By Jonas Waldenström
I have a mo. I don’t know why, but I do. It just happened; a gradual thing. The full holiday beard was trimmed to resemble the appearance of James Hetfield, Metallica’s lead singer. I was supposed to look cool and slightly intimidating, my facial hair being a conversation piece for a dinner. But apparently I looked more like a 19th centaury clerk and our guest looked more amused than scared. A few strokes with the razor turned Metallica into pork chops. Badass seventies! I liked that a lot, but a few days later it was time for sideburns and mustache. And now only mustache. Like the logging of the rain forest.
And it isn’t easy. You wouldn’t believe the hardship a mo bearer needs to put up with. My daughters don’t kiss me anymore, my wife employs the Lysistrata strategy in the bedroom, and my PhD students and postdocs laugh at me and call me names. Acquaintances at the local grocery store, or at kindergarten, turn the mo into ‘the elephant in the room’ stigma. You see that they see it, but they cannot, or will not mention it. It is like it is not there at all. But it is, proven by the fact that people don’t look you in the eyes anymore, they look under your nose. I guess this is equivalent to the gravity a good pair of knockers invokes in male sight. Or perhaps it is more of a colorful baboon’s arse among the zebras. A rare sight.
In Sweden, a mo is most common in the countryside, and not something you flaunt in public in the higher tiers of society (unless you are eccentric, then it is okay). Still I have one.
Let’s pause here and ask the question:
– But why?!
Which was exactly the question I got at dinner party the other day. I don’t have a good answer; perhaps I have a mo just because I can. It felt good to grow it, and you need to try, don’t you? However, as this is primarily a science blog I will provide you with some of the best scholarly mustaches out there. (And I do not imply causation between a mo and a good scientist, as that would be both stupid and false).
Seven good reasons to wear a mustache (and there are good fake ones you can buy if you can’t grow them):
- Charles Darwin had one. Or, at least he had a full beard, and a full beard will include a mustache. Which is close enough for me, as I want him on the list. Apparently he thought he had a weak chin, and hence facial hair was cultivated to make up for it.
- Robert Koch had one. A really nice one too. Thick, bombastic mo! And yes, there was other facial hair too, but it is the mustache that dominates the face! This is the father of Koch’s postulates, a set of rules to determine causality between pathogens and disease that had profound impact on the dawning medical science in the late 1800s.
- Lois Pasteur had one. Again pretty entangled with other patches of beard, but still a mo. This is the man who invented the vaccine – not a small achievement I’d say. Vaccination saves millions of lives each year. Well worth a mustache!
- Friedrich Nietzsche had one. Not perhaps a natural scientist, but OMG what a mo! It beats any freakin’ mustache out there. Apart from his splendid looks, he was also at the forefront of thinking in Europe, with a legacy that transcends into modern times. Alas, he is also the author of ‘Also spracht Zarathustra’ – perhaps the best book title, ever.
- Mark Spitz had one. The king of water.
- August Strindberg had one. The father of the modern novel in Sweden. Not very famous outside Sweden, though. He was a genius, a fantastic novelist, an angry letter writer, a skilled artist, and, most likely a pain in the but in contemporary Stockholm. He also believed in alchemy, transmutating rocks into gold, and such. So he shouldn’t be in the list, really.
- Alfred Einstein had one. The iconic feature of a ‘mad scientist hairdo’ and the mustache is epic. Something that changed our conception of how a cartooned scientist should look like. And yes, he did come up with the e = mc2 formula (or was it his wife?)
And at last, here is my mo. Take a good look, as it is destined to meet its maker in a short time. I love my wife, she won this time. Too.