Fiction by Julia Curcio
The words soured my mouth before I said them. They sat on my tongue,
dirtying the latest forkful of my Cobb salad and wilting every lettuce leaf.
“A mustache?” I said, sending a half-chewed piece of cucumber straight
onto Drew’s shirt. He brushed it aside and gave me one of those smiles you see
on pictures of realtors on shopping carts.
“I just want to see what it’ll look like. You know, like when you got those
blonde highlights last summer.”
“That’s different. Drew, no one looks good with a mustache. And Sandra’s
wedding is two weeks away and—”
“So it’ll be fully grown by then.” Drew gave me another real estate grin and
got back to work on his side of potato salad. We sat on the bench in silence for
a few uncomfortable moments until Drew checked his watch.
“Oh, geez, I’d love to stay, Elly, but I gotta get back to work. I’ll come by
to talk about the outfit.” He kissed my cheek and ran off.
Mustache, I thought. My boyfriend is growing a mustache.
I spent the rest of my day at work Googling pictures of Burt Reynolds,
Richard Pryor, and the guy on Pringles cans. If there’s one thing I’ve learned
in life, it’s that if it doesn’t look good on a celebrity, it doesn’t look good on
anyone. Take, for example, the infamous “Rachel” cut of ’96. Sure, Jennifer
Aniston’s hair could pull off having more layers than my Aunt Jean’s “Death by
Butter Cream” cake. But most moms in fanny packs looked like purebred
Afghan Hounds with that haircut. Then take the gelled-up spikes guys were
sporting around the same time. It looked stupid on my cousin Louie and it
looked just as bad on that guy from Sugar Ray. I don’t know exactly what they
were going for but everyone who took the pomade to their hair that year came
out looking like Bart Simpson.
But mustaches. I could not understand why Drew, my intelligent and loving
boyfriend of two years, would want to subject his face to that kind of horror. I
was not going to be seen at my sister’s wedding slow dancing to “My Heart Will
Go On” with a man wearing the same facial accessory as Gene Shalit.
When no one was looking, I printed out my pictures of the mustachioed men
on the company high glossy card stock. I hung the pictures up all over my
apartment that night and waited by the door for Drew to come by so we could
discuss what he would wear to Sandra’s wedding.
Look, I’m not as much of a control freak as I’m sure this sounds. Okay,
so I am one of those women who vetoes her boyfriend’s outfit three weeks in
advance of an event. But you have to understand. My sister has always been
the renaissance child. She read before she was three. She somehow managed to
skip the acne and awkwardness of adolescence to be a thirteen-year-old style
queen that would make the post-Full House, pre-anorexia Olsen twins jealous.
In high school, she maintained perfect grades while simultaneously starring in
the school play and leading the volleyball team to four straight city champion-
ships. I had braces, glasses and orthopedic shoes in seventh grade and had to
skip the senior prom due to a severe nosebleed (not like I had a date, anyway).
The theme was “A Titanic of a Night.” But then, my sister got engaged to Bill,
the drummer of a Steve Miller cover band. He looks exactly like you’d expect
the drummer of a Steve Miller cover band to look. Drew is a chef at the only
five-star restaurant in town and looks like a tan Michelangelo’s David. And this
beautiful man was going to stand beside me as I graced the wedding in my sea
green Nicole Miller gown. I was finally winning in one department.
But if I introduced my extended family to a Robert Goulet look-alike, I
would lose forever.
Drew came to the door just as I finished taping Weird Al’s picture to the
bathroom mirror. He brought his latest pan-seared salmon creation into the
kitchen and was met with Jeff Foxworthy hanging over the sink.
“Elly, this is not necessary.”
“What? I was just doing some redecorating and wanted to give you a
preview of your new Spring look,” I said as I set the table. Drew moved to the
“I just think you’re overreacting. I mean, these guys let their mustaches take
over the whole face. I’m just trying to—” He opened the oven door to find
Mike Ditka smiling back at him. When he turned around to face me and leaned
into the light, I could see the army of withered black hairs clinging to his upper
lip. How could I possibly kiss a man with that brushing against his nose?
Drew asked me to take down the pictures because they were making him
uneasy as he ate. I told him they would stay up to show how I would have to
feel in a week when I would share dinner with a mustache every night.
“So, I think I’m gonna go with the navy blue suit and the black tie,” Drew
I shook my head.
“What? I thought black went with everything.”
“Everything but navy blue.”
“What does navy blue go with?”
“Only navy blue.”
I explained the navy blue/black/white after Labor Day amendments without
thinking. My mind was on nothing but slow dancing to Celine Dion’s wails with
the fourth Musketeer.
Drew left to go to the bathroom and I cleared the table.
“Elly!” he shouted from down the hall. “This is too far.”
He stormed into the kitchen clutching the picture of Weird Al.
“First of all,” he yelled, “he hasn’t even had a mustache in like eight years.
And look at me. Do you see Weird Al?”
Admittedly, I did not see the Weird Al of like eight years ago.
“Not everyone with a mustache is a creep. What about that guy from the
I kicked myself for admitting to him my old crush on AJ.
“Okay,” I said. “But for every okay mustache, there’s like three bad ones.
Tom Selleck, Sergeant Slaughter, John Oats.”
“Mario, Luigi, Yosemite Sam.”
He almost had me at Jesus. But I recovered.
