Here’s the thing about having a pornstache, A.C.: it works for you, and it works against you. It’s a mixed bag. It’s pro and con all mixed together. It’s facial décor and facial disaster. But if there’s one thing to know about having a mixed bag stuck on your face, it’s that you’ve got to know how to wield it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a pornstache. No. That first time would be when I was studying abroad in Dublin, back in the spring of 2003. And like the ’tache I have now, that one was a mixed blessing. Actually, what the hell am I talking about? I was all prepared to reflect on being a mustachioed young American set loose on Ireland, to ruminate over that conflicted time, but I can only remember pros.
Walking down the street in a city that doesn’t celebrate country music or NASCAR with a massive pornstache, I got the one thing I’ve always wanted: instant respect from strangers. This is how I want to relate to people, A.C. I want passersby to shrink from my shadow. I want them to buckle and beg for permission to pass. I want them to go home and tear down their posters of Sylvester Stallone and leave the walls blank while they wait for the day when they go to the Prints Plus in the nearest mall and find a picture of my face above the caption: “MAN.”
(I should add that having a massive ’tache in Ireland means subtler pleasures as well—when taking a sip from a well-poured pint of Guinness, the ’tache carves its outline in the foam, giving you something to look at after you’ve finished your sip.)
But now, A.C., times aren’t so simple. Back in 2003, I walked down the street, strangers cowered, and I was on top. But now, life has changed. Back then, I fed off fear. Now, I need to function. I need, as it were, to be able to use the internet.
Right now, I’m staying at Zoe House on Chincoteague Island in Virginia’s tidewater zone with three other Trop writers—Will, Roger, and Evan. Zoe House is an ideal place for novel writing because it doesn’t have internet, but a bad place for life functionality on account of the same. (Luckily I don’t care all that much about life functionality—I need it for only a few hours a day.) So, confronted with our low level of life function, and the fact that we’re all trying to maintain the website you’re reading this on right now, we sought out a place where we could install ourselves and clack and surf away.
That place, at first, was the Comfort Suites. I walked in there at eleven o’clock on Sunday night and approached the desk and introduced myself to Linda, an older lady with a smoker’s rasp. I said I didn’t have internet and I’d be in town for a while and would it be possible to make an arrangement with the hotel. She asked for my name. She wrote it down on a piece of paper. She said, “I’ll put your name behind the desk and alert the staff.”
Now that, A.C., is what we call special treatment, and I can’t say for sure whether or not my ’tache had anything to do with it. But I did sense flirtation from Linda. I sensed sexuality. And Linda had to be at least twice my age. And I suspect that had I been baby-faced and clean-shaven, she wouldn’t’ve been able to imagine the, erm, physical acts that persuaded her to give me a free pass to the Comfort Suites. But with a pornstache? Barriers to the imagination come down and sixty-year-old smokers are granted permission to imagine ravaging my body however they like.
The thing about sixty-year-old women imagining ravaging thirty-year-old men, though, is that sometimes, well, the moment passes. For me and Linda, the moment passed the next day, when I came around to take her up on her offer, with my Trop comrades in tow. We installed ourselves in the lobby, helped ourselves to the free coffee, occupied every comfortable seat that they had, and waited for her to kneel beside me and whisper that our arrangement had to end, that I would have to take my ’tache and my friends and move on. Did she feel any guilt about this, about severing ties before we’d even gotten going? I doubt it. Because just as men with pornstaches aren’t too tough to invite into the imagination, they aren’t too tough to dismiss either. They come and they go, and in the end, sixty-year-old women decide they’d rather not risk losing their jobs.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.