As I get older, I’m beginning to think my body has been wired backward. Either that, or it’s true what they say about the advancing years becoming a second childhood.
How else can I explain the onset of some health-related maintenance needs that should have manifested themselves when I was a lot younger?
First, my body waited until adulthood before telling me that I “needed” the mumps. I guess it was Mother Nature’s way of having a good laugh at my expense. Kids look cute with chipmunk cheeks; adults — not so much.
Then my biological alarm clock waited until I was past 40 to ring and let me know that my wisdom teeth needed to come out. So in an amazing reversal, my kids sat me down to explain to me what to expect come extraction day. They unfortunately left out the part about “dry sockets” and the punch-drunk confessional you deliver while staggering from the dentist’s chair to the passenger seat of your vehicle. My wife, Dottie, still regales me with that little anecdote. I’m just glad she didn’t have my digital recorder and reporter’s notebook.
And just when I thought I could shut my big mouth, I got this latest bit of sobering news that usually triggers angst in adolescents, not recent AARP recruits: I need braces.
A teen’s natural first reaction would be, “This is gonna temporarily cramp my social life.”
A 51-year-old’s first reaction: “This is gonna temporarily wreck my wallet.”
But it’s likely to be a necessary expenditure and it is certainly not about vanity. My orthodontist pointed to a substantial overbite and my propensity to clench my jaws together while asleep as the culprits in undermining my teeth. In layman’s terms: Get some railroad tracks installed or risk spitting out some Chiclets.
Darn. And Mom and Dad aren’t around anymore to ask for a retroactive investment in my teeth — not that they could have afforded it back in the day, anyway. It was pretty rare in those days to see kids wearing braces. You pretty much played the dental cards you were dealt, and my hand included a deuce and a joker. I have felt blessed at not having collected a lot of cavities through the years, but I have always admired people like Dottie and our daughter, Diane, who were both born with straight, strong teeth. Our son Mark’s teeth are now superb thanks to a set of braces that set us back a few farthings. But that expenditure, to us, was a no-brainer; God willing, Mark has a lot of years, job interviews and ears of corn on the cob ahead of him.
My braces of course would be strictly for utilitarian purposes — making sure I keep all those little soldiers in line for as long as possible. I’m not in it as much for the visual. No danger of me being called up for a Hollywood screen test any time soon.
Being an adult, I’m guessing that I won’t be subjected to a lot of the cruel playground taunts sometimes reserved for young brace-wearers. In other words, I will probably be able to cover selectboard meetings without being referred to as “brace face” or “metal mouth.” The braces might however pose yet another nightmare for the folks at Vermont Public Television’s “Vermont This Week,” where I occasionally appear as a panelist. To date, they have only had to worry about the shine from my bald pate.
Looking at the glass as half full, I suppose wearing braces could help me feel younger. Maybe I’ll start hanging around at the mall and wearing my hat backward.
And who knows? Maybe my voice will break some more and I’ll need some acne medicine.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.