Back when I was in the seventh grade, right before I was due for braces, the dreaded “bad hop” in softball nearly derailed my career.
I was playing first in a Saturday game at Sunland Park, and during warmups a ground ball skipped straight into my front teeth. I spit out the crumbs of my right front incisor, and by my memory I just walked off the field without crying. Dad was there … the game was over for me before it started.
Back at home, as we looked for a dentist who would lay out his shingle on a Saturday (yay Dr. Ellis!), I sat on a chair in the living room with some ice. Mom was beside herself; she stood between Dad and me saying how ugly it looked and that she would never let me play again. Dad stood behind her rolling his eyes in exaggeration. The two of us knew we’d be playing again. Does anyone else remember I had to spend a month walking around junior high school with half a front tooth? My sister was mortified to know me. Whatever, I didn’t care.
I’m still paying for that bad hop 35 years later. The ball broke one front tooth, which later died, received a root canal and cap … I’m sure a handful of people remember the figure skating event in Binghamton, N.Y., in about 2000 when the cap fell off! A local dentist helped me out for $50 and a set of four tickets to the International Figure Skating Challenge (incidentally, this is also where I recognized the off-ice brilliance of Katarina Witt, but that’s another story).
Anyway, the OTHER front tooth also took a hit. I don’t know what the exact issue it has, but it’s yellow from the inside (as in Crest Whitestrips won’t help). I have hated that tooth with a passion. I used to ask Adam to please use his mad Photoshop skillz to whiten it on any picture. He would say “I don’t even notice it; nobody does.” I did. I have always hated my slightly yellow tooth.
There is a point to this.
Today, I made a dentist appointment. My old dentist retired and I haven’t had a check up in a year and a half or so. This time, besides a cleaning, I asked for a cosmetic consultation. I want to fix that fucking tooth.
I am feeling enormous guilt for this. I have realized for a couple of years I put off taking care of myself a lot. I saved money, scrimped on hair and the like, because I was saving money for us. Adam was unclear what he wanted to do with his career. I wanted to support him, so I left myself out of the equation. I had holes in my underwear, stringy hair, and just put aside what I needed.
I hope you understand that I do not mean this against Adam. We make sacrifices for the good of the partnership. I have no regrets. (SEE I CREATE GUILT FOR MYSELF EVERYWHERE!)
But now, five weeks after his death, I’m fixing my tooth. I am feeling guilt for moving on and spending money on a cosmetic procedure). But as I learned at a grief and yoga workshop tonight, the symptoms of grief are many; they are not linear, they are not rational, they just ARE.
I have lost the man who thought I was beautiful despite the tooth, despite the weight I put on, despite (and maybe because of) the fact I hate shaving my legs, despite the fact that I rarely wear makeup, have no fashion sense, walk like I’m always wearing cleats, and am covered with moles and freckles. Despite the fact I do not a graceful bone or muscle in my body.
This is a panic of “who will ever love me now?”
So I’m getting my tooth fixed. At least, I will love the smile staring back at me.