Flash Fiction Revisited – The Mustache: A Social Experiment

Some people think Julia is a strange girl. She definitely likes to shock people. She is so dedicated to seeing how people will react to socially incongruent stimuli that one time in our senior year of high school she had a false mustache professionally applied to her face – it looked totally real – and she walked around town with it for a month. She’s a pretty girl with dark, almond-shaped eyes, a nice straight nose, and long flowing hair that falls well past her shoulders. That’s why the mustache was especially disturbing. It wasn’t as if she was an old lady who just couldn’t groom herself anymore, you know what I mean? The ones you sometimes see on the subway or the market with an impressive growth of dark hair above their mouths. No, Julia had a mustache that was perfectly groomed, as if she were a dandy who took pride in her appearance. I’m half surprised she didn’t go all out and have a handlebar mustache. This one showed a bit of restraint, at least, if you can use the word “restraint” in reference to this action.

Of course, the teachers at school were all abuzz. The principal actually called her in and demanded an explanation. Julia, always calm under pressure, said what she said to everyone who challenged her during this time: “What about this bothers you? I’m exploring human attitudes about women and appearance. Give me your honest reaction to my mustache.”

The principal apparently got flustered from her calm reaction and blurted out, “Go back to class now, young lady, and stay out of my sight until that thing is gone.”

Julia kept a notebook of all the reactions she received and she plans to write a scholarly article on her experience this year for her project in an Independent Study course. She is, in fact, a Sociology major now that we’re in college, and she plans to finish her undergraduate as fast as possible so she can apply to a doctoral program. Her professors are very impressed with her creativity when it comes to subject matter. They are certain her journal article on her high school experiment will be published. The working titles so far are, “A Social Experiment on Aberrant Physical Appearance” or “How a High School Girl With a Mustache Socially Divided Her Town in One Short Month.” I prefer the latter since that’s exactly what happened. Either way, Julia plans to do sociological research for the rest of her life. This is her passion.

Being her boyfriend is a challenge as you might imagine. Can you even think how it was for me when she was wearing that mustache for a month? The teasing I got? Holy shit. I was the butt of every lame homo joke ever created. “Hey, Jason, how’s your boyfriend doing? Do you like the feel of that ‘stache on your face when you’re kissing him?”

I am not bothered, however. Julia is awesome in every way including her sociological bent. I never answered those dumb remarks, just smiled. At this point, I just hope I find a passion that is as compelling to me as hers is to her. What a gift to have such a calling so early in life. I am still looking for mine at the moment, besides Julia, that is. Who knows, I may become an avant-garde painter. After all, I already have my muse.

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