She was giddy, yet fretful."What if there's a huge yellow stripe after they take them off?"
I didn't reply; a non-answer is often the best answer. I craned my neck around and backed our rusted Kia onto the oil-stained asphalt, our faithful family steed again summoned to perform the lord's work—this time, a trip to the orthodontist to remove my thirteen-year-old's braces.
"Who's the first person you're going to show your awesome new teeth to?" I asked as she reflexively punched the knob for the station that only plays Katy Perry, Gaga and people who sound exactly like Katy Perry and Gaga.
Eyes fixed on the road, I nonetheless felt the singe of her scorn on my platinum cheek chaff. She sighed deeply. "Dad, I won't need to show anyone. Everyone will be like, 'Let me see your teeth.' It's going to be so awkward."
"You've got to be pretty excited though."
"I guess." Same sigh.
She pried down the visor and grimaced into the mirror. "My gums are so uneven."
"What do you mean uneven? Like sort of wavy or something?" I knew asking two consecutive questions was dangerous and risked ridicule.
"Uh, Dad, no. No, please, not wavy. Ugh. Just like, you know, like…uh, never mind." She cranked the radio to erase our conversation. MileyRihannaKatyGaga shrieked out a tune I know so well I could karaoke that thing in American Sign Language.
I shut my yap for the rest of the trip; so much for making conversation with my adult she-puppy. I couldn't help but feel excited for her. I mean, come on, getting your braces off is one of the most exciting rites of passage for an eighth grader. I'd put it right there between a new KISS album and a good bumpy bus ride.
According to the Delta Dental website, studies have estimated that anywhere from fifty to seventy percent of American kids will wear braces between the ages of six and eighteen. That's a whole lot of cranial torque across this great land of ours. And judging by my daughter's experience, the technology hasn't changed all that much since the days when my teeth were laid with more railroad than the Tacoma tide flats.
Here's what things looked like prior to all that steel and rebar.
While the top two-thirds of my head resembles a young and chubby John Davidson, the lower section looks like a freaking mouth tsunami blew through. For God's sake, I'm surprised I still have a functioning uvula after exposing it to unimpeded wind gusts. Good thing I didn't know anyone in South King County who hunted beavers for their ivory.
After four yanked teeth, some gum surgery and two years spent peering up at the ropey veins of my orthodontist's straining biceps, things finally closed up enough to re-hydrate my leathery sockets.
Here's my "after" shot.
An hour and a half after disappearing into the examining room, my girl emerged with her brand new smile and a gift bag brimming with heretofore forbidden sweets. Immediately curling a stick of gum into her mouth, she looked at me. "Come on, Dad. I want to make it back for fourth period."
"What's your hurry?" I asked. "You said it would be awkward."
"Ugh, Dad…please." I heard the blare of the radio before the click of her seatbelt. "Let's just go."
She's a beauty.