April 19 – Day 12 – The Roots of Vanity


It’s Saturday morning, April 20th, and I’m licking the wounds of my first missed day of posting, yesterday.

It was not for lack of trying.  I was up until 1:30am searching for something I’d written 4 years ago that I might be able to rewrite and post.  I couldn’t find it.  Eventually I gave up and went to sleep, feeling like I’d fallen off my horse, wagon, porch or whatever you fall off when you’re unable to do something for 30 days straight.

With bleary eyes this morning, I remembered another time disappointment came calling.  Showed up at my door without an invitation and didn’t even bring a bottle of wine.  So after dealing with the engrossing subject of toxic household cleaners yesterday, I figure today is a good time to go to THE DENTIST.

What follows is the short tale of my first (and so far “only”) root canal and why, in a very odd sort of way, I look forward to the next one.

It was the Fall of 2008.

The economy was in the toilet, Sarah Palin was running for Vice President, and I had just learned of a death in the family.

My dentist had just informed me my tooth had died.

That may seem like an overly dramatic statement, but quite frankly, I was in mourning.  Body parts were dying and I felt like I should have been able to prevent it somehow. There were plenty of things on my body that were not perfect, but I’d always had super great teeth.  Never had a “legitimate” cavity.  According to the official rules of my kingdom, a legitimate cavity was one you got from not brushing, flossing or because you ate a lot of candy.  I had a few crowns, but they were from improperly formed enamel and were not my fault.  Like a juvenile police record that gets expunged, those cavities didn’t count.

Whenever I went to a dentist, they invariably commented on what a great mouth I had.  Imagine that!  The very thing that got me spanked all through the Texas public school systems in the 60‘s and 70‘s, was being praised in the dentist’s office.  My whole life, dentists would say things like, “Wow, you’ve really done an awe inspiring job of taking care of your teeth,” or “It’s a pleasure working in your mouth on these immaculate teeth!  Mind if I take some pictures to show my kids?”, or my favorite, “Well, it’s obvious you floss” (because I never did).

All that praise might have gone to my head a bit.

I’m not proud of that, but I spent a few years feeling like I was better than other people because of my teeth.  I might have been a few pounds overweight, had a couple of unattractive toes, but I had dentists all over the world worshiping my teeth.  Vanity was the smile I’d wear while smugly humming a Carly Simon tune.  Over time, I became a little braggy.  Okay, very braggy.  Friends would moan about getting fillings, root canals and dental surgeries and I would say things like, “Well, they say you should floss every day.”  I know.  I was awful.  Not pretty.  The fame had gone to my head.  Anyone watching this movie would just know I was headed for a fall.  I was like a rock star gone bad who thought other people should deal with the trashed hotel rooms.

All of this came crashing down when I heard my tooth had died.  I phoned a couple of friends for support and they said, “Well, they say you should floss every day.”  And one even added, “Oh, and it’s a really long procedure that really, really hurts.”  I deserved that.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I was like a pathetic super villain who had just been reduced to tears after tormenting friends and neighbors with my dental vanity.

The morning of the operation, my wife drove me to the Endodontic Specialist.  Apparently you’re not supposed to drive yourself home.  “Oh.  boy.  That’s not good,” I thought when I first made the appointment.  “Not only is this something a regular dentists can’t do, you’re so messed up when it’s done, they don’t want you to drive yourself home.”

So I was more than a little nervous when she drove me there.

[Part 2 of this missive should show up later today, so stay tuned!]


3 thoughts on “April 19 – Day 12 – The Roots of Vanity

  1. Appreciate frankness… I’m supposing I have other areas of life that I feel good about until the ceiling starts falling, and I have a feeling I’ll remember your article when that happens.

    • Thanks, Claudia. We all have our vanities and age is the great leveler of egos. I just wish I could figure this stuff out sooner before I fall apart!

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment. :-)

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