At 15, upon the emergence of my final permanent teeth, I started orthodontia. Nothing unusual about the task that was before my orthodontist and me. A rite of passage in post-war suburbia. Yet, I managed to screw things up big time, resulting, at a critical developmental stage, in humiliating self-criticism and loathing.
For the most part, all went smoothly through the metallic installation and manipulation process. Each fitting and tightening of the screws in my mouth resulted in temporary pain but tangible movement toward the desired end product. We were proceeding at pace and the whole rigmarole would take roughly three years.
On the date of my last scheduled appointment, disaster struck. All the apparatus in my mouth had already been removed but for the rear brace rings wrapping the third molars in my upper arch. But I missed the appointment. Plum forgot it. Then, when I realized my error some days later, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone – including my parents.
Those two braces remained in my mouth for months. Heck, it could have been over a year. Finally, I got a call from the orthodontist’s office. “Hello, may I speak with Dan?”
“Sure, I’m Dan.”
“Hello, this is Tina from Dr. Bernstein’s office,” came the cheerful voice. Shame now instantly burst from my subconscious. “We don’t have a record of your last appointment. Do you, by any chance, still have the remaining third molar appliances in your mouth.”
“Oh. Golly. I guess I do.” No doubt, my act was all too transparent to the appointment clerk.
“Well, would you like to come in to get them removed?”
“Um… why yes, of course. That would be great. Silly me. Thanks”
I did make THAT appointment, mortifying as it was. Walked in. Sat down. 90 seconds later and it was over.
Mom and Dad never found out.