Men With Mustaches and the Women Married to Them

Men with Mustaches and the Women Married to ThemA month ago my husband shaved. Except he didn’t shave that line of hair that grows on the upper lip. You know, the place where a mustache grows. A mustache! (to fully understand my shock, see this exclamation point and this post about exclamation points) The last time he had a mustache was in 1999 when he was a teacher at a junior high school and got tired of being asked for his hallway pass. A little facial hair lifted him out of the preteen category.

I don’t like mustaches. Didn’t like them in 1999 and still don’t, in 2015.

Our youngest daughter also doesn’t like mustaches. When she saw her dad’s face, she screamed, “NOOOOOO!” Then she pulled him over to a family photo in which he did not have a mustache. “That,” she said, “is a handsome daddy. That,” she waved dismissively at this piece of fur over his mouth, “is not.”

Now, we aren’t anti-facial hair. I find my husband’s scruffy beard (including a bit of scruff over the upper lip) or goatee (again including hair above the lip) attractive, sexy, rugged. But when the mustache hangs out there all by itself? When it starts to curl over and onto the lip? Even when it is trimmed but sits there all smug and isolated and caterpillar-ish?


But. Right now mustaches seem to be trendy on t-shirts and on socks and backpacks and hipsters. You can walk down the street and feel like you are walking through man-face-hair. It presses in from all sides – greeting cards and beer mugs and cat memes and fingernails, even cookies. Forgive me for not wanting to eat man-face-hair. What’s next? Chin hair cupcakes?


So, okay, the mustache is trendy. This means men will be sporting mustaches. But what kind of men? That is my question. And what kind of women are married to them?

Two kinds.

Old men (married to old women).

Trendy men (married to trendy women).

That’s it.

Those two cohorts can get away with the mustache. They can even rock it.

Therein lies my two arguments against my particular husband’s mustache.

We aren’t old. My husband is thirty-nine and I am thirty-seven. I know to some (like our teens) that seems ancient, but we aren’t so old yet. At least not so old that we need to start advertising it with our facial hair. I still pluck, he should still shave.

We aren’t trendy. We are ultra-casual, live in Africa, and have limited shopping opportunities and little disposable income. However, we feel we have made significant improvements since our college days when frump and flannel was the style and zero was the amount of our clothing and hair cut budget. We have started to wear clothes that fit right and I sometimes add jewelry or makeup. Light years forward, people, seriously.

But. Said progress has by no means thrust us into the trendy camp. We didn’t even know what a hipster was until we returned to the United States for a visit and by then the trend had nearly already moved on.

I think the mustache trend has something to do with a natural desire of men to be playful with their facial hair. No problem. I sometimes paint a blue streak in my blond curls. It is washable and that’s what I’m counting on with this mustache on my husband’s face.

This time around, he wanted to try something new.


He can keep it as long as eventually (soon) he either takes it off or adds more chin hair. Or if we wake up one morning and are suddenly ‘cool.’ Just what our teens are praying for, I’m sure.

*Update: My husband has now added a little tuft of hair beneath his lower lip which helps immensely. It takes pressure off the ‘stache.

*Second update: Since my husband says his definition of beauty is however closely a woman resembles me, I am redefining my idea of handsome to, sigh, include mustaches. Let it be known far and wide that no one can rock it like my man.


Down with Exclamation Points!!

I hate exclamation points. Okay hate is too strong of a word. I’m anti-exclamation point. When I read them I feel like people are shouting at me. When I write them I feel like I have written poorly because I shouldn’t need to rely on an exclamation point to get across the excitement or power of what I have written. They seem kind of lazy. Plus, I’m not really an exclamation point kind of person.

Exclamation Point

I know someone who cries when I cook her waffles (yeah, you know who you are). I am the mother of someone who does exuberant tuck jumps while waving her arms in the air and cheering when her watermelon plant sprouted. I know someone else who talks so fast, and with so much conviction that each word seems to be accompanied by an invisible exclamation point.

