Brace Yourself

I was born with the straightest and most beautiful teeth ever. Sure, maybe while growing up I developed a teensy overbite and slightly resembled a monkey. But no way could that ever justify how–after a nasty argument– my fourth grade classmate and now ex-friend Susan D. redecorated a soup can as “Mama Cheetah’s Creamed Bananas” and left it on my desk. Harsh.

(I should back up a step. After our huge, friendship-altering fight, Susan decided I looked exactly like the chimpanzee named Cheetah, star of the old-timey movie Tarzan. Susan was clearly not versed in the Animal Kingdom Family division between the Carnivora Order and the Primate Order, which is why she sadly came to the false assumption that a Cheetah was the same thing as a Monkey. Luckily for me, I quickly realized that Susan was a Homo Sapiens Numbskull and my self- esteem remained intact.)

Anyway, despite the Mama Cheetah incident, me and my stunning teeth went on to have a great life until, right about when I had made it past middle age, I signed up for chemotherapy to assuage a pesky case of cancer. Unfortunately, during this same time I also developed an obsessive habit of vigorously brushing my teeth. Alas, one day I discovered a patch of tattered gum tissue atop my front teeth. My dentist gaily informed me that I needed a “gum graft” because I had “overbrushed” my weakened teeth and gums while on chemo. Quelle Horreur!

Next thing you know, I’m seat-belted into a recliner with an oral surgeon–straight out of the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre–looming over me with a miniature pickax. Surgeon Leatherface hacked off a chunk of the roof of my mouth, then glue-gunned the bloody tissue above my front teeth. It wasn’t a great look (think second grade art project), but I didn’t complain. I was alive after a dreadful cancer diagnosis and a successful gum graft, so butter my butt and call me a biscuit! I heartily endorse a gum graft for anyone yearning to slim down before an important event, like your next quickie marriage or your long awaited late-in-life Bar Mitzvah. You’ll be eating zilch for at least two weeks following this expensive, horrible procedure, so you’re guaranteed to look atrophied as a result.

But alas, after my gum graft and PTSD finally resolved their differences, I noticed something even more alarming: my teeth were shifting. My bottom teeth surreptitiously rearranged themselves into a crowded, crooked line of ugliness. And an upper tooth, the one next to my cute Bugs Bunny overbite, had do-si-doed itself into a turnabout and was now nearly facing the opposite direction. So, given this predicament, I did what any similarly self-absorbed and vain human would do under these circumstances:

I got braces, at age 60.

I chose the popular “Invisible” braces, which are basically clear, custom made, ridiculously expensive “trays” that snap onto your upper and lower teeth. Hmmm. I look like I’m wearing a boxer’s mouth guard and I don’t talk too good either. The bulky trays cause me to speaketh with a prounounthed lithsp, while also spewing 98 mph spitballs into people’s faces at regular intervals.

I’m supposed to wear my “invisible” trays 20 hours a day but guess what: I’M NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR THEM WHEN I’M EATING! One thing this Invisible Journey has taught me is that I’m a certified snacker!! If you take your trays out to eat multiple times a day, each time you must brush your teeth before putting the trays back in. It’s a major PITA. Imagine what it’s like going into Costco, seeing all those free food samples, and realizing you can’t have any because your damn trays are in! With all due respect, I firmly believe the only people who could successfully wear Invisible Braces 20 hours a day are Queasy Agoraphobics, bless their hearts.

Anyway, after I paid my Invisible Braces Doctor lots of money so she can have a better house and car than me, I found out that I could have gotten my invisible braces for considerably cheaper via a burgeoning mail order operation called something like Our Mail Order Braces Are Cheaper Than The Ones From Your Local Dentist. I felt badly that I missed out on this bargain. But then I felt better when I remembered that when I go to my real Invisible Braces checkups, I get to sit in an authentic dental chair in a big communal treatment area with all the other middle school kids.

The kids are fun. They ask me great questions, such as why I would pay good money for braces when I might be dead soon, and if my hearing aids ring when someone calls my phone. (Ha! I don’t even have hearing aids yet! But when I do get them I’m definitely getting the answer-my-phone type.) The middle-schoolers also taught me that hipster acronyms should ONLY be used when texting and NEVER when writing prose. And that holding up three fingers means “whatever.”

Now, finally, after twelve months of averaging up to 2.63 hours a day of Invisible Braces wear (I’m still working out all the snacking intervals), I’ve only got several more years to go! I was very excited by this, but then I was told some new disturbing news: After I become an Invisible Graduate I will have to wear a retainer at night FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!!

WTH??? TBH and IMHO, this truly doesn’t seem fair after everything I’ve been through.

But (holds up three fingers). In 10 or 12 more years, I’ll have the best-looking teeth you’ve ever seen on an almost dead person.

Those middle school kids just don’t know an Invisible Legend when then see one.


Laura Mouw: “I received a B.S. in Physical Therapy from the University of Michigan and an M.S in Health Care Professions from Texas State University. Since recovering from a long career as a health care executive, I am an emerging and hopeful writer in memoir, lifestyle humor, and nonfiction. My essay “Sufferfest” has been published in the Austin Community College Rio Review.”