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Thursday, March 4, 2010


I have fucked up teeth.

My canines are perhaps more befitting their name than most. Actually, they should probably be dubbed "fangnines."

It's very appropriate, I think, that I have such disordered and discombobulated dentition, because, as an ardent Anglophile, my teeth are really the only thing about me that looks remotely English. I know, I know: and a thousand-and-three other stereotypes. So sue me, 'enry, 'iggins.

If I had my pre-teen, tween, and teen years to do over again, there are a few things I would do differently, knowing what I know now about how all that turned out. The biggest thing I would change, besides my name, would be that I would have gotten braces.

Kids are funny little bastards. Some are more delusional than others-- and I was more delusional than most. By the time I turned fourteen or fifteen, I was definitely operating under the misapprehension that, if I got braces, that would somehow be the tipping point (in the bad way) as concerns my personal, aesthetic appearance.

Post Bar Mitzvah, I was forty pounds underweight for my height, with angry, pugnacious acne, frizzy hair, oversized glasses and poor posture-- I was not winning any Campbell's Soup endorsements, let's just put it that way. Maybe I could have scored a March-of-Dimes poster, if my parents had hired me that agent they sometimes talked about back in 1994 when they humored notions that I might turn out to be the star of stage and screen that would save the family from an eternity of middle class doom and less-than-desirable retirement homes.

But, alas and alack-a-day, it was not meant to be.

Whenever my mother or a dental professional would approach me about braces to correct my wayward chompers, I would steadfastly refuse. There was one reason for this: I was awkward enough, and if I was ever going to be the recipient of a handjob performed by someone other than Leftie, I was going to have to at least maintain the status quo, as regrettable as my yearbook pictures evince that it was.

When I turned sixteen, my mother made the mistake of trusting me to drive myself to the dentist for the watershed appointment concerning braces. Out of her eagle-like shadow and presence, I pretended to listen closely as the dentist recited the litany of rational reasons why I should get braces. He handed me the business card of the periodontist who would perform the work and I shook his hand, promising to call that afternoon. As I walked out of the office, I slipped the business card under the windshield wiper of a white Chevrolet Cavalier with a spray-painted front license plate that said, "NIKKI." That was the name of the dental technician from the office.

If I can just maintain, I thought to myself as I got into my car and drove away from that dentist's office, surely the handjobs will follow.

They did not follow. High School was a period of unrelenting romantic failures. Actually, I can't even really honestly call them failures, because, for something to be a failure, it at least has to be attempted. You can't fail at climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro if you are sitting at home in your apartment in Des Moines, drinking Swiss Miss and watching "So You Think You Can Quieff." My high school experience was like a desert, with me occasionally rubbing up against a cactus for comfort.

And I thought it would have been bad if I'd had braces!

Of course, by the time I was handjob material, had I gotten braces when I should have gotten them, the braces would have already been off and my teeth would have been straighter than Bob Dole.

But that's another story.

Today, as a happily married man, I don't so much mind my teeth. At least, not until somebody says something about them. Once, when portraying Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. in "H.M.S. Pinafore" a nice, elderly lady came up to me afterwards and said,

"Oh, my, you were so funny! Now, tell me-- were those joke teeth?"

A year earlier, a different leathery old crone came up to me after a production of "Patience" and asked if my eyebrows were real. Now that I'm doing "The Sorcerer" I suppose someone will ask me if my head is really a fucking decomposing pumpkin or if my nose is a partially regurgitated apricot.

There's a theory I'm quite fond of about humor, and the theory is that humor, when it's at its most effective, is painful. If that is true, and I believe fondly that it is (haven't you ever experienced acute pancreatic pains during an episode of "Maude"?) then I suppose most of our lives are pretty goddamned funny-- because it's all basically pain, isn't it? A pain in the eyebrows? A pain in the teeth? A pain in the ass. The head. The heart. But we laugh it off as we bite into the core of life, leaving our funny little teethmarks behind.


  1. aaawww, Mr. Apron! i think i got a whiff of.. sincerity.. and humility.. and wisdom!
    thoroughly enjoyed that. and i think you're beautiful. truly do, even said so on my Thuper Thanks post.

  2. Random audience member to 8-months-pregnant me, post-concert: "OMG, are you REALLY pregnant???"

  3. That last sentence is adorable! Like, serious poem turned into sympathy card adorable.

  4. Funny enough, my friends and I had this discussion on Saturday and we all agreed that it is much worse to get braces in high school (when people are at their cruelest) than as an adult. So maybe you'll think about Invisiline someday. If not, that's cool, too. Our imperfections are what make us memorable. I'm sure that nice, elderly lady will never forget you or your teeth.


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