Facial Hair of the Gods?

On The Mexican Mustache

I am not well-endowed—not even close. I need braces, a personal trainer and LASIK. But none of this matters—I can grow a mustache.

It sprouts almost from the instant I shave in the morning, becomes a five-o'clock shadow around noon, and transforms into a sharp, jagged line spanning my mouth within two days. After a week, the mustache is worthy of Cesar Romero; after a month, Emiliano Zapata. In a year? You can smuggle a migrant family inside of it.

I usually don't grow a mustache, primarily because modern American society banishes non-goatee facial hair to the domain of the fags and Arabs. Indeed, almost all gabachas who have seen me with one loudly voice their objection. "Oh, my gosh!" one Hawaiian hottie once gasped after not seeing me for a couple of weeks. "The mustache makes you look like a Mexican!"

That was the point, chula.

Mexicans are different. They treat the initial dark hedges that spread across my upper lip like the first seedlings of spring. Murmurs of "You look good" and "You should keep it" greet me at social events. Men share their mustache envy, lamenting they can't grow something as thick and lengthy as mine. Without one, they think I look like a woman.

And the ladies? I've only had two Mexican girlfriends in my life—met them when I was clean-shaven. Both requested within days of our initial bedding that I grow a mustache.

Ladies: tongue piercings flicked toward the pudenda don't match four days' of lip-growth. Imagine a mustache gliding down your neck, across your back, past your abdomen toward the sweltering Promised Land; a mustache brushing your breasts, your thighs, your everything; not quite a kiss but even more so. Like that? Let's just say there's a reason I'm known as the "Mouth of the South."

But Mexican mustache love isn't just predicated on sexual sensation—it's rooted in something deeper, something more primal to the mestizo labyrinth: machismo. The mustache is power, commands respect, wins elections. Diogenes said he could move the world with a lever and a place to stand; some political observers say Vicente Fox's magnificent black bigote catapulted him into the Mexican presidential palace in 2000.

As with almost everything inexplicably retro in Mexican society, we can thank the Conquest for this follicle fetish. When the Spaniards arrived in the early 16th century, the Aztecs marveled not only at their iron armor and deer (actually horses) "as tall as the roof of a house," but also at the bizarre growths on the faces of these fair skins. One Aztec codex of the period dramatically noted the troops of Hernan Cortés wore "long and yellow [beards], and their mustaches are also yellow." This obsession wasn't trivial: the Aztecs—who could only grow pitiful wisps on their cheeks and chins—thought of the Spaniards as gods because of their facial hair. Cortés happened to arrive in Mexico on the exact year that the bearded god Quetzalcoatl promised to return centuries ago. To the Aztecs, a full-blown mustache meant power, salvation, a chance encounter with the heavens (of course, it ultimately became genocide, but that's another story).

Nearly 500 years later, Mexican culture still maintains the cult of the mustache. Our dads wear them; in official photos, our greatest leaders—Pancho Villa, ranchera legend Vicente Fernández, the Frito Bandito—brandish them like guns. Any self-respecting man grew a mustache—tellingly, the only segment of the Mexican male population that doesn't wear mustaches is the indigenous and the Americanized.

And so, I grow my mustache. When I told a friend about my plans, her eyes enlivened—became fearful, even. "Wow, you could look really tough—respectable, but also dangerous at the same time," she exclaimed.

I know.