Many professions require their members to work holidays. While it can be a let-down to discover a spouse is scheduled to miss a Fourth of July barbecue or Thanksgiving dinner, it is truly par for the course. Adjustments are made. Expectations are managed. Even the kids give a nonchalant nod of understanding when informed that the family headcount is minus one for the next big celebration.
This year, my husband was slated to work Christmas. I arranged for an "elf" to place presents under the tree while we attended a Christmas Eve party. I mapped out a holiday timetable where the kids and I would stop by the firehouse in between family parties.
As I meticulously finalized details, my husband seemed offended that I was not remotely upset about his impending absence.
"I'm just used to it, honey," I assured him. "But we'll definitely miss you!"
I meant it wholeheartedly, but there was also something else weighing on my mind.
It was the moustache.
Joe and his merry band of civil servants had recently agreed to grow whiskers in an effort to secure the title of either "Best or Worst in show."
I am not a wife opposed to facial hair. I loved Joe's neatly trimmed beard when we were dating. Yet firemen are not allowed to sport beards. Only moustaches. It is a safety regulation designed to keep air-tight seals around apparatuses.
As Joe's upper lip morphed into something unrecognizable, my shallow fears emerged:
He looks like an extra from the 1970s show CHiPs.
It is so ridiculously cheesy.
Everyone must be thinking he's doing X-rated movies on the side.
I was not anxious to appear at our various holiday gatherings with Magnum P.I. in tow. I could barely look at my husband without laughing.
When I finally made it over to my husband's firehouse Christmas Day, I was greeted by a virtual sea of Mr. Kotters.
I learned that some of the guys had already dropped out. The "official" explanations ranged from family engagements to hair sensitivity to "forgetting not to shave."
I am told the "unofficial" explanation is universal:
Their wives hated them.
Armed with this knowledge and an unparalleled sense of competition, I departed the firehouse no longer embarrassed by my Geraldo Rivera. The gauntlet had been thrown. I surveyed the competition one final time and thought to myself:
I want this.
Formal moustache voting is set to occur this weekend.
In the meantime, I will be scouring the internet for tips to a longer, thicker moustache.
Right after I'm done researching online shoes that is.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.