I wear dentures.
This is probably news to you, even if you’re a longtime reader. I wrote about it once, a long time ago. And it hasn’t really come up much since then, so you probably forgot.
I never forget.
Prior to making the decision to yank them all out, I broke off one of my front teeth as I bit into one of those caramel, pecan and chocolate doohickeys. Turtles they are called, for what I can only suspect is a really awful reason. I felt the tooth give way and I pulled the candy out of my mouth and there was my tooth, lodged in heavenly yumminess.
For the record, eating Turtles is just one of about thirty-seven thousand things I did wrong that led to my poor dental health. I’m not stupid, so you don’t have to go and point it out to me in the comments. 😉
Before that moment, standing before the mirror in my downstairs bathroom, I had never really felt that particular shade of inescapable shame. Most times, things can be covered up. A sly story here, an outright manipulation of the facts there, and almost any shameful situation can be either eliminated completely or laid at the feet of another person.
Made their fault.
Surely not mine.
I suppose I could have tried to spin it in my favor. My mom and dad never forced me to brush. Never made dental hygiene a priority. They should have reminded me more. Taken away privileges. Spanked the shit out of me. Whatever. If they had just made me brush my damn teeth, then I would never have had to stand there at my best friend’s wedding reception with only one front tooth.
They greeted me with smiles. I tried to keep my lips closed and talk at the same time.
I held my hand in front of my face and talked around it. Did the same with my napkin. My, I was such a neat freak! I smoked cigarettes one after the other with high school classmates I hadn’t seen in twenty years and blew smoke away from the crowd and talked in the direction of the ground or the walls or up in the sky. Anywhere shy of eye to eye.
To their credit, no one said a word. My wife felt my embarrassment, and must have been a bit embarrassed herself, but she never once let go of my hand if I chose to embrace it. Never once turned away if I snuck close for a kiss.
The dentist and I decided that my teeth were too far gone. Beyond rescue. I felt bad for him, having to gape into my sad and pitiful maw. So I made the appointment with the denture people. They of the strong stomachs. And I kept it.
So now, I have a glistening smile, moored in place with pink gooey stuff that comes in a tube just like toothpaste. I take them out of the cup and scrub them clean every morning. Had I done this with my real teeth, I would still have them.
Now I have a genuine, literal, plastic smile. I wonder who knows. I think this during every conversation. Every glance my way. Every time I laugh and smile too big. Is it obvious? Do they care? Would they think differently about me?
I used to talk for a living. Now, I slur the letter S if I get to talking too fast. And if I have to talk much toward the end of the day, my bottom plate usually jostles about and I have to talk differently, actually think about the process of making sounds. And I wonder who notices.
: What are you busy hiding that everyone can see?
And no one gets to say their Unibrow. I’ve got that one covered as well . . .