We Brits have been boiling food, drinking tea, and eating chocolate for centuries, ergo, well-known for our fate of twisted, falling-out, terrible teeth. Sheer luck, or Swiss bank account, were the only reasons to get strong, straight teeth with these peaches and cream complexions. Having crooked, brittle, British teeth, I somehow held to the fantasy that, someday, false teeth could make me hold a happy smile, a smile that would go so well with the Royal wave I had practiced as a little girl! I was going to make it all work, finally, and wave goodbye to painful teeth that had plagued me for a lifetime.
Understand when I say, everything that could go wrong in a dentist’s chair—has gone terribly wrong in a dentist’s chair. I had baby teeth pulled, ether as anesthesia, and still remember the vividly terrifying technicolour nightmare I had. There was a giant pink octopus, pulling me into its cave under teal-green water streaked with sunlight (do we, as writers, always have to notice minute details?) just before waking up alone in a back room to my very first puking hangover. At three, I didn’t handle it so well. This was but the beginning of my relationship with dentists, each one insisting they would be the ones to break Murphy’s Curse for me (even tried a Dr. Murphy!) but only one ever did, and I had to leave my wonderful Dr. Richard Amar back in New York, when we moved west.
I’ve had laughing gas turned up, staff returning to the room to find I was in convulsions, and I’ve had too little anesthesia, surfacing during surgery and trying, apparently, to climb out of the chair, backwards. I’ve had medicine put in a molar that needed a root canal, only to find out that I’m part of a small percentage of the population, violently allergic to it. When the infection broke through to my sinus cavity, I became a puffy-faced, fall-down clown. TMJ problems developed because my mouth was too small for forty-two pairs of hands all, of course, wearing latex gloves that gave me hives. One young, hot-shot local dentist, who advertised he dealt well with fear-paralyzed patients, actually yelled at me for feeling pain. He felt he’d given me enough numbing, dammit, and he wasn’t giving any more.
Over forty years with these second teeth, pain, infections, and I was done. Give me the ones to make me look good, the ones that could be mailed to the damn dentist to work on, while I stayed home. Yeah, that’s what I want! More money than most of the cars I’ve owned, but that’s small price to pay, I thought. I would get used to them, my stomach would settle down, and my heart too, I thought. There was no turning back. I had tried for a third set of teeth, through meditation—and managed calcium deposits, growing under my tongue. Why would sharks get seven rows of teeth that keep coming, and humans can’t grow a third set, to see us through our freakin’ golden years? Bring on the dentures and let peace be, I thought. It was the hot-shot Doctor Berg who made my upper plate—and who told me it was my fault it didn’t fit, after physically abusing me, and frightening me to death in that chair.
Oh Missus Natcheral, if you couldn’t wear a bra…what made you think you could handle an ill-fitting dental plate??? If you couldn’t handle a wire and biting elastic under your tits…what made you think you could wear a batter’s helmet on the roof of your mouth, delicate flower of sound for a singer??? And there was Mr. Murphy, waiting always in the shadows. Not only had I been given but a small bud of a mouth (those of you who have heard my mouth, please refrain from commenting!) but, as it turns out, it is deformed. It might have something to do with forceps on a preemie. This is the theorumrectal I’m going with, also explaining my lacking left brain and the Mighty Mouse brain to its right. We all find our own explanations, eh?
Out of sheer vanity and desperation, already quite invisible to men I was working with because I had lived beyond sexy, I tried my good-golly-damndest to wear that molded upper mouth, smile and sing for the folks. Oh yes, and during ‘menostopthatshyte’ I began to experience significant bone loss, disappearing parts of aforementioned deformed ridge, so the upside-down plastic bowl in my mouth would wiggle and wobble as I sang, vibrating against, and rudely tickling private parts of my oral orifice edifice, until it reached my oh-so-high gag-reflex. Oh babies, let me scare you with tales of oozing glue, of plastic rubbing against bone, of cut and pasted papers that give way in the middle of performances…oh yes, I have suffered for my Art! Why would I keep punishing myself for everyone else’s comfort?
Of course, as I said, women become invisible to men when we live past sexy, and I’m not talking about flirting here (sheesh, who has the energy?) oh no! Add no teeth to the beginning of our Third Act and we are dumped into “Old Witch” character, it’s presumed we are stupid, and probably a drain on society. Bring out the dunking machine fellas, we have an older female amputeeth! The Witch is always only one step above the Village Idiot, because she can squawk and scare. Squawking was what men began to hear. Where once (when all was perky) my words might be listened too (though my mouth often seemed to rest in my cleavage then) I turned into a witch, squawking.
Well, Missus Natcheral is just stubborn enough not to lie down and take it, old enough to know I don’t have to accept prejudice—as a woman, or as an amputeeth. I will continue to work hard against prejudice, of any kind. I will face the world comfortably, “sans dentes” and the world will continue its turn. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est la merde. This is Missus Natcheral and, as the Grateful Dead sang, I’m still truckin’…like the dooh-dah man…together more or less in line…jus’ keep truckin’ oh-oh-oh-oh-on….! Peace, my aging brothers and sisters.