“Jesus doesn’t count. He has a combo.”
“Mustache with a beard.”
Drew bit his lip. I could tell he was considering growing a beard as part of
a combo compromise. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to slow dance to Celine
Dion with Jesus in a bad suit either.
“Well, I don’t care what you think. I’m growing it and that’s final.”
“Fine. But if you’ll excuse me. . . .” I pushed past him and slipped into the
bathroom. I gathered up my razor, my blades, and my Raspberry Rain scented
“For every day you don’t shave, I’m not going to shave either.” Drew
rolled his eyes and told me that I could never go through with it, that I was
too self-conscious to parade around like a cavewoman. But in the interest of
fairness, in the interest of feminism, in the interest of every woman who had to
watch her boyfriend become Salvador Dalí, I was going to let my legs get as
hairy as my Uncle Don’s.
The days went on as we played out a chicken game of shaving. Each day
he would come over for dinner with a little more fuzz on his face and I would
look a little more like the girl from the health food store. I chucked my normal
skirts and heels to the back of the closet and donned a daily wardrobe of slacks
and knee socks so no one else knew the stubble trouble that was brewing on my
once silky smooth skin. But when Drew was around, I rolled up my cuffs. If I
had to look at his experiment in testosterone, he had to look at mine.
At first, we went on about our lives as usual and ignored each other’s
progress. But as the day of the wedding drew closer, an unbearable tension
formed between us. I wouldn’t kiss his furry lips and he stopped resting his hand
on my leg when we watched TV. It was painful for us to even make small talk.
There was an elephant in the room and boy, was he hairy.
The awkwardness between us broke the morning of Sandra’s wedding. I
waited in my sea green silk halter dress for Drew, sure that he would arrive as
clean-shaven as the day we met and I would dash into the bathroom to rid myself
of my perfectly fitted hair pants. No man would be seen with a woman who
hadn’t seen a razor for two weeks. He would cave. I was sure of it.
But I was wrong. Drew arrived bright and early and brought the mustache
with him. He also brought a bouquet of Casablanca lilies and a stuffed kitten
holding a heart.
“Elly, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
For a moment, I was so taken with the flowers and the kitty that I forgot
about the black caterpillar resting under my boyfriend’s nose. But I came to
“You mean you’re going to shave it off?”
“No, I’m not. I like having a mustache. You need to accept that. And I
really don’t mind that you stopped shaving your legs.”
His last sentence went against everything Cosmo had taught me.
“No. I was just pretending I did. I thought you would see how it feels to
have someone special to you criticize your appearance. But I can’t take it
anymore. I love you. All of you.”
My mustache-hating heart melted as I sniffed the lilies and felt Drew give me
a kiss on my left fuzzy ankle. I had spent the last thirteen years believing that
no decent man would give you a second look if you didn’t shear yourself like
the prize sheep. But all along, the love of my life would take me as the woolly
llama I really am underneath it all.
“You wouldn’t care if I went to the wedding just like this? In front of
“No. Why would I care? I’m with you. We’ll have a great time.”
And I was giving the silent treatment to this man for what? A mustache.
I knelt down and gave him a kiss that would rival the wake-up scene from
“Your suit looks great,” I said, ignoring the black tie against his navy blue
“And you look amazing. Should we get going?”
“Sure, just give me a second.”
I rushed into the bathroom and went straight for my shaving supplies.
Which were missing. As was my wax. In light of all the drama, I had forgotten
all about throwing away my razors. And that trash day had already passed.
And that I needed to leave the house in five minutes.
I thought about improvising. I could have trimmed each individual hair with
my cuticle scissors. I could have melted my Ocean Breeze tea light and
performed the first Yankee Candle leg wax. But I decided to skip resulting
skin grafts and attend the wedding in Nicole Miller and my own homegrown
Surprisingly, no one at the wedding really noticed our new looks. My new
brother-in-law showed up for the big day with a mullet that would shame any
performer at the 1988 Country Music Awards. The guests couldn’t keep their
eyes off of it long enough to see anyone else in attendance. We ate our
flounder and baked potatoes without any harassment. And as we slow danced
to the love theme from Titanic, I brushed a piece of wedding cake off of
Drew’s mustache and imagined walking down the aisle looking just as we did
in that moment. And I smiled.
I went to the salon the next day and got the best leg wax of my life. Drew
shaved his mustache a few days later. He said he hated the way food got stuck
up there for days. I offered to buy him a mustache comb but he wanted to get
rid of the thing entirely. I can’t say I really miss it, but if it happened to pop up
again in couple years, I don’t think I’d tape Weird Al to the mirror.
But a mullet. That’s where I’d draw the line.
Julia Curcio is a working writer located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a
graduate of the Drexel University Screenwriting and Playwriting program. She
currently works as an Apprentice Teaching Artist with Philadelphia Young
Playwrights, a non-profit arts and education program that guides and supports
Philadelphia-area students in writing their own original plays. For more
information, please visit http://phillyyoungplaywrights.org/.
On “The Mustache”:
I was inspired to write this story after a friend told me she was mad her
boyfriend was planning on growing a mustache since she originally
agreed to date him while he was clean-shaven. In a strange case of
life imitating art or God testing the message of hair-acceptance I
wrote about, soon after I finished the story, my own boyfriend told me
he was going to experiment with growing a mustache himself!
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 2, Number 1
Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors