Remember That Time You Got Braces? Yeah, So Do I…

27 Oct

OUCH, my teeth hurt. They feel restrained by my new metal prison. At least the rubber bands are purple, keeping me from being a total laughing-stock of the 7th grade. Braces with colored rubber bands mean you have a personality. Some kids get clear ones. But after lunch those just got caked with food and gunk and who wants that? Gross. Purple says “I’m confident.” Purple is the color of royalty. Purple has stuck with me this far, so why not now? A good safe color to start with on my first go around.

I get down out of one of Dr. Katsis’s chairs and walk toward the sanitized lobby which has Highlights magazines, a 60 gallon fish tank, and pastel blue wallpaper which is popular now in the early 90s. This is the most popular orthodontist’s office in my suburban town. It feels more like a factory in that it has an entire row of reclining chairs on its interior, full of middle schoolers which means you never know who you might see during your appointment.

My daymare (the opposite of a daydream except that it was terrible): my mouth is agape while a cheery Dr. Katsis is finishing up tightening my braces. Speaking in an overly boisterous voice, he reminds me to wear my headgear (yeah, right) and explains to me that Listerine, which he’s so graciously prepared a sample of, tastes “unsightly” but actually helps get rid of germs which means I should start acquiring a taste for it.  Just then, Peter Bailey, the boy I’ve decided should be my first kiss, comes up and starts talking to Dr. Katsis about Michael Jordan’s awesome game. Peter then notices me, giving me a look like I’m an alien even though he surely has had the same procedure done every month. I shift, uncomfortably. This causes me to spill the Listerine all over the Dr., which in turn makes Dr. Katsis flinch. My rubber band (not purple, but clear), shoots towards Peter’s perfect face, nailing him straight in the eye. He’s blinded. He blames me and tells the whole school I’m that “spastic orthodontic girl”.  The next time I see him, he has a permanent patch over his eye and he looks like a pirate. I’ve ruined his looks and my reputation. A little extreme? Of course. I’m 13. Daymare completed.

I am starting to get a headache. These braces have a death grip on my teeth. And I thought those rubber placers they put in a couple of weeks ago hurt! I wonder what it will be like when these are off someday. My teeth will glisten and every time I go to play laser tag or to a roller skating rink, my brilliant white teeth will glow purple under the black lights. And finally, they will be straight! It is going to be awesome.

Back to reality. It’s time to go to school. My mom had taken me out this morning to get my braces put on. I am nervous again. My palms are sweating. What will the other kids think? I’m not exactly President of the Student Council or picked first in daily four square games but I am also not a total social pariah. Will this make me stand out? Most of the other kids already have their braces. Some are getting theirs off! I am late to the game. I suddenly realize I won’t be getting them off until I am a freshman. Wow. Oh well. I have to prepare myself for the here and now.

By the time I talk myself through all of this, I am back at school. Just in time for Gym. I know Ms. Carlson and Mr. Willis, your standard Midwestern P.E. instructors, are bored already and it is only the second day of our badminton unit. I suppose having 7th graders laugh themselves silly over the word “birdie” probably gets old quick. As I enter, my mouth pursed shut, I am relieved to find that more than one kid is getting a referral for flipping the “birdie” and using “shuttlecock” seriously out of context. This means less attention on me. Mr. Willis lets Ms. Carlson handle the referrals and pairs me up with Jamie Cote. Jamie is short and she is twirling her racquet as if it is a baton. I can see the appeal and I want to try it. I have always wanted to throw the baton like those girls at the beginning of the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. When Mr. Willis turns his back, Jamie tosses me a racquet. I hesitate as it twirls in the air once, twice, and wham! Right in the mouth. Ouch! My tooth starts throbbing with pain. I wince, reaching up to feel my new bracket which is now…falling out.

Two trips to Dr. Katsis in the same day.  This time he uses better glue and gives me a new purple rubber band for the bracket casualty.  I lick my new bracket again. I smile. I have already done this part today and now I get to do it over again with a bit more confidence. It can’t get any worse than getting hit with a badminton racquet less than 30 minutes after getting my braces. I look around at the other patients with nurses hands in their mouths. I jump out of the chair confidently.  I can do this whole braces thing. Suddenly I remember and my head darts from side to side. Thankfully, to my relief, Peter Bailey is nowhere to be seen.

NOTE: Here’s my mouth today, 18  years later. As much as I dreaded getting braces, I’m so thankful I had them. I still try to wear my retainer at night. Thanks, Dr. Katsis.

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