The Prune

by Todd Sharp

I shaved off my mustache. Now my first impression to the world is completely bare. I took off a mask, leaving a raw, naked, transparent feeling my face and psyche haven’t felt since 1975 when I was in 8th grade.

I’m facing the world without barrier, style, fad, or distraction.

Full frontal exposure.

Relying on just a smile, eyes, and honest expression.

When I was is in 4th grade, I sheared off my two front teeth in a split second on the Central School playground flagpole.

With my eyes following the football, I extended my arms, twisting for a Carol Dale-like fingertip catch. As I turned my head, the impact with the pole cleanly snapped off both teeth leaving an inch of enamel and exposed nerves.

Surprised but conscious, I tongued my teeth, touching the sharp, exposed edges.

Had I really just gotten my permanent teeth?

Before shock set in they ushered me up to the office and my classmates started looking for my teeth under the flagpole.

For years, I endured many trips to replace or adjust the off-colored, sometimes loosening caps until I was old enough for Dr. Cris Johnson to implant some permanent, porcelain and stainless front teeth.

The idea of my own indestructibility snapped and disappeared in the ridiculous placement of a flagpole in the middle of a children’s playground.

But when I was 14 I was overjoyed to discover I had the genetic makeup which allowed me to grow a mustache to cover my face and ugly front teeth.

I kept a stiff, and stached, upper lip after that.

It was the era of the porn stache, and I grew one not only to hide the teeth, but to be cool, grown up and manly.

As a young man, the whiskers were baby soft, barely measurable with the finest micrometer.

My grey, grizzly beard has become prickly and sharp, thick enough to measure by gauge. An irritation and aggravation to anyone getting close — I don’t want to be a prick.

So I shaved it off, desiring to remove even that clutter from my life and face the world with bare confidence.

I’ve discovered daily shaving can be a contemplative morning ritual. A calming meditation. A metaphorical cleansing the previous daily stubble, little frustrations, giving the new day a fresh, clean start.

Each day I can prune yesterday’s shame, guilt, frustrations, and demons; smoothly slicing them away with razor-sharp exactness, precision, and clarity, leaving behind a baby-smooth, vulnerable exterior.

I don’t need the mask to feel manly anymore; my new challenge is to simply be confident in who I have become and still be ready to change and try new things.

I plan to face each day fresh, clean and innocent.

But maybe I’ll have to get rid of the remaining few strands left on top of my noggin too?

Editor’s note: When not pruning his face and contemplating visits to his barber, Todd Sharp is an advertising sales prune for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.