Wandering aimlessly through the dimly lit corridors of the old Solano County Hall of Justice not too long ago, I ran into a former colleague whom I hadn’t seen for several months.
Imagine my surprise when I noticed that his once-aggressively black mustache had turned snow white – particularly odd since the fellow is considerably younger than I am.
I managed to mutter some inane pleasantries (I’m adept with those) and staggered back down the hallway, still shaken by my friend’s unexpected mustache mutation. Visions of my mortality were catching up to me.
My own mustache, the bristling remnant of a tequila-induced whim in 1970, has gradually been moving from brown to salt-and-pepper to more-salt-than-pepper. The next step, I realized, could only be an elderly shade of white.
No, shaving off the ‘stache or judiciously applying a periodic coat of walnut stain are not options. The mustache stays for better or worse with no additives or coloring.
It took awhile, but I eventually came around to the idea that this mustache metamorphosis might not be all bad.
As my old ’60s sidekick Sapper used to say, “When life gives ya lemons, shaddup!”
Sure, a snowy white mustache is an obvious sign of aging – or a catastrophic collision between one’s upper lip and a bottle of bleach – but it does have its good points.
Once your mustache turns white, people begin to look at you as a kind of elder statesman, a gentleman who’s been around and knows what’s what. Suddenly, you command respect, regardless of whether you deserve it.
Noticing that distinguished white mustache proudly perched on your upper lip, people will invariably turn to you for advice – usually about subjects of which you have absolutely no knowledge.
When you were younger, you might have begged off and admitted your ignorance.
With your snowy mustache riding shotgun, though, you can shoot from the lip about virtually anything and get a hearty nod of approval from others.
Thanks to your mustache, you have become the World’s Foremost Authority.
Quantum physics? No problem.
Microbiology? Piece of cake.
Mesopotamia in the Third Century B.C.?
(“Harrrruuummmph! Old Mesopotamia, eh? Hell, the place was full of Mesopotamians. You couldn’t walk 3 feet without bumping into one of them, and not a one of ’em spoke decent English. Can ya believe it? Lousy poker players, too, I can tell you…”)
And, with that authoritative white mustache, you can liberally quote wise men from history without ever being challenged on the accuracy of your quotation.
“As Mark Twain used to say, you can take a riverboat downstream, but you can’t turn it into a silk purse.”
Who’s going to argue with you about that?
Best of all, that snowy mustache means nobody will ever dare card you when you demand your senior citizen discount.
And it just doesn’t get better than that, amigos viejos…
Originally published July 10, 2005