Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Babo & the Dentist

When I was little I didn’t have a favorite stuffed animal or favorite blank-y or binkie. Instead, I had A Big Red Plastic SPOON with a smiling face and black hair painted on. It was smooth and hollow and I loved to rub the curve of the face on my elbow to comfort myself or bite on the handle when times were tough. And there are tons of pictures of me with that Red Spoon. Me on the swings with the Red Spoon, me chasing the dog with the Red Spoon, me eating the dog’s food with the Red Spoon (although that one kind of concerns me, ‘cause my parents ran to get the camera instead of stopping me from eating dog food). I would tote that thing everywhere, even to Sunday school where Mrs. D let me sit the Red Spoon on its very own chair. It was my most favorite childhood treasure and I loved it. And the Red Spoon loved me, smiled back at me day in and day out. 

Then one day, no more Red Spoon. I can’t remember how it happened, can’t remember if I outgrew it (just woke up one day and found it devoid of comfort) or if there were comments, like “You really are getting too big for that spoon,” or “Big Girls don’t need a spoon” or “People will think we don’t feed you.”  Maybe I just started to notice what other kids had on the playground. Like Cabbage patch kids, and Hello Kitty purses, CD players, cheerleading uniforms, 4.0’s, laptops, condos, Prada sunglasses, BMW’s.  Maybe, because I know I looked for substitutes. Like, Gabriel for the Red Spoon. Gabriel was this tiny boy my mom babysat on Tuesday’s and Thursdays. I wanted to own him, tried to carry him around, tried to bite on his elbow. But Gabriel out grew me (literally, I couldn’t pick him up) so the search continued. It was books for the Red Spoon, then ballet and all-school plays for the Red Spoon. Then Jesus for the Red Spoon, martinis for the Red Spoon, then Dunhills, yoga (hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga, bikram), cheesecake, cheesecurls, bicep curls. However it happened, I let the Red Spoon go.

So today I have a dentist appointment, which I hate. I hate dentists. Not my dentist specifically, he's great, but dentists in general. So maybe I should say, I hate dentistry or dental work. Yes, I absolutely hate dental work. Not as a concept. It's a really good thing for health and wellbeing and the ability to bite and chew and eat things, but I hate it as it pertains to tremendous physical discomfort being forced upon my personal person. 

I always cancel my appointments. At least twice (once I canceled and rescheduled 4 times, I hate it that much). When I finally work up enough courage to go, this is what I do to prepare:
- I reschedule for 7 in the morning so I’m not fully awake. 
- I wear clothes as close to pajamas as possible to maintain the illusion that I am still asleep.
- I take 3 Ibuprofin and my anxiety meds a half hour before the appointment.
- I pack earphones and a pair of socks 
AND
-I slather balm on my lips, especially at the corners because dentists (generally) seem to purposely stretch the hell out of the corners. Probably because they want to hang things there, like that saliva sucking thing, which I also hate (specifically).

So I park the car outside the dentist's office and already my neck is aching, anticipating that chair and that strange head mold thing that's suppose to... I don't know what it's suppose to do.  I parallel park and while I’m looking over my shoulder I see my pillow.  Actually, my pillow is this stuffed animal, this Ugly Doll (that’s the brand) called Babo. David got it for me to keep in our car, he calls it my car-pet (get it, CAR. PET.). It’s for the long trips to my in-laws' farm, the five hour trips that are a pain in the neck (literally, not a comment on the in-laws). I always promise to drive part of the way and I never do.  I sleep. