26 Feb

For as long as I can remember I’ve hated the dentist. I know – hate is a strong word, but having my teeth scraped with a miniature pirate hook until my gums bleed just isn’t an ideal activity. As an adult, I am obligated to greet my dentist with a forced smile. As a child, I felt no such responsibility. In fact, I went out of my way to make each visit a real doozie.

I recall a specific incident where my mom picked up my brother and I from elementary school, and surprised us with a visit to the ol’ DMD. I was unprepared… and I was pissed. Being quick on my feet, I told my mom I forgot my lunch that morning and was so hungry I couldn’t bear to sit through my appointment without a quick snack. I was advised not to choose anything that would get stuck in my teeth. We didn’t want the dentist to think we didn’t brush well enough now did we? We stopped at the convenience store, where I chose a “Big Grab” bag of Cheetos. The ultimate cheese flavored snack that has undoubtedly left orange stains over many a child’s hands, clothing, and the upholstery of minivans across America. Satisfied with my after school treat, I hopped into the dental chair and flashed my hygienist a neon grin.

It took an extra 35 minutes and two bibs-on-a-chain for those bad boys to be polished back to their naturally pearly state.  If I could go back and talk to my 8 year-old self, I would tell her to apologize to the dental staff for my spiteful behavior. I would simultaneously give myself a pat on the back for being such a clever little bitch.

Fifteen years later and there I was again, in a painfully beige waiting room with three other victims. A woman in lavender scrubs approached the front desk to grab a file. She had bleached blonde hair and cranberry stained lips. What scared me the most was her arm dangerously filled with bangle bracelets, and the complementary fistful of diamond rings. I thought about how painful it would be to be poked in the eye with a sterling silver poodle charm. I quickly snapped out of it when she called my name. Whenever I’m thinking mean thoughts about someone within a ten foot radius, I get nervous that they’re gonna go all Mel Gibson in What Women Want, telling me they’ve just read my mind. I quickly tried to spin my evil commentary into something positive. I guess I can applaud her attempts to be fashionable in a profession where most people wear patent leather clogs.

Looking back, I attribute the root of my bitchiness that day to the fact that my life was currently in a less than desirable state. I had spent six years in college and didn’t have much to show for it. One degree is definitely legitimate; the other must still be in the mail…so we’ll see. Aside from my blatant unemployment, the term “hot mess” didn’t even begin to describe the look I had going on. My sweater looked like something out of the DJ Tanner for H&M capsule collection. It wasn’t quite as bad as a Bill Cosby sweater; it was just enough to detract from my two-day-old hair. For someone whose resume reads Fashion Merchandising Professional, I was certainly not to be taken seriously.

I’m not sure why dentists insist on making small talk with patients while their mouths are clearly full. I have no problem staring at the ceiling and listening to Colbie Caillat or whoever is on that Doctor’s Office Lite Rock station. I suppose it’s slightly impolite to sit there in silence, so it was only a matter of minutes before the casual banter began.

“Sooooo, what’ve you been up too?!”

I responded with the generic, “Just finished up grad school last month. Looking for a job…”

An honest response would have been far more long-winded. What I had really been doing was sleeping until 11:00AM on a daily basis, searching for jobs that simply didn’t exist, watching copious amounts of Law & Order: SVU, and trying out creepy online recipes with headlines like, “Creamed Avocado Smoothie – Looks Like Baby Shit, Tastes Great” and “No-Bake Activia Cheesecake – Keeps You Regular!” Each day was like a regular old episode of The Real Housewives, minus the alcohol, Botox, and verbal assault. Lacking any actual entertainment value, really.

My sweet, overly-accessorized dental hygienist must have sensed my frustration. Ignoring my less than decent outfit choice, she said, “Don’t settle. I just know you are going to find a great job. I can’t wait to see you at your next appointment in six months to hear all about where you’re working. You’ll find something, you deserve it!” Just when I thought I had hit rock bottom she was there to scrape me up like some old plaque off my right lateral incisor. I wasn’t sure what economy she was living in, but apparently jobs were abundant and plentiful. And I deserved to hand-pick the one that was right for me. When I left the office that day I felt so refreshed – and not just ‘cause I picked the peppermint flavored flouride! I’m not sure why, but sometimes advice seems so much more genuine coming from a stranger. Sure my parents and friends are there to reassure me all the time, but they sort of have to, or else they’ll look like the worst.

There is a lesson to be learned here, people. The next time you head to your bi-annual dental check-up, don’t be so quick to judge. Who knows…you might leave with more than just a free toothbrush.

Unfun Fact: Dental Floss…it’s dessert on a string.


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