I’m not those people. I like the steady, plain, no frills, simple period. Period. I don’t hang up curtains, I don’t wear sequins, I barely put on makeup unless you count chapstick. Simple, casual, what you see is what you get. Like a period. That nice, round little dot at the end of a sentence. That inconspicuous, unpretentious point that lets the words do all the talking and demands nothing for itself.

This pretty much works for professional writing. Unless I’m writing for certain websites (here are some pieces in which, yes, exclamation points have been inserted into my pieces. I can neither confirm nor deny that I placed them there myself).

But when it comes to other kinds of communication, like the kind between people that isn’t in the form of an essay or blog post, exclamation points seem to be creeping in (as does the smiley face).


I live in the digital age. The age of texting and Facebook and email and Twitter. The age when so much communication is done without sound or visuals. No tone of voice, no face or hand gestures, no body language.

I’ve heard people say that a text without an exclamation point or smiley face makes me sound angry. Why can’t it make me sound neutral? Or stable? Or happy and excited? Or sincere? Why do I have to shout my texts at people? Or my Facebook messages?

At first I thought I would just refuse all uses of the exclamation point and insist on using the period. But when people on Facebook wonder if I’m resentfully wishing them a plain old Happy Birthday or if they assume I’m pissed when I accept an invitation via text with a basic, ‘Ok,’ that’s not cool for my relationships.

So I guess I’ll concede. On social media. Sometimes. But let it be known that if I use an exclamation point here or in an email or *gasp* in a published essay, it was with great intention and possibly against my will and better judgment!

How do you feel about exclamation points?

*image via Wikimedia

6 Reasons Boarding School Rocks

I get to see my kids in less than two days. I don’t think I need to say that I’m excited.

My teenage twins go to boarding school two countries away. Whenever I write that, I feel the need to defend our family’s decision but I won’t, not here. Also, whenever I write that, I feel like I could follow it up with a litany of reasons boarding school is hard, that I could instead title this post 6 Terrible Things about Boarding School. But I won’t do that here either.

One of the hardest things to do in all of life, and yet one of the most beneficial things to do, is to maintain a heart of thankfulness. In the spirit of that thankfulness (and because I get to see them so soon) here are 6 really great things about boarding school.

6 Reasons Boarding School Rocks1

Physical Affection. My teenagers still hug me. In front of their friends and at school. Even their friends hug me, big hulking senior boys I’ve known since they were in first grade and high school girls I’ve only recently met but who live with my daughter in the dorm. As precious as chubby toddler arms are around a parent’s neck, nothing compares to a 14-year old boy still willing to joyfully throw his arms around me and squeeze, to say, “I love you, mom.” And then run off to the field to roughhouse and play rugby with his friends, who have also just hugged their mothers.

Family time. Time together is infinitely precious, even to the teens. During term breaks I don’t have to argue with the family that we should take a day and go to the beach. We sit down together almost every single day of term break for lunch and dinner, which totals almost the same number of shared meals as the average American family. We have focused, intentional conversations and game nights. They play dress-up and laser-gun battles with their little sister and lavish attention on her. Very little time is wasted on silly arguments or nitpicking.

Cheers for Mom. My home-cooking never tasted so good. After weeks on end of cafeteria food, anything I put on the table at mealtime is greeted with grins and thanks and sometimes even cheers, double when dessert is involved.

Independence and Courage. The Washington Post had a recent article about helicopter parenting in which millennials brought their parents along to job interviews. My teenagers don’t even bring me along on international flights. They know how to handle themselves with airport security, customs control, at restaurants, in taxi cabs. They know how to ask for help when they need it and they are brave enough to do so, no matter what country they are in.

Confidence. My kids aren’t afraid of challenges or situations outside their comfort zone. They have traveled internationally and have been responsible for their passports, their visas, their money. They haven’t always been successful in these responsibilities and things have gotten lost, they’ve made mistakes. But they’ve also learned to take responsibility for those mistakes, that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world or a definitive aspect of who they are as a person.

Problem solving. I can’t step into every situation to resolve it for them. I can’t intervene, as much as I would like to, when they have a conflict with a roommate or a teacher. I can’t hover over their homework or do it for them or urge them to remember to put it into their backpack in the morning. This means they have to learn how to address their weaknesses of timeliness, relationships, study habits on their own. Of course we talk on the phone and Skype and offer suggestions and make plans together. But hovering is not an option.

The skills my teens are learning at boarding school involve more than academics or increased sports and musical opportunities. They are the skills they will need to function and thrive in college and employment, in social relationships, and in an increasingly global world.

Of course, some of these areas are things I long to be involved in – like homework problem solving or to experience travel together, it isn’t easy and we often reevaluate our choice of boarding school. But so far, both kids are thriving, I’m proud of them, and our family remains close. I’m practicing thankfulness every day.

What painful thing can you practice thankfulness for today?

The Long Run, in the Big Roundtable

Quick link: The Long Run

Meet Kadra Mohamed Dembil, an obscure athlete from an obscure country,
racing for more than gold
The Long Run

By the time Kadra Mohamed Dembil went to the Junior Olympics in Nanjing China in 2014, when she was seventeen, expectations of female Djiboutian runners were clear. Last place. Maybe second to last.


She would be that final struggling athlete from a poor, obscure nation with a name people have never heard and can’t pronounce. The one spectators clap for in a semi-inspired, semi-pitying way, cheering home the biggest loser. Such a runner, reeled in by the cheers of the crowd long after the other athletes have cooled down and begun interviews, is encouraged. But she is also sometimes embarrassed.


Before Kadra’s time, Djibouti sent Roda Wais to race in the Sydney Olympics, in 2000. After placing dead last in the 800-meter race, she defected, with the help of a Somali Australian. Eventually she married an Australian, had children, and never competed for her country again. In 2004, Djibouti sent no athletes to the Olympics. In 2008, Djibouti sent Fathia Ali Bouraleh to race the 100 meters in Beijing. Fathia false started. And, on the second attempt, she was so nervous from the false start that she ran one of her slowest races of the year. She placed last in her heat, her time the second slowest overall. In 2012, Djibouti sent Zourah Ali to race the 400 meters in London. Like Fathia, she finished with the second slowest overall time, faster only than Zamzam Mohamed Farah of Somalia, Djibouti’s neighbor to the east. No female Djiboutian had yet won a medal for her country. None had ever even advanced beyond the first heat in a major international competition.


Kadra knew the history of female Djiboutian athletes and, for her international debut at the Junior Olympics, she had something else in mind. She knew she couldn’t win, but she had no intention of finishing at the back of the pack. She was determined to launch a new era of female racing in Djibouti. She wanted a race with her name on the announcer’s lips. She didn’t know if that kind of race was possible, but Kadra wasn’t going to Nanjing to aim for last place…

Click here to find out how Kadra does in Nanjing and read the rest of The Long Run

Losing and Finding Joy

Quick link: Where Did the Joy Go?

Today I’m at Brain Child writing about learning from my daughter how to find exuberant joy in the little, everyday things.

Where Did the Joy Go

My nine-year old came into the dining room this morning singing a nonsense song. She poured herself a bowl of generic corn flakes and then said, “Who doesn’t just love life? It is so wonderful. I love my life.”

“What’s so great about it?” I asked.

“I love the food, the way things are made (she patted the IKEA chair she was sitting on and then stared at her hand for a moment), the people I know. I love how hot it is.” It was 98 degrees already and my steaming cup of morning coffee made me sweat through my t-shirt. I kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her hard and wished I could bottle up that joie-de-vivre.

She went outside and discovered that the watermelon seed she planted beneath the air conditioner (where the water sprinkles out the back) had sprouted. She leaped into the air with her arms high over her head and her feet tucked up behind her (a move that in my adult world of aerobics is known as a tuck jump but to her is just childhood exuberance) and shouted, “It’s growing!” Then she knelt down beside the little green sprout and spoke in a hushed voice, her nose almost touching the plant, “It is just so beautiful.”

When did everything get so complicated and hard?

Click here to read the rest Where Did the Joy Go?