The upside of midlife orthodontia (first published in More magazine September 2010
For years, I’d toyed with the idea of getting braces. One front tooth bucks just enough to hang out over my lip, and my lower teeth resemble squished subway commuters fighting it out at rush hour.
So recently I made an appointment with the most handsome man I’ve ever met: my orthodontist. Buoyed by the prospect of seeing him for numerous appointments, the thought of my jazzy new plastic braces and, oh yeah, straighter teeth, I signed up and got braced up. I also forked over the equivalent of half the cost of my parents’ first house. Like an eighth grader, I wanted to show off my new gear. “You’re getting them now?” inquired one Nosy Parker. To her, I guess mouth rehab made no sense at my advanced age (of 56!). The braces are invisible, which is nice, but I have to take them off to eat, which is not. Not only do I nearly extract my teeth and risk dislodging a large collection of heirloom silver fillings in the process, but then I have to floss, brush my teeth and the braces before reinserting them. Feel like a cookie? I think not.
Exasperated by the ordeal, I phoned my supportive yet-always-looked-at-my-teeth-funny boyfriend.
“I’m thtarting to resthent you.”
Trying to console me as only a man can, he uttered these fatal words: “I know it’s hard, but I just want to thank you for making yourself pretty for me.”
“Thuck you,” I replied. “I don’t make mythelf pretty for any guy. I hate you. I hate my brathes. I can’t even eat anymore.”
Obviously, I felt less sexy. With these weird little attachment thingies my orthodontist recently put on
either side of my mouth, I looked alarmingly like that guy Jaws in Moonraker.
I consulted my friends at the gym, where every conversation leads to sex.
“I wonder what kinds of things you can do with those on?” leered a firefighter.
“These babies would shred a carrot,” I answered dryly as he backed away.
I was beginning to have serious doubts about what I’d done. I felt as though I’d sentenced my teeth to a synthetic jail for the next year and a half. Fourteen-year-olds usually don’t get a say in the whole braces thing, but here I’d willingly made myself look like a 14-year-old — and not in a good way. What was next? Zits? A curfew? Homework?
Then everything changed. About two weeks into my self-inflicted 78-week sentence, I noticed I’d lost three pounds. Suddenly, it stopped being about the braces, the insults, my boyfriend’s insensitivity, lithping and cookie withdrawal. I’d discovered a truly plastic surgery — one that would both straighten my teeth and give me back my waistline (unfortunately, it still would not create volume for my hair, but you can’t have everything).
Now I knew the future was clear and it was plastic. I just hadn’t been able to see it for the teeth.