Charlie Capen’s father wore a 70’s ‘uglystache’ quite proudly, and Charlie now finds a reason to do the same.
Growing up in San Francisco with a single mother left me looking for male role models — in all likelihood, more often than Macaulay Culkin was asked to slap himself in the face and scream.
My younger brother and I reminisce now on all the myriad “manly skills” we lacked. Our father didn’t teach us any of them. Tying a necktie. Picking up girls. Credit card fraud. Shaving. There is always a new one we run across; the list is endless.
As the father of a boy just turned two, I’ve become ever aware of my impact on him as he grows from boy to man, something I know my pops had trouble with as he was growing up.
My dad was an itinerant, bliss-seeking member of the literati. He was a radio disc jockey of note with a career spanning over 4 decades, and some name recognition. And he was also a freelance writer who managed to get published in the Library of Congress as well as the equally official Village Voice, Pacific Sun, et al. So, the guy was rarely around starting when I hit eight-years-old.
I have a myriad of stories of the times when my masculinity felt lacking. I remember taking my mother’s shaving razor to my upper lip when I was 13 and wishing for facial hair in an effort to speed the process of manning up. These days, with my sensitive, blotchy Irish skin, all I can hope for is a month without shaving over prickled stubble.
But my father taught me many lessons and revealed to me all manner of magic about this place, in our times between the distances.
He was devoutly pious to the creative. He was a proselytizer of levity. The man showed me how loud music needed to be so we could approach near deafness but still retain its enjoyment. He was a friend to me.
My dad passed away at the witching hour of September 12th, 2006 from a cancer he fought tooth and nail. My family flew 7 hours to be there and I sat by his bed as his body seized for its last breath, breaths I thought I, too, couldn’t grasp.
In that short 3-year period, I lost my father and my last remaining. So, when I tell people unequivocally F*CK CANCER, I mean it.
But how does one F*CK CANCER? It doesn’t have any genitals, at least as far as I’m concerned, and thus obviously a coward. Well, it’s a little known scientific fact that mustaches scare the crap out of cancer.
To be honest, I’ve never grown mustache before. I’m no hipster without a cause. I’m no porn star. No cop. What good would an uglystache like mine do again cancer?
Enter on the scene MOVEMBER, a charity devoted to raising awareness and funds for men’s cancers. It’s a month of magnificent, manscaped upper lips. When I was invited to participate, I told them I was all in.
We all need to support the ‘stachio if only for one month out of the year. Even women and especially those women with normal, functioning hormones should support the mustache and become MO Sista.
As I was shaving, I had to remember to keep my mustache intact. It took that much attention and focus. But as I was shaving I realized I didn’t know how to shape my upper lip hair. It’s always been about deforestation on that real estate.
So, I went to my boxes of old photos and found one of my father rocking the awesome late 70’s/early 80’s pushbroom. It was perfect. I knew I had found my mustache.
In the end, I’m proud of the time I had with my father, especially in those final days. Not because I watched him rack up credit card debt and give family gifts on the off chance he didn’t make it, but because we were as open and honest as we’d ever been with each other. We told each other things we’d never said.
For all his failings, he helped me become the father I am today and showed me how to make my face as masculine as it’s ever looked. He manned up, finally.
Thank you, Stephen Capen.
Charlie’s Movember Team has raised over $13k to date. See all his mustache iterations at his Movember page, here.
photos courtesy of Charlie Capen