Confessions of a Mustache Convert

Posted April 2, 2012 at 12:13pm

Editor’s Note: While HOH has long regarded itself as a collective, occasionally a contributor takes his or her assignment very, very seriously. This is one of those times. HOH readers, we give you Meredith Shiner.

I’m just going to throw this out there: I am biased.

I know, I know, a reporter is never supposed to confess such a thing, but it’s true. I can’t help it. I have certain deep-seated hates in life: Washington, D.C.-area drivers, the Chicago Cubs, New Jersey and Seersucker Thursdays, to name a few. But before Sunday, I had one bias that really topped them all — dudes with facial hair. This can be a problem if you’re covering the Million Mustache March on Washington.

I was a mustache bigot. Even the best looking, most iconic guys looked terrible in them. I mean, come on, Michael Jordan. Did you have to go with the 1930s dictator ‘stache for that underwear commercial? Seriously? Why don’t you just douse my childhood in gasoline and light a match.

But then something happened. I went to Sunday’s MMMonW.

I’ve never witnessed a march for a civic cause before, but I took my wide-eyed youth and undercover cynicism to the Capitol to see what it was all about.  I was skeptical — dare I say, even a “hater” — but my parents always taught me that if at least 100 dudes are going to walk brusquely from the United States Capitol Building to the White House donning nothing but spandex and their sweet, sweet lip rags, demanding nothing but a $250 tax break to “drink more beer!”, you must go.

“We’re in it to win it. Sometimes you have to risk it to get the biscuit,” 22-year-old Marine Damian Holschwander tells me, in the bright sunshine of a perfect spring day in Washington.

“Freedom isn’t free, neither are mustaches,” he adds. He traveled to Washington with his friend Joe Gerkovich, all the way from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Both young gentlemen conceded my point without any prompting — that many women don’t like mustaches. But one of them told me the secret to why women should.

“I don’t think you can put this in print,” one said, before uttering a line that would make even the most crass HOH reader [or writer] blush. Then, with a stroke of his ‘stache, he added, “Actually, that’s not for print. That’s for you.”

Gerkovich and Holschwander believe Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the baby-faced House Budget Chairman, could be president if he only grew a mustache. They didn’t really know that much about him, but they saw him on TV the night before in their hotel. And that was enough.

In fact, the under-representation of mustached lawmakers is one of the chief grievances of the American Mustache Institute, the organizers of Sunday’s march.

“It’s embarrassingly low,” says Aaron Perlut, a St. Louis, Mo., native who spearheaded the event. In all seriousness, Perlut is also raising money for clean drinking water through the group Millions From One.

But enough of that. Back to the ‘stache. “U.S. politics have not embraced the mustache,” Perlut laments.

Perhaps this is why the AMI’s Stache Act — seeking a $250 tax break for mustache-wearers — is not gaining traction on Capitol Hill. That, or because the AMI hasn’t hired a lobbyist yet.

Don’t they know how this town works? It’s not enough to earnestly march through the streets chanting, “Don’t filibuster our cookie duster!” or “Beer! Beer! Beer!” You gotta hire a glorified “lawyer” to wine and dine these folks. Start with John Hoeven, of course, the Senate’s only mustache holder.

Also at the March were the Ramakers, a family of five from Ottawa, Canada. They didn’t really have any strong feeling toward mustaches before meeting the AMI minions. They were just visiting and decided to take their first foray into American civic activism with the MMMoW.

Josie, the oldest of the three young Canadian Ramaker children, was especially pleased with her homemade, “Donate for a ‘stache ride” sign.

She looked at her mother Desiree and pleaded with her to check back with me to make sure I got the quotes right. She, rightly, was very skeptical of reporters, saying that mainstream media members distort what people say all the time.

“Sorry. I’ve seen a lot of movies,” she said to me as I walked away.

If only Tom Selleck had starred in a movie about a newsroom, I’d have the perfect clincher to this story.

Instead, I’ll leave you with the nostalgic pangs expressed to me by Perlut.

“A perm, a mustache and a turtleneck,” Perlut said of the three secret weapons men once had in a bygone era: the 1970s.

Just think of what those things might have done for President Richard Nixon.