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The last time we chatted, I was headed to the dentist, forced by physical pain and fueled by utter frustration. I don’t want to bore you with the details again, but… wait… this is my blog! I can write about whatever I want.

The saga began months ago, when the weather was cooler and I had less wrinkles on my face. I took a trip out to my dentist for a regular check-up. I’d been brushing (several times per day). I’d been flossing (um… when I remembered). I’d been chewing gum recommended by four out of five dentists. I felt good! Then the news came down like a ton of bricks — I had cavities. Let’s just leave that as a simple plural so there is still the possibility of there only being two. (I’m sorry, Mom!)

My heart sank. I hate cavities. For some reason my teeth are prone to getting them, no matter how hard I work on my dental hygiene. I’m sure it’s just something I can’t control, something in my genes — like my penchant for milk chocolate or my aversion to all eight-legged creatures. I’ve learned over time, though, to live with all these inherent traits, and I’ve learned to live with fillings. But just as I prepared for the regular drill (pun intended), my dentist threw a fork in the mix. And that fork included two porcelain overlays to save teeth where fillings were getting too large. In layman’s terms: I needed two fancy fillings and they cost a pretty penny.

The process to actually make this stuff happen is tedious:

  • Drill out cavity
  • Take mold of tooth
  • Send mold out to be cast in porcelain
  • Put temporary filling in tooth
  • Sell record collection on eBay
  • Live for two weeks with temporary filling that tastes like a skunk smells
  • Remove temporary filling
  • Insert porcelain overlay
  • Take second job as tour guide on D.C. Duck Boat
  • Return to dentist for bite adjustment to ease pain
  • Repeat process for second tooth
  • Take out second mortgage on house

Sounds easy enough, right?

Regardless of pain or pocket depth, we stuck to the schedule, apart from one nasty detour which I’ve since named “The Tooth 19 Debacle.” Basically, the lower left side of my mouth suddenly refused to be affected by any drugs, rendering Novacaine useless. I’ve never had a problem with Novacaine in my entire life! So, five (yes, f-i-v-e) shots later, the tooth was still not numb. Let me tell you — nothing will make you more appreciative of Western world medical amenities than feeling a drill rattle a live nerve.

After all those shots, I remember just telling the dentist to keep going. I was tough. I could handle it. I’d already endured so much. Turning back now would be a waste. My mom had a slew of kids naturally with no drugs. And I’m from that same bloodline of strong women! So I clung to the sides of the chair, shut my eyes tight, and thought happy thoughts about yellow Labrador puppies and brand new Coach purses.

I survived, went home, and immediately started researching adoption options. You can imagine my frustration when, weeks later, I still had a toothache. (Culprit: Tooth 19.) And to make matters worse, it had spread into an earache, a headache, and a pain in my neck! I tried to just live with the pain for a while, but there’s only so long one can effectively maintain the maximum daily dose of Motrin IB. Reluctantly, I returned to the dentist. And after lots of poking and prodding, I was told the words I never wanted to hear: Ruth, you need a root canal.

And then it happened. I wish I could say I tried to stop it, but that’d be a lie. My chin started to quiver. I took a shallow, pulsating breath. And my eyes started to well up with tears… right there in the dentist chair. I almost died of embarrassment as a lone tear spilled out onto my cheek. But then I noticed something: I wasn’t the only embarrassed person in the room. My dentist suddenly looked white as a ghost. He had no idea what to do. You know, for such a highly educated man, he certainly gets baffled easily.

I don’t remember much of what happened next. Tissues were passed, dental assistants were summoned, and water was offered. The next thing I recall, my dentist offered to complete the root canal basically free of charge. I still have to pay some, both in the forms of money and pain, but he did, graciously, cut the expensive procedure by a good bit.

So here I sit, carefully measuring out my daily doses of antibiotics and Vicodin and wondering: What is it about a single tear that makes men so uneasy? Are crying women so scary and unpredictable that men would rather throw money at them than try to communicate with them? Don’t get me wrong — I would much rather the discount on the dental procedures than a lengthy heart-to-heart with my dentist. But this premise flows into other areas of life — areas where they don’t give out free stickers of a smiling cartoon tooth.

In our homes, at our jobs, at our family gatherings, in our social circles, on the street. It doesn’t seem to matter where it takes place. When a woman cries, men don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s comical in a way. It gets us out of speeding tickets and into quicker check-out lines. But in a way, it’s sad. And it just makes me wonder. Sorry… maybe it’s the Vicodin, but I have no deep, mysterious revelation here. I’m simply left to wonder.

Apart from the obvious differences between the genders, do you have any additional, earth-shattering insight? Because really, gentlemen, what is the big deal?

~Ruth