Warning: The following may contain content that confirms clichés about those vain, big-headed Americans, but don’t worry, we can still be friends.
I was that kid in primary school who, wanting to be as cool as those angsty, acne prone 13 year olds, would unfold a paper clip and stick it in my mouth just to pretend I had braces. Hey! Don’t pretend you didn’t do it. I longed for braces in the way that I longed for mall bangs. Braces and mall bangs – does the height of fashion get any higher?
Once old enough to know better and when mall bangs had thankfully died with the 80’s, I was preparing to get my braces fitted. I remember being at a family event and crying because I desperately DIDN’T want them. My mom didn’t really seem to care about my pleas and rational argument, which highlighted how she’d save money and I would stop crying. Her response: You’re getting them. My aunt attempted to be a bit more diplomatic and tried to talk me down from my the ledge of teenage despair. She told me about how happy I’d be about my straight teeth later; I struggled to believe her. I was 15. Everyone had been there and got the t-shirt while I was just setting off around two years behind the pack. I grimaced thinking about how much the boys would love my mouth of metal for the next 1.5 – 2 years, while I watched those other girls bat their eyes and flash their perfect smiles.
But after the fittings and tightenings and rubber bands and gaps as my teeth shifted, none of it seemed that bad. It was true that the dates didn’t start rolling in until they were off, but I did love my straight teeth (and apparently so did the boys). They made me feel better.
Then, only months later, my dog ate my retainer. Apparently the smell of fusty, food-encrusted plastic is just too much to pass up because he then ate my replacement retainer and insurance wasn’t going to cover more than two.
It was around the time that I moved to England that I noticed that one of my top teeth had really started to shift. I named it “Snaggle” because I name everything and also because I wanted to lighten the awkwardness of how I now felt about my smile. I found myself pushing that tooth while I was sitting in meetings. I would scrutinize photos that were taken from my right-side. I wasn’t really worried about what others thought of my shifting tooth. It was about how I felt about my smile and quite simply – I didn’t feel great.
I’m sure that someone may respond with a diatribe of how I need to learn to be happy with myself just as I am. I get that. That’s probably what put me off getting it fixed for so long, that and anticipating the bill. Maybe it is some weird American complex about perfect teeth, but the insecurity continued. One day, The Native and I talked about it and agreed that if it still bothered me in a year’s time we’d start to look into it. Yesterday I made the trip down to Orthoworld and got a retainer. Even writing the word makes me want to crack up. It’s clear, hardly noticeable, it hasn’t even left me with a lisp, and the bill isn’t bad, but still it’s laughable a retainer, A RETAINER…..
….except it also makes me want to drop to my knees and scream out in pain. Last night, I literally laughed and then cried while I tried to prise my retainer out of my mouth for no less than 30 minutes. We googled. I panicked and started to wonder whether it was irrational to classify this as an emergency worthy of a hospital trip. I rested my head on a cushion while The Native commented about how he’d never go back and do it again, and then stuck his fingers in my mouth and pulled (which I would not advise unless you want to go to jail for assaulting your spouse). Who needs waterboarding when you can just try to pull a newly-fitted retainer out of someone’s mouth? Give a terrorist a retainer and he’ll be talking in less than 24 hours. Guarantee it.
Are you happy with all of your quirks, imperfections and snaggles or is there something you think about getting sorted?