Now, with the benefit of hindsight, as an adult, I know that that this style of facial hair is called a toothbrush moustache. As an adolescent, I saw pictures of Adolf Hitler with such a moustache, which convinced me that my instinct had been right as a child who was suspicious of men who wore such a moustache. History had it that German soldiers sported this type of moustache during both world wars. Charlie Chaplin wore this type of moustache to give his face a comical expression. Michael Jordan in modern times also wore such a moustache, perhaps more for the fun of it and as a sign to show that he had “arrived” and joined the club of the rich and famous.

Let me digress for a moment. Generally, facial hair, including moustaches, is used as an expression of personal identity. Back home in Nigeria, political maverick Herbert Macaulay and the local soap opera actor Samanja distinguished themselves with the type of moustaches they wore. Fidel Castro wore a beard to present himself as a fierce political activist. Samuel L. Clemens wrote under the pseudonym Mark Twain and hid not only his personal identity but also the strength of his character beneath a powerful and comical moustache. Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher, grew his revolutionary whiskers to distinguish himself from the calm-faced oldies like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Mass murderers like Josef Stalin, and in modern times, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Bashar al-Assad of Syria also had peculiarities in the type of facial hair they presented. There is a well-researched and documented psycho-analytical hypothesis that moustaches make it easy to hide one’s intention and personality, as the veracity of words muttered behind such a facial outcrop of hair may not easily be detected.

On the lighter side, men who wear the toothbrush moustache must take extra precaution to make sure that the trimming of the moustache at the edges is straight and equal from both sides of the nostrils down to the upper lip. If a mistake is made and the edges are not equidistantly trimmed, the moustache gives the face a crooked expression as if the person has just suffered a partial stroke with a slight facial distortion and deformation, which becomes more exaggerated when this “patient” smiles or laughs, or worse still—and less pleasant—when he frowns!

Now back to my friend Tope. When Tope returned home each day, his dad would always find something he had not done right. For those offences discovered by Tope’s dad, Tope would always receive a commensurate number of lashes with a cane on his outstretched palm as punishment. Then Tope’s father would, by way of backward logical rational reasoning and thinking, go further to give Tope at least three lashes for good measure for offences that he had committed but had not yet been discovered or that had been cleverly covered up by Tope and would never be discovered. If the offences were later discovered, Tope would receive the additional punishment on the day the offences were unearthed. These daily doses of the cane toughened Tope so much that he would coolly take the punishment without bashing an eyelid. He would simply stretch out his palm to receive the punishment as he looked the other way while his father laboriously lashed with the cane. The method of looking the other way while Tope received his punishment was most uncanny for a child. Most children who receive such corporal punishment would tighten all the muscles, around the mouth, the face, the stomach, the arm, the chest, and the belly when the cane comes down on the palm. In this way they ready themselves for the impact of the cane as a sort of defense mechanism to reduce the effect of the pain. In my own judgment, I think it is important to see the cane coming down on the palm, for in this way, one can almost calculate to the last microsecond when the cane will land on its destination. In such a situation, one is ready and prepared to welcome the pain by tightening all the muscles to give the needed resistance. It is almost soothing to accompany the cane with the eye and welcome its arrival at its destination on the palm. At last, when the cane lands, the pain is almost a soothing and welcome relief to negate the expectation of waiting for the punishment to be inflicted. At such times, if one were to receive five lashes of the cane, it is pacifying to count down by saying: one gone, two gone, three gone, and so on, and knowing that the end of the punishment is in sight.

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