It has been eight years since I last stepped off a stage or took a bow during a curtain call. For the past six and a half years, my stage has been a four cinder block walls eerd an interactive whiteboard as a backdrop…I know, I know its just imagery. I’m not usually a stand at the board and listen to me kind of teacher, but nonetheless, I still perform everyday for a mostly captive audience of children. But this year I decided to change it up, get back on the real wood stage…and I was successful. I landed the part of Paul in Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. I play a 26-year old newly wed lawyer in New York City.
For the past two years I have sported a beard. It was a friend, a confidant, a security blanket in times of trouble. I am not ashamed to admit that it was part of my identity and I wore it proudly.
Today it a confluence of these two time periods came to one moment, I needed to shave my beard for the play. #crisis
The once solid cohesion of facial hair trickled and sputtered down my face, hands and shirt in a frenzy of fragmented follicles. Good bye friend… I’ll see you in a few weeks.
The reactions. I wasn’t prepared for the reactions. About a dozen people asked me if I had my hair cut. More just stared at me quizzically with that, “Who are you?” look on their face. One colleague looked in the room, must have thought I was a sub, and walked back out before realizing, no, it really was me and came back. My students had a similar reaction thinking I was a sub, walking in cautiously, because everything else in their schema screamed, “It’s Mr. Pittman!” but that beard, they seemed to not be able to get past it. In general, my world felt different today. I felt naked, exposed, and out of my skin. It seemed as if people didn’t know how to deal with me, almost didn’t trust that I was who I said I was, like I was an impostor.
Or maybe, and most likely, that is how I felt. Like I had lost my identity, I was not myself, an impostor.
Wait, let’s go deeper, maybe the beard was the impostor, that I was really hiding behind it. That instead of a security blanket it was a mask.
Or maybe it was just weird for people to see such a drastic change in someone and tomorrow, it won’t be such a big deal.
That’s it. After all, it’s just a beard, right?