Five years ago, I walked into my orthodontist's office an insecure and scrawny soon-to-be senior in high school. (Yes, I got braces pretty late and had to endure the awkward years probably longer than most.) My teeth were horrendous-- the two front ones kind of turned in on an angle, and though that sounds worse than they were, at that age even the slightest insecurity is huge.
So for two and a half years, I regularly walked in and out of Dr. Golden's office. Sometimes to get my braces tightened or to get a tighter set of rubberbands, or to get the wires adjusted and brackets changed (still annoyed I never got colored ones... I think I thought I was too cool.). It was a monthly ritual, a very regular part of my life.
It's a cool feeling to be a regular at some place. I've always wanted to be a regular at a quaint little coffee shop, but maybe it's more about belonging somewhere than it is about everyone knowing your name.
I got my braces off a couple years ago, which is the tell old tale for everyone who has ever had braces. It's such a surreal and memorable moment --I remember licking my teeth and freaking out because I felt naked. And even after Dr. Golden's job was technically done, I returned every few months for the past two years so he could evaluate my retainer wearing and adjust them if needed. Just a month ago actually, I even got new retainers made, something that doesn't happen unless you break your original pair. (obviously I was their favorite) They're bright gray and sparkly, and my intention was totally to redeem myself for all the boring bracket choices in appointments past. A part of me couldn't help but think it was a parting gift, and come to think of it, what if it was? Maybe they read my inability to let go and attempted to make it hurt less?? It's possible.
So it was indeed time, I had my last appointment this week. I'm kind of big on lasts and firsts, I'm not entirely convinced it's a healthy thing to obsess over but it gives me something to mull over and I don't know...come up with more life theories or something.
It was very definitive; Dr. Golden knelt down beside my chair and handed me a letter and said how much he enjoyed being my orthodontist and that he can't be around forever. I promised him I'd continue to wear my retainers for the years to come to which he responded, "Please do. They're too good to let slip away." And we talked about school for a few minutes and he said good luck about five times before I finally broke free from my adolescence. I'm painfully dramatic, you have every right to send me tweets/comments about why I'm such a loser.
And then, I walked out after waving a (hopefully not too cheerful in an effort to mask heartache) goodbye to all his assistants, who I'd grown pretty conversational with. I really hope they meant it when they said they looked forward to my visits and that it's so sad that I won't be needing them anymore. Welp, that's not true!! I DO NEED YOU.
I think I'm actually having attachment issues with my orthodontist, like an actual, legitimate issue with moving on. It's not that surprising though, I had a similar sadness when I got my braces taken off. And that's something that's not supposed to happen! A lot of it was because I got so comfortable having them, they became a big part of my identity. I had them when I finally started loving highschool and became friends with people I'd never talked to and when I graduated HS and felt the weight of the "real-world" as everyone darted their own ways once the summer was over. I had them when I went to India for my cousin's wedding, where a peculiar lady came up to me and straight up said I didn't look good and that I should take "those" off. I didn't even know who she was. I had them on in my first semester of college when everything is new and terrifying, and when I took a singing class for funzies. I'm a shower singer... note to world: the shower is a magical place where you might even sound like Beyonce. You are not Beyonce in the classroom. But I loved that class! It was the bravest I'd ever everrrr been in my entire life.
But anyway I digress...I was saying how I could hide behind my braces. Kind of even as a symbol of imperfection and the idea of being "out there" in the world as a metal mouth had its ups (psychologically I mean...if you can be super confident and collected with braces, you can do that and more without em).
I've always been comfortable in my skin, even if sometimes insecure. Without braces, I was just another person with "nice teeth." Wow, I'm both a snob and a sob story. So sorry.
I liked that my ortho knew me as an awkward teenager and as a semi-confident college student. Moving on felt wrong.... scary and so official. And maybe because our 20-somethings are complicated years to begin with, any sort of change has us hanging on to the normal and regular and things that have always just been, unchanged.
I love putting my retainers on at night, and with that statement I will claim loserdom. But it's true, I'm very low-maintenance when it comes to my appearance-- makeup for me means an eyelash curler. So yes, my teeth are my accessory in a weirdly literal way.
My orthodontist was someone who changed something about me I didn't like. No more appointments to get this tweaked or that tightened. Now it's just me. As I am. Or as I've become.
(insert laughing-crying-tears streaming-down-face emoji as a metaphor for entire post because I actually seriously IN REAL LIFE just wrote about my orthodontist)