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Thursday, May 26, 2016
The Mustache Diaries — chronicling a great cause in Long Beach
Mustaches for Kids 'growing' strong during its sixth annual fundraising effort
By Vincent Leis
Courtesy Vincent Leis
Leis and others constructed a giant seesaw to help in the fundraising effort.

Over the past six years I’ve developed a motto: “If you grow it, the donations will come!”

Three weeks ago, I once again shaved my face with enthusiasm to grow a mustache and raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Care Center at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. As a member of Mustaches for Kids, a national, volunteer-run organization with a chapter in Long Beach, we have raised more than $195,000 for Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

As always, this first step to growing a mustache was taken with careful optimism. I felt like shouting to the world, “I’m a man! My upper lip and I are in it together!”

A few days later, the honeymoon was over, and people were beginning to ask questions about what was growing underneath my nose. My wife of two months said that she found my upper lip a little too abrasive, and my high school students were sporting more hair on their upper lips than I had on my own.

I had classes to teach and parent conferences to attend, and people were expecting me to be clean-shaven and recognizable. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t even recognize myself. I felt ashamed. Why had I thrown away a face that, while not exceedingly handsome, many had grown accustomed to? The answer was clear; I was doing it for the kids.

I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me that my mustache was out of styles or outlandish. I would defend my mustache if necessary; because with absolute certainty I knew what I was doing was right. Sure, there would be embarrassing moments. There would be days spent looking like I had forgotten to wipe my mouth after eating a Sloppy Joe. I simply had to deal with it.

After three longs weeks I began to see a bit of a shining light — the mustache was really growing in. It began developing it own shape and personality. I was not surprised at all when friends, family, and colleagues began to treat me differently as if I was more sophisticated and my intelligence had risen by a few points. At this point, I realized I’m no longer growing a mustache. I had a mustache!


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