Brace Yourself!

I don’t go out in public anymore. I’ve stopped smiling. I’ve quit talking. Well maybe not that. But I have gone into hiding. I’m just not ready to show off my new accessories yet. After an unexpected series of events, I find myself wearing braces. And at my advanced age, the best thing I can say about that is, it beats wearing dentures.

It’s not easy to stay positive when you can’t chew, your mouth hurts and you can’t drink diet cola anymore, but I’m trying to look on the bright side. Braces do make you look younger, in the same way pimples make you look younger. And, eventually I’ll have straight, healthy teeth. Then I’ll start using whitening products so I can look like one of those toothpaste commercial actors with glow-in-the-dark piano keys for teeth.

My son finds my situation more entertaining than I do. That’s because when he was in middle school, I drug him to the orthodontist’s office and he wore braces for two very long years. I’m not sure which one of us thought they were longer. From my perspective, it was an unappreciated act of love and parental responsibility, not to mention extreme self-sacrifice. From his perspective, it was child abuse.

I’m sure he would disagree with me, but I’d bet my bicuspids that having braces when you’re in middle school is easier than having them when you’re in middle age. It’s true that if all goes well, I’ll have mine for less time than he did. And it’s also true that time seems to go faster for adults, though it slows down considerably when you can’t eat beef jerky or chew gum anymore.

But children are more resilient than adults. At my age, I’m set in my ways and so are my teeth. Plus in my son’s middle school, braces were almost as common as backpacks. You hardly noticed them. They’re much more conspicuous when you’re the only one in assisted living wearing them. I’m exaggerating. I’m not quite there yet. But I did get braces and bifocals in the same year, if that tells you anything.

As an adult, you feel a little out of place at the orthodontist’s office. The waiting room is a kid’s paradise complete with play area, and it’s full of children. There would be no adults at all if the kids could drive. Sometimes when I’m there I look around and think, I bet I’m the only one here having a hot flash.

And then there’s the braces diet. A finicky child can tolerate mashed potatoes, bananas, and pudding day after day much better than an adult with a sophisticated palate like mine. It’s not that I don’t like mashed potatoes, it’s just that I like them with a medium rare steak and a tossed salad. You think spinach in your teeth is bad. Try it in your braces.

Sophisticated palate or not, I could eat ice cream three meals a day and at snack time too and never get tired of it. But I just got braces; I can’t afford a new wardrobe too.

Orthodontics are expensive and that leads me to the main difference between my son’s and my experience with braces. He won’t be paying for mine.