have no idea how they would look without a moustache, some consider baldness above the lip is a sign of femininity; these guys have obviously never been to Berkeley. For decades I had maintained a huge upside down U prison styled Fu Manchu moustache, using the Latino convict vernacular, Brocha, pronounced Brosha, or Whip. This hairy configuration usually fades into a goatee or a full spinach chin depending on the type of career I was pursuing at the time, the ladder being seasons of unemployment, usually a time out for not playing well with others.

There is a group picture of us at my Brother-in-Laws wedding; every one is tuxedoed down with dance fever hair. I’m pictured off to the far right in the front row, with my head tilted cocky to the side with this huge moustache that looks like it weighs several pounds. I no doubt ruined the picture, the good news being, the couple are still happily married and their adult kids know that Tio Al is not a OG poser, he has always been whack like that most of his whole adult life.

I remember when my Brother shaved his jet black moustache on a whim after college and his sister-in-law saw him and started crying. This is when he just passed the Bar exam, she has no idea how lucky she was that he didn’t sue her.

There are two reasons to shave the whip; the first is you think that you will look younger and usually do; the second is shaving with a new razor during a major hangover when you are late for work.

We have family photos on my Dad’s side of distinguished older gentlemen with white hair and thick well maintained Brochas. One photo that is conspicuously absent is that of Grand pop Nicomendes who was shot jumping out a lady friend’s bedroom window. Sure hope history doesn’t repeat itself. He being a lady killer, I know bad choice of words; no doubt had a nice moustache too, hey maybe the extra weight above the lip inhibited his escape time, who knows? There are no David Blanes or Houdini’s in our family tree, just lots of fruits and nuts.

I have to say that it is easier to mean mug someone behind a huge Biker whip, the hair weighs your lips down into a perpetual frown. A menacing snarling Brocha was the last thing many a smart aleck has seen before they got knocked the funk out. Conversely, my initial attempt to woo my very poised and middle class businesswoman Latina wife was severely hampered by my, walking the big yard facial demeanor. I had to take it down a few notches before I could meet the family or her co-workers; it was well worth the effort.

Recently and for no apparent reason, I grew another Fu Manchu Brocha, and it was white, I looked like the mean walrus faced Dad on American Choppers. A word to Paul Sr., if I had a son who could design bikes like that, who made me a millionaire, I would never yell at him. My sons all of whom have moustaches, would never take the disrespect and verbal abuse from me, I used to tell the boys when they were little, that I raise Man Cubs.

I shaved the whip off when someone told me, my hair matched our white haired pup, Miss Sally.

Lately I’ve been going with the 5 o’clock shadow look and it is working. My mug is covered like a carpet with a short layer of hair, an outline of a full beard, this I’m told is a very hip look.

For guys who don’t know, grow a full beard, get a set of barber clippers, set it on #1 or # 2, cut it all even, do this once or twice a week and be sure to unplug it if you plan to jump out of a window.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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