When I was ten years old I ran into a wood chair and knocked out my front tooth.
I also cracked the other front tooth, but it didn't fall out or fall apart. The trauma of the impact also killed two of my teeth. As you can imagine, this one childhood accident has resulted in a lot of time in a dentist's chair. There have been lots of surgeries and procedures, and not enough Novocaine.
And now I'm going to a cosmetic dentist on Thursday to deal with an almost thirty-year-old injury.
To say I'm nervous about it is somewhat of an understatement. I know it's high time I do something about the damage that's been done and the dental work that needs replacing. But I've put it off for so long because my phobia is so strong. I don't know how sensitive dentists were to children's pain 30 years ago. Perhaps my dentist was a sadist? I don't know.
Whatever the case, I've preferred to try and hide my smile for years rather than get my teeth fixed. So strong is my phobia that I cover my mouth when I laugh rather than sit in a dentist's chair. But I'm tired of hating my smile and it's time I do something about it. Right?
Funny how this childhood accident has stayed with me for so long. Even when it happened I knew the seriousness of what I'd done. At ten years old, I was well aware that these were my adult teeth and that I could not grow new teeth. I knew I had ruined my smile for life.
At ten years old I learned regret.
I laid in bed and prayed to god to send me back in time so I could re-do that night. I prayed that I could have one more chance to opt out of playing tag or Ghost in the Graveyard or whatever game we were playing in my friend's basement that night.
I wished with my whole heart to go back and change something that I couldn't. The damage was irreversible and I knew it. Oh, how I struggled with it at ten, and how I have struggled with that self-same issue as an adult.
How many other permanent mistakes/changes/events would I experience as the years went by? Life lessons, all of them. I see my son's same heartache when he breaks a toy. He is quick to ask for the Superglue to fix it, and I so understand that desire — that urgent need to fix it.
And then the day will come when he realizes it can't be fixed.
Or maybe it can? Maybe some thirty years later you'll have an opportunity to fix it. If you're brave enough, that is. I guess I've been torn between accepting myself as I am versus fixing what can (and should be) fixed. I don't think fake teeth were meant to last 20 years or so, and if I want my teeth to last for more years, I need to do something about them. So I've been torn between fear of the dentist, the lofty goal of self-acceptance, and the desire to smile and laugh unselfconsciously.
We'll see how badly I want that smile back.
Although I do have some reservations about looking like Matt Dillon's character Healy in There's Something About Mary. You know, when he misunderstands that Mary likes guys with "big teeth" and he gets a bunch of enormous fake teeth installed?
I don't want to look like that.
*Buddhakamas is an entirely made-up holiday (of my own imagining) in order to satisfy my over-the-top love of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and presents.