Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.
We all have changes we’d like to make in our lives. Some of us wish we were taller, or thinner, or that we had checked how many feet we were from the nearest elementary school before we sold narcotics to that plain clothes police officer. Some of us wish for money, or fame, or a few bottles of classy booze that doesn’t give us the trots. Often our whole lives seem molded around our desires, with any hope of happiness shackled to the pursuit of things we can’t have.
I live a good life. I’m not rich, but I’m healthy. I have a college degree, I have a family that loves me, and I have no noticeable birth defects or mental disabilities from my parents’ many decades of cocaine abuse. To many of the world’s less fortunate, my life is pure perfection. Yet I can’t stop thinking how much greater my life would be if I were black and had a mustache.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘You have a college degree, a good family, and now you also want to be a cool black guy with a mustache? That’s just greedy.” It is, reader, but I won’t apologize for it. I’ve spent 30 years of my life working hard and playing by the rules, and I think I’ve earned the right to be a poised, aplomb black guy whose mustache inspires trust. Like a mustachioed Sidney Poitier.
I’m not asking for a lot. I don’t want superpowers or the ability to travel through time. I just want to be made black and given a small yet awe-inspiring mustache to make my neighbors think pleasant thoughts of me when I’m taking out my garbage. “There goes that black guy with a mustache,” they’d say. “We never speak to him, because he’s black, but he certainly seems like a sensible man who takes care of his family and embiggens the neighborhood.”
A black guy with a tidy mustache is always respected. When Black Mustache Guy walks into a bank, the tellers think, “There is a man whom I can trust. There is a man who never watches porn with the windows open, and exudes confidence through every orifice. There is a man who always grabs a napkin, even when he’s not eating something particularly messy. There goes one classy dude.”
Twenty or thirty years ago, a black guy with a mustache struck fear in the hearts of Americans. They thought he was a pimp, or drug dealer, or one of those awful Wayans Brothers. Now Black Mustache Guy makes people think of the lovable smarminess of Stanley from The Office, or charming guest cameos by Billy Dee Williams, or all the times they’ve yawned while watching a Will Smith movie.
After all these years of oppression, America finally trusts black guys with mustaches. Not crazy ones, mind you, but the reticent kind of mustache that is not in disarray after one goes swimming. A no-nonsense mustache that pays its taxes early and drives a used Ford Festiva. A mustache that has never been arrested at the Bayfront Blues Festival for whipping it out during Charlie Musselwhite’s set.
Many people have told me I can achieve half my dream by being a white guy with a mustache. These people are morons. America does not respect white guys with mustaches. Old white guys with mustaches go to Nascar races and beat their wives every time the Packers are forced to punt. Young white guys with mustaches wear skinny jeans and ironic t-shirts, and endlessly discuss which Fleet Foxes song gives them the biggest boner.
Choosing between these two options is like choosing between two different forms of cancer. I don’t want to be either of them, and neither does the rest of humanity. I’d rather donate a few dollars for a cure. My parents didn’t raise me to be a douche.
My dad – who is white and isn’t aware that skinny jeans exist – used to sport a mustache, back in the ’80s when such things were respected. He shaved it off roughly a decade ago, after years of random people on the street mistaking him for a pornographic film actor. But his example was necessary at the time, because like his habit of smoking, his mustache taught my brother and I the unglamorous side of seemingly “cool” activities.
I’ve waited years for a revival, and it’s simply not fair that only black guys are allowed to have sophisticated mustaches these days. Perhaps someday when I’m a very old man, when books are all digital and video games are a national sport, when microwave dinners are actually delicious and ladies have to wear pants because we all use jetpacks, my dream will align with reality. But until then, I’ll just keep dreaming of my great life as a black dude with a totally respectable, not in the least bit ironic mustache.