Last year I was honored to be one of fourteen women to speak at St. Louis’ inaugural Listen To Your Mother show. I was nervous because, like most people who choose to become a writer vs. a runway model, I’m more comfortable revealing my soul without people focusing on the fact that I carry 90% of my body weight under my chin.
My friend Carrie came over to do my hair and make-up; you all helped me pick my outfit.
The day the videos were published on YouTube I settled onto the couch, opened a fresh can of Diet Pepsi and hit play. Though it was painful to watch myself on camera, I was relieved that everything on my body appeared to be in its intended place and I didn’t have any visible boogers.
But then I started talking. It looked like I was missing my bottom tooth.
“WTF?” I thought, my hand flying to my mouth to see if I had somehow missed my bottom incisor removing itself from my gum. Nope, still there. Was it just camera shy? I ran to the mirror and noticed that it was there, but evidently over the past twenty years had shifted back into its preferred position – horizontal. Sort of like my sisters. Opah!
I’ve been slightly preoccupied the past several years, and keeping three little kids alive has sort of trumped not walking around looking like a hillbilly on my important list. Now that my kids are all in school three mornings a week I’ve been playing catch up on a lot of body-related things that have gone south over the past few years. Now, me looking like I was missing a tooth was just one of many areas that was going to need attention *applies chainsaw to foot callouses*
I had a decision to make. Suck it up and endure the raw hell that is braces again, or go through life looking like Granny Clampett. I figured why not go ahead and take the plunge, what with my twenty year high school reunion coming up and all. I mean, I wouldn’t want anyone to have a heart attack thinking I made one bit of forward progress with my social awkwardness or anything.
Plus, one of the technological advances of the past two decades has been Invisalign, which is about as discreet as wearing a squirrel on your head.
“Good morning!” Chirped my dentist. “Are you excited?”
“About as excited as I would be if you were about to hit me across the face with a big bag of dicks. Oh, and happy birthday yesterday*”
*My dentist is my Sister-In-Law.
Sitting in the chair I had flashbacks to twenty two years prior, the day I got my braces off. It was, hands down, one of the best days of my life. I was so excited to be free. Free to eat without having half of my meal waving at everyone at the table after I was finished. Free from the pain. My teeth were beautiful and I never had to go back.
Or so I thought.
“Do you have any questions?” she asked when we were finished.
“Juchst one – can I drink with theshe thingsh in? Like, water… or… tequila?”
“Yes, but…” She started.
“Schee you later!” I covered my ears and ran out.
“So what did you do today?” Nick asked that night as he hung up his briefcase and coat.
“Well, I got my brasheshes!” I answered, curling back my lips to reveal my teeth, which glistened from the plastic like morning dew on bone.
What I hoped was that he would reassure me that they were hardly noticeable; their effervescent glossiness was hypnotizingly sexy.
What he did was look at me like I had revealed a mouthful of crickets.
“Hey!” I whined, turning away, a bit of my spittle hitting him in the cheek.
“Sorry. I just suddenly had a bunch of what appeared to be lacquered teeth shoved in my face when I walked in the door and I didn’t immediately know what to do with that information. They look fine! I can hardly notice them when you’re far away or your mouth is closed!”
He is sweet, but a liar. I begin conversations with people and I can see their faces straining to maintain eye contact, resisting the delicious urge to take a good hard look down to my mouth and examine the details of my plastic dental silkiness.
My kids aren’t that polite.
“Mom! What’s in your mouth?!” They’ll ask as one of them tilts my head back and the other pries open my jaw, sticking their entire head in like a circus lion tamer.
I feel like it’s all anyone thinks about as I’m speaking; my teeth have become the “something’s slightly off with that woman” when I talk.
However, people’s reactions to my lustrous ivories are the least of my worries.
My brain had somehow blocked out the pain of braces. Which is interesting because they hurt like a motherfucker. Luckily I remembered a few of my teenage pain control tricks, like letting my cereal soak in milk overnight before eating it for breakfast so I can gum it at the table like a 200-year-old man.
Saturday morning I awoke with what I first thought was a wicked hangover, but upon further review it was actually a direct result of the plastic devil’s tool. Moving bones is not exactly what you would call the most soothing thing I’ve ever done. It was a pain that started in the lower half of my head, shooting up to my temples and then resting behind my eyeballs at 180 beats per minute. Apparently it will go away “in four days.”
As of today, I am almost halfway through my first tray, the first of fifteen.
And really, it’s not so bad. Once I can stifle the primal human instinct to rip anything off my body that is causing me pain or discomfort, it’s not so bad.