How I straightened my teeth and realigned my thinking.
Apparently, a lot can go wrong with teeth in 12 short years.
My mom perched on a chair nearby as my orthodontist expounded on each fault, comparing my teeth with a glistening plastic model nearby. Then an exuberant office assistant, whose name was surely Becky or Debbie, entered to inform my mother it would cost $5,000, in addition to what our insurance would pay, to straighten my teeth. It was all right, Becky assured, because the doctor needed only $2,000 as a down payment. I could tell what my mother was thinking. As a single parent on a teacher’s salary, where was she going to get the money for the down payment, let alone additional funds to complete the treatment? She could beseech my father to help, in addition to his child support, but was the outbreak of World War III worth a few straight teeth?
“I don’t really need braces,” I assured her as we escaped the office. “It’s not worth it. It will be OK.” My mother appeared relieved. Maybe she wouldn’t have to produce $5,000 out of thin air after all.
But everything was not OK. As time passed, my classmates’ teeth grew ever straighter and mine grew ever more crooked. I loved to smile and laugh, but would do so only covertly so as not to expose myself to further teasing. As my classmates grew out of their awkward teenage phase, this phase in my life settled in and became complacent.
Then the headaches started. They were dizzyingly powerful and refused all common cures. Although my doctor granted me a clean bill of health, my dentist wondered if the headaches were related to the position of my jaw, which resembled that of a woman in a Picasso painting. (Continued on page 2.)