The Geek Mustache
Last Sunday evening, I was watching an old Tamil movie called “Varallaru” (transl:History) on television at home. The movie starring actor Ajit Kumar is about a dancer who is rejected by his bride on the marriage altar because she feels he is effeminate looking and might be impotent. The hero on hearing of the rejection turns violent to prove his impugned manhood with disastrous consequences for everyone. But more about that later on in the post, right now I want to share a little domestic tiff at my home because of the above scene and its impact on my thinking plus shaving process. For soon after the wedding scene, my mother who was watching the movie with me, latched onto a contemporary moral of the story in relation to me and gave her analysis as “you too should grow a mustache, maybe the girls are rejecting you because you don’t have that manly look”. As cruel a blow as that which felled Caesar on the steps of the Capitol.
Irritated by this obverse comment – I took up cudgels on behalf of the metro-sexual, clean-shaven look which is my default style of many years. I explained to mom, in a patient “pay close attention for I will only say this once” voice- my point of view that any girl who believes that a manly look is all about having profuse facial hair is living in cuckoo land and that there is nothing manly about having a few stray hairs along the upper lip or on the cheeks. Not all mustache-less men are geeks or nerds- even macho film stars prefer the clean shaved look to make them look sexier. Tom Cruise doesn’t and neither does George Clooney and who can be manlier than those guys, with which irrefutable point- I clinched the argument with mom.
But later on, in the still of the night, the unbidden thought came to me that may be my mother had hit on something. For the past few years contemporary Tamil cinema has been showcasing a lot of ruffian-look hero’s with unshaven beards, wearing dirty under vests (with exposed chest hairs etal) and unwashed lungis and proving their manliness by eve teasing the heroine into submission till she finally agrees that a man has every right to act rough with girls. And judging by the success of the hero’s of such films in popular culture maybe girls these days really like dirty looking fellows- the great unwashed. And who knows I may even be an anachronism nowadays- a last holdout of better days- because I prefer the twin ideals of- good bodily hygiene and common courtesy – by way of taking a “no” for a no.
In my, till now, error prone ways of thinking a manly man needed only three things to impress women (and I thought I had all three of them) – conversation, chivalry and charisma.
Conversation skills are the easy one- you just pick up the guts to go talk to a strange girl and use your presence of mind to make interesting conversation. Like the other day, when I was coming back in a train from Hyderabad back to madras. Even though the train was half empty my allotted seat was right beside a man who stank to high heavens with bodily odour. After a certain point I could not take it anymore and standing up decided to go stand beside the open door and take in some fresh air. As i passed by the seats i happened to notice that one of the seats in the back of the compartment, right beside a pretty girl, was vacant. The clincher was the pretty girl.
So I walked up to her and asked politely “if this seat is vacant, can i sit over here? My co-passenger in that seat seems to have forgotten to take a bath and i have a delicate sense of smell”. She took her time deciding- so i gave her my most innocent look and waited it out till she finally gave in with a smile and patted the seat beside her. The rest was easy- she had a book of Guy De Maupassant’s on her lap and I asked her innocently whether it was a book of short stories or a novel(stop cursing me, I know that GDM never wrote anything long- but hey you need something to start, so excuse me) and then we got to discussing our favorite French authors and favorite short story writers and we finally ended up having buffalo milk coffee (I do have a delicate nose) a local specialty- in a little station near Guntur and she paid for both of us. Mission accomplished and it’s as easy as that.
My next “c” – chivalry is a bit more difficult to develop than conversation skills for it has to be practiced all the time – day in and day out- despite what others think of you. Now for those of you who think chivalry is an outdated concept I beg to differ. The point is not whether women expect us to do the heavy lifting. The point is to do so even if they don’t want us to. I am always opening doors and letting women through first even if they don’t want me to and doing a thousand other little chivalrous gestures. The ones who appreciate it- enjoy it, the ones who don’t- are irritated. Either way- not my problem – I am sure I get noticed (and remembered) which is the very point.
Finally, we come to the last of the “C’s”- charisma- well this one’s hard- you either have to be born with it or at least fake it. You cannot acquire this by hard work or good intentions. A charismatic man achieves everything normal people do with hours of conversations and plenty of chivalry- just by a single glance. It’s a fact of nature- and we have to just accept it.
So for all these years I had assumed that these were the requisites of an ideal man – not a ruffianly bearded look or a drooping mustache. But now i am not so sure- my certainty has been shaken. Should I stop shaving till I look like a polar bear? But in that case, I would cringe to look at my own face in the mirror. for over the years in different moods- especially during exam study leave periods- I had grown beards and mustaches and experimented with my looks – French beard/Hitler Mustache/Stalin Mustache/MGR mustache/the works- till finally I had gone back to my authentic clean shaved look which alone I felt comfortable with- and wasn’t scared to look at in the mirror when I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night.
And so I don’t think I should make myself ridiculous just to get approval from certain demented girls with weird tastes. I am human not a bonobo monkey to attract mates by exhibition of body parts and functions as part of mating ritual. I aim to impress and mate with my intellectual prowess and certainly not with facial hair. And for those women who think otherwise- good luck with your polar bear- I am a human being and I don’t live in the arctic.
I am comfortable in my own skin, thank you and good bye.
P.S. for those who haven’t watched the movie Varallaru- after the girl rejects him on the altar, the hero goes back to her house and rapes her with this dialogue- “If you ask me to sing- I can sing and show you, if you ask me to dance- I can dance and show you. But if you ask me if I am a man- I can only do this – rape you and show you”. So point of the story- never ask about anything you don’t want to know the answer to.