International Women's Day: Mustache March

Bryon and I are usually simpatico on nearly everything – well, except when it comes to budgeting. For example, my neighbor, who is PCS’ing (for those non-military types, that means moving); came in today and asked me, “do you throw out your plungers when you move?” This seems like a ridiculous question, as most people move ten miles down the road; and therefore, throw their plungers in a baggie in the backseat of their Hyundai. But, us military types, we pack ‘em up, gross germies included, and unpack ‘em months later, when the crates arrive, and then plunk ‘em back down next to a new toilet, in a new state. Can you imagine how many germs have multiplied in that time, in those dark, dank, moist, hot moving crates?

Her argument was simple: the minor cost of replacing a plunger is worth the waste of throwing a way a perfectly good plunger every few years. Given thought, I realized that in the twelve years of marriage to my dear husband, I think we’ve celebrated all of those anniversaries with the same plunger. Not literally; I mean, we haven’t sat across a candle-lit table with one another and our plunger. However, we’ve never replaced a plunger.

That means that, yes, we move our plunger. Alas, we disagree, fundamentally on budgeting, and on how, and when to spend money. This is not news. I buy boots. I buy clothes. I buy home goods. I buy anything shiny that catches my eye. I’m like a crow, or a toddler. And damn it, if given the choice, I’d buy a new plunger every time we moved. Hell, I’d buy a new one every time we used it, if I could rationalize it to Bryon; or, if living with Bryon didn’t necessitate its constant use! I’d just never considered it as a life issue. From now on, I will.

Why the preamble? Because I’m not capable of talking without babbling. But also, because he’s a commander, now. This means that he has the responsibility to uphold all the tenants of leadership that the Air Force shovels so far down your throat that your feet turn AF blue. The jargon about mentorship, teamwork and service can’t just be jargon anymore, not to him. I’ve seen him, on weekends, creating Power Points about these very topics, the sorts of things that would’ve made Lieutenant-me, and Captain-him (who we were when we met), roll our collective eyes at commanders’ calls. Poor Bryon. He knows it’s Kool-Aid; but not only does he have to drink it, he’s got stained spoons from making and serving it. At least it’s tasty.

But, this whole leadership thing has led to the first major rift in our marriage: Mustache March.

If you are in the military, or a spouse, you know what I am talking about. It means the men, join together, and grow facial hair, like a bunch of idiots. Its origins are murky and the stuff of legend, like the chupucabra. Some will make vague references to it having to do with March Madness. Those with a misplaced sense of dignity will claim that it’s done to raise awareness for men’s’ health issues, such as the oft ignored, or easily missed, symptoms of prostate cancer. If you google it, apparently, Wikipedia claims it is pays homage to some renegade pilot who grew a mustache to flout facial hair regulations, by growing a handlebar mustache: Robin Olds.

In reality, Mustache March is an excuse to remind everyone, including a man’s caveman brain, that he has enough testosterone to grow facial hair. It’s also a chance to bond, in a chest pounding way, with your fellow cavemen, about who looks like the bigger asshole with said facial hair. Who was able to pull off the closest Selleck mustache? And, who looks like they grew the kind of mustache that makes him look like he has to stay 500 yards away from a school?

Har. Har. Isn’t this fun?

Wait. Remember those gals with the vaginas and breasts that can’t grow mustaches? You love those parts when you get to play with them, but you whine about them when we use them to point out how they interfere with your fun. Isn’t that a pain in the ass? It’s also easy to play the, “ugh, there’s always something to complain about,” card; or, the “why mess with tradition?” card. Well, perhaps it’s important to raise our voices when there’s something wrong, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and even if it means it challenges the way that something has always been done. Just because something is tradition, doesn’t make it right.

It’s so convenient to say that they claimed that they wanted the unit to participate in Mustache March this year, that it would be fun! That it would even be such a team bonding experience. Of course, they say that. Who wants to be the spoil-sport? But, here’s the problem with that: if the entire team can’t play, it’s not a team building event, is it? It’s like playing Marco Polo with a deaf guy. Plus, women in the military have been conditioned to play nice with the boys, not to rock the boat. We’ve been conditioned that we are supposed to like the boys’ games, and that we play too, or we won’t be allowed to play at all. It’s why we do things like laugh at the non-stop sexual innuendo jokes from pilots, pretending that they are not the humor of twelve-year-olds. We play so we can be allowed to be in the professional circle.

Sure, she may like seeing you guys looking like assholes with your ridiculously ugly mustaches; because face it, less than 1% of the population pulls one off successfully. However, it doesn’t bond you as a team. In fact, it’s directly exclusionary on premise alone. If the only way she’s included is to be amused from the outside, how is it inclusionary? Plus, even if the goal is lofty, men’s’ health awareness, where is the equivalent team-building event for women. Or, if it’s to pay homage to a rule against facial hair, it’s even more exclusionary. Unless we include particularly hairy women who wax, intentionally, of course; but, that’s another ball of wax.

Which brings us back to why my husband and I are at odds, this month. He’s doing Mustache March with his unit. It infuriates me. We’ve had conversations about Mustache March for years. Every year we’ve been in the Air Force, in fact. I saw it on active duty. I’ve seen it as a spouse. I have always said it’s ridiculous, exclusionary, and an example of trickle-down sexism that should be shunned from the top and made an example of as institutionalized sexism. He’s agreed. I’ve said that, if I were Chief of Staff of the Air Force, I’d ban it. It’s that important to me to make women feel included as part of the Air Force.

Now that he’s in a leadership position, he’s got a mustache, and he’s playing. I’m disappointed. He says the women wanted to play. I know he’s torn, because I know his principles, and his gut says that it’s wrong; but I know he wants to make his team happy. Or, he wants to do what he thinks makes his team happy. But, institutionalized sexism comes from the top down; without the Chief of Staff making the call, it’s incumbent on lower level leadership to do the right thing. Small changes make big changes.

In conversations, he admitted he didn’t even know what the history of Mustache March was. I knew more than he did. Ugh. Annoyed. Why is he doing this, again? Principles, man! Principles! Stand up. Even when it’s hard. I feel like what’s right is right, regardless of situation; but I’m a hard-ass loudmouth, who, thank god, got out of the military before it kicked me out for being insubordinate.

I told him that it was International Women’s Day, this week; and I asked him what he did to remind his unit, or to celebrate, with his ridiculous mustache that infuriates me every time I look at it. He said he didn’t do anything. So, I told him I still don’t like his mustache, and that I had the perfect way to celebrate. He said to post away.

I think that by the time this Mustache March is over with, he will be tired of hearing my lectures about how equality is not the same as fair, and that his position afforded him the ability to affect change, and he missed it. He will also get tired of wearing the Wonder Woman Band-Aids that I ordered for him to wear while at home. It’s not just that it’s ugly, it’s ugly on the inside. I can’t stand looking at the damn thing for the rest of the month. Thank goodness he’s TDY a lot this month…something I don’t generally say!

So, happy International Women’s Day.