For youthful indiscretions, a mo's the go

If you are to believe some of the libidinous material found lying around dentist waiting rooms, there is a group of women with easy grace, sardonic smiles and understanding husbands who are attracted to men 10 years younger. Common sense and elementary biology might suggest that the reason for this infatuation may be that the aforementioned husbands are 10 years older than the women in question and are running out of something that younger men still possess in squandered abundance.

All of that is by way of introducing my recollection of a time back in the day when it was much easier for a woman to be 10 years my senior. There was an underground whisper that one of these vixens might be more likely to notice a younger man if he was possessed of a moustache. Quit coincidentally, I grew one that summer and discovered that the Coldstream Guards obviously had something added to their diet to enable them to produce the manly addition they seemed to have in abundance. Deciding to switch to David Niven as a model was no more successful, and I concluded that a moustache is possibly as individual as accent or way of walking. At any rate, my futile efforts did not lead to a discernible flood of older women.

I was a teacher then and there was no shortage of moustaches among the staff, including one man who bore an uncanny likeness to Freddie Mercury. These days, with teachers descending towards the level of social acceptance occupied by those involved in financial “planning”, most schools would not want someone with a growth on their upper lip teaching algebra.  

At any rate, my dogged attempt to grow a moustache was a failure; it was inclined to droop at the corners, giving immediate meaning to the word "hangdog". Fortunately, I gave up on the idea before my attempt landed me with a school nickname, but someone had taken a photograph which, unknown to me, found its way into my meagre collection of youthful memorabilia. From there it was snaffled by my wife and now causes great amusement when shown to our children or family or the neighbours or anyone in the vicinity looking for a laugh. Including the Coldstream Guards.

But at least, when commonsense and maturity, as well as a desire not to be laughed at, persuaded me to give the idea away, I was able to do so with no difficulty. Which is more than can be said for the large number of folk caught up in the modern craze for tattoos. It used to be that only bikies and footballers from inner city clubs had these marks; now the former have made a profitable living from inking others while the latter show off their body art by wearing short sleeves or, in the case of one team game, no sleeves at all. At this stage, I am trying hard not to use the word "bubbling", but I seem to have failed.

The tattoo craze will eventually go the way of the moustache and the mullet and the ponytail, but unlike those, it cannot be so easily altered; it is there as a reminder of youthful foolishness that does not need a photograph as an aide memoire.


It is difficult to predict what form teenage rebelliousness will take 20 years from now, particularly among girls - pointed bras perhaps, or baldness or bound feet, Chinese style. Imagine some unfortunate father trying to make mature sense to his 15-year old daughter. “All the girls do it, dad. Hello, you can talk, I mean, look at your actual neck. Oh my God, a snake. And who was JB? A Canadian singer no one has ever heard of. Whatever.” It would be difficult to get in to any serious talk at that stage.

Think of the trouble you will have trying to hide all those disfigurements that become more grotesque as muscle tone degenerates with age. Is there anything more pathetic than the sight of a man well past his best with shrivelled skin and distorted graffiti getting more ludicrous by the day? And you need to explain to your children why none of the alphabet of letters scattered throughout your once youthful frame corresponds with those of their mother.

By then, it will be too late to get your skin cleaned because there will be a two-year waiting list and the banks will no longer give second mortgages for what they grandiloquently call cosmetology. The process will have advanced in efficiency and in cost since it provided a glitzy living for Dr Geoffrey Edelsten more than 30 years ago.

When deciding between a drooping mo and something that needed a bikie franchise to create and a Dr Edelsten clone to remove, I made the right choice.

Frank O'Shea is a Canberra writer