18 April 2013

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

I actually started crying a little on the way home. It was my sixth trip to the dentist this year. And I had bitter thoughts about how people with good teeth attribute it to moral virtue when it’s all luck, luck, luck—really fucking bad luck in my case.

This was a new dentist, so I had to fill out long forms. And after all the questions about allergies and heart conditions there were questions about your feelings.  Is there anything you particularly dislike about your teeth? How do you feel about the appearance of your teeth? How do you feel about your teeth in general?

Be careful what you ask. I’ve been writing about my teeth for twenty years. There wasn’t enough space on the form for me to write, “In general, I feel as though my teeth have determined the entire course of my life. And not in a good way.” I started to write “depressed,” but that seemed unlucky and ungrateful (I know my poor old crumbling teeth do their best) so I wrote “ambivalent.”

I waited for an hour, happy with my New Yorker, and when I met the new dentist, I could tell the he didn’t like the fact that I complained about the crown that old dentist had done. He assumed I was an accuser, a trouble maker, a shrinking violet. And I felt like saying, “Look at all this,” baring my teeth, “All this and no complaining. I had my wisdom teeth out, all four corners, with nothing but Novocain and didn’t make a peep.” (For those who had your wisdom teeth out with general anesthesia, the dentist pretty much has to mount you to dig them out. It’s not for the faint-hearted.)

Anyway, he looked at the X-rays from the old dentist, said they were worthless, looked in my mouth, and said he was going to refer me to an endodontist and a periodontist. And I’ve always had good gums, damn it. Bad teeth but good gums.

I missed one maybe two cleanings when my law practice went off a cliff and we couldn’t afford the $175 that my dear, dear expensive Dr. Light charged for a cleaning and exam. And of course it’s not that we couldn’t afford it, I just wanted to spend the money on other things. Meanwhile my gums were receding faster than polar ice caps, and now I have to go to a periodontist. Which sounds expensive and sounds like mortality, and I know that’s probably kind of hard to take coming from a forty-four-year-old whose most serious health problem is receding gums, but I am serious. Can’t we just amputate my head right now and get it over with?

Is this how people with cancer feel? That all those smug non-cancer people are just congratulating themselves on sunscreen worn, blueberries eaten, yoga done, and it’s all just luck, and whole notion of living right is just a big clumsy trap, and we’re all going to die, but probably not in the right order, and there’s no justice, just mortality with a capital fucking M?

I guess I should add that Teresa had her appointment today too, and of course she had no cavities. Her teeth are like the Taj Mahal. Thus the bitterness.

She just walked by and said, “Dear Max, Why is Teresa so perfect? It doesn’t seem fair. She has it all. In one package.”


All this is reminding me that one of the fascinating things about picking a sperm donor is what you learn about yourself. We learned that looks and temperament are the most important things to us. And I learned that I just wanted someone to counteract my defects, a skinny guy with no cavities. And that’s exactly what Enzo turned out to be. (So far.)