Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Braces and Reminiscences

Because it is the law, my soon-to-be thirteen-year-old daughter will soon be getting braces. She has what her dentist refers to as a "cross-bite," though this hasn't affected her speech (she enunciates the words Abercrombie, Hollister, and Aeropostale just fine) or her eating of Pop-Tarts and Cheez-Its. Most of her school friends are already wearing braces, so I'm not sure why my daughter doesn't want them, as the "majority rule" seems to be her top method of decision-making. If I can just get the orthodontist to stamp each section of her braces with the Abercrombie moose logo, it will be a smooth and easy life experience for both of us.

My own primitive experience with braces (back in the days when VCRs didn't even exist!) is a different matter, involving, though some people don't believe me, a nightly head-gear that was reconstructed from blueprints of actual torture devices from the Spanish Inquisition. Though I can't recall what I had for breakfast yesterday morning, I can vividly remember my head-gear: the translucent-gray acrylic chin-plate from which jutted two notched metal prongs (suitable for ring-toss), onto which were stretched two rubber-bands held by hooks built into the braces around two molars of my lower jaw -- all secured to my head by a flesh-colored nylon strap that, unlike "nude" pantyhose, had no ambition of being inconspicuous. Going to bed each night, the metal prongs rising diagonally from my chin, I looked like a saber-tooth tiger with an underbite inexplicably wearing pajamas.

Kindly, Dr. Zak made me wear this strange contraption only at night. But even though no one but my immediate family saw me wearing it, I still had to sleep in it. And let me tell you what a deep, pleasant sleep it was as I lay there on my back all night, afraid that if I turned an inch I'm impale my pillow with the prongs, the sweat pooling in my chin-plate, readying for the morning "mop-out," my molars aching as the rubber-bands pulled them glacially forward....

Many people have complimented me on my smile, so I guess I'm glad I went through the whole braces thing, but it took a long time. I can't say how long exactly, but I do remember driving myself to an orthodontist appointment or two there at the end, and I'll never forget the day I said goodbye to my retainer forever, "inadvertently" leaving it on my food-tray at my college dorm, feeling finally free as it slid with my dirty plate and crumpled napkin through the dishwashers' window toward the Orthodontist's Office in the Sky....

Braces have probably come a long way since then, and I'm sure my daughter will have a shorter, easier time of it. As far as cost goes, I know it will be exactly $1,500. I know this because I overheard my parents whispering this amount, circa 1972. Since then, this number has been indelibly stamped in my memory, and I prefer to keep it stamped there until I'm told otherwise, until I meet the real bill with my own straight and perfect teeth gritted.

written Fall 2007

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