Posted by: alegra22 | January 7, 2012

shut up

I saw a woman with a mustache the other day. A real mustache, not a shadow or a few bristles. As solid and tidy as if it had been penciled on, stroke by stroke, until the lines sprung from her face, declaring, “I’m a real mustache!” Nothing else about her was out of the ordinary. Her hair was long and curly and very black. She wore a flowered dress. She pushed a baby in a pram. I think her eyes were blue. She might have had crow’s feet as she smiled at me. I know for sure she had a mustache.

I was standing in my sweat-damp clothing, smelling of old industrial carpet and the perspiration of strangers straining, focusing, faltering, inhaling and exhaling. I was feeling very unconcerned with my post-yoga appearance when my eyes met the mustache lady’s eyes. I glanced away just as my eyes lit upon her upper lip but I believe she still heard my thoughts:

That woman has a mustache! Why does she have a mustache?

I think this happens more than any of us would like to accept. Our eyes connect and we receive information – these dark universes of thought tightly curled and hurling silently through the space between our bodies. I think we hear, feel, know more than any of us would like to most days. At least I used to feel this way. I think it might be more truthful to say that these days I don’t mind moving through a meteor shower of thoughts and emotions.  I don’t fear being smashed or singed. I enjoy the illumination.

I don’t mention the mustached woman to anyone. Not until now as I write this blog. I hold the moment of eye contact like an ember in my mouth. It softens the tension in my jaw, the ache in my teeth. It relaxes my tongue.

I would like to say that I am becoming kinder, my heart stronger as my feet meet the curve of the ground and my spine lengthens. I would like to say that there is something about this stretching out of the tension in my body, in all of this exhaling and inhaling that is working a kind of grace into my body, and this grace is what keeps the mustached woman cradled in my mind.

Earlier that morning, my sister-in-law, Alziere, and I were stretched out on our mats, preparing for class. The room was quiet and I was nervous because it was Alziere’s first Bikram yoga class and I didn’t want her to be miserable. After a few moments of a quiet that was too quiet, Alziere whispered, “This quiet is almost unnatural.” Or something like that. I whispered back in my best whispery-whisper voice that it wasn’t always this quiet-quiet. Somewhere in the middle of our whispering I heard a voice in my head rudely demand that the two of us “SHUT UP. YOU NEED TO BE QUIET.”

I laughed, finished my whispering and then closed my eyes. It was then that I realized the rude voice hadn’t been in my head. I sat up, “Alziere, did someone just tell us to shut-up? Did that really just happen?”

She nodded like she was confused as to why we weren’t already tasting blood. We both laughed. It was hard not to. It was hard not to howl but we’re women of a certain brand of self-restraint.

Class started a few minutes afterwards. I didn’t have enough time to figure out who the offender was but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t angry. Maybe a little offended but mostly amused. As the class moved on, it continued to roll off of me, sweat and heat and curiosity as to what the Shut Up Woman’s story was.

After class, Alziere and I sat in the parking lot cackling over the incident. Alziere identified the Shut Up woman and we were still laughing as she drove past us, still looking miserable after two hours of sweat and heat and stretching and collapsing.

“Smile!” called out Alziere. We had both noticed she had stretch marks on her belly. We figured her to be a mother on the edge of madness. It was enough to forgive her.

As we drove to the shops, the Shut Up Woman pulled out of a grocery store parking lot and nearly smashed into our car. It only sent us back into laughter. I said to Alziere, “We need to stop being so amused by this whole thing.”

Alziere said, “Yeah, God’s going to make us hug her or something.”

Because that is how things work in our lives. Trespasses become doorways. They are always lessons.

And later, as I stood in the sunlight, sweat drying on my skin, thinking of the mustache woman, I understood that I was no different than the frustrated Shut Up Woman when my mind declared, “Look at that mustache!”

I wasn’t angry, but I was rude. I was judgemental.

The dividing line was nothing more than an exhale.

The Shut Up woman said, “SHUT UP.”

I looked away but I think the mustached woman heard me all the same.

Next time, I hope I won’t look away.

I hope that there will be a quiet love behind my eyes.

I like to imagine that the Mustached woman looked at me in my stinking, ill-fitting yoga clothes and forgave me just the same.



  1. I didn’t think that yoga class had a beauty shop trash talking element to it.

    • And neither did I!

  2. You are right, that woman was probably so far pushed to the edge of her day with a case of pms probably and just spazzed out. Still, very rude and uncalled for! As for the mustache lady, I can say, it takes a lot of courage on her part to walk around like that, knowing that people will give her strange looks. I am sure that is something easy to maintain but she just accepts herself for who she is and chooses to not change any of it despite all of the surprised looks from people. I love that ‘trespasses become doorways’.

    • It was funny because I spoke with the teacher about it and she confirmed it is ok to whisper before class. We had a good laugh about it. It was definitely one of those moments. I thought the same thing about the mustache woman: how brave.

  3. What I love about this is the vivid image of you two cracking up laughing about everything that was happening in those short space of time. These are the experiences that help define who we are as people and that helps us enjoy the company of certain people too!

    Sometimes though, the people that we love and adore the most and want to spend time with seem to get all sleepy and tired and just want to roll up in a ball and play with their iPhones “cough”.

    I have often stared at women with mustaches, it’s natural to look at something that seems ‘odd’ or ‘out-of’place’. What made these women even stranger was the fact that 1. I knew them and 2. they are both attractive women. The question I had for myself was “Do they actually know they have a mustache happening on their upper lip?” I didn’t dare ask that question out loud though. I know my limits and there is just so much charm one person can pour on.

    Everyone has a bad day, well all do, patience and tolerance are two words that come to mind. But I think you two did the best thing of all…LAUGHED!!! cause you know if i was there we would’ve been crying with laughter. Just another life lesson you learnt that day.

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