This week, I exhibited one of my greatest life skills: dodging the dentist. Don’t judge me. I don’t have a lot of fears in life—I love heights, don’t mind spiders, think snakes are beautiful. I’m not a nervous flyer. I like meeting new people and think small spaces are cozy. In fact, I can only think of two things I’m really scared of—hummingbirds, and the dentist.
Because I like having teeth, however, especially strong, healthy teeth that excel at chewing things, I floss every day. I brush thoroughly. And yes, I get my teeth cleaned. But here’s how it goes:
Liz from Dr. C.’s office: “Hi, Kristan! It’s Liz from Dr. C.’s office. I’m really sorry, I know you hate this time of year, but—”
She calls back. I let the machine get it.
Around her fourth or fifth attempt, she usually gets one of my faithless children. Phone messages are not a particular strength of theirs. Nor is lying.
Faithless Child: “Mommy? Phone’s for you.”
Me: “Who is it?”
Faithless Child: “I don’t know.” They then hand the phone to me, and I once again hear the cheerful voice of Liz.
“Got you!” she says.
“Damn. Fine. I’ll do it. But I hate it, and I resent you being so good at your job.”
Liz: “I know. You’re—” (there’s a small snort)— “very brave.”
So we make an appointment. Which I then cancel.
This year, just to change it up a bit, I had McIrish cancel it. To my credit, I had a cold and didn’t relish the thought of Dr. C. stuffing tools, his hands and the occasional tennis ball in my mouth whilst I tried to breathe. (I may be wrong about the tennis ball, but that’s what it feels like, and I usually have my eyes shut tight.)
Liz, who’s as persistent as a Saint Bernard sniffing out avalanche victims, calls back, and eventually, worn down by her relentless niceness, I go in. Grumbling. Clenched. I have my iPod on high, they give me nitrous oxide, I try to picture myself in a happy place, and nothing works.
Dr. C. extols the benefits of valium. I don’t answer, because I’m pretending he’s not there (though once, I bit him. He was asking for it, let me assure you). They give me the fastest dental hygienist in the East. I leave fingernail marks in the armrests. I swear, when I leave, sweaty and shiny-toothed, they all go out for a drink.
Patient of the year, I am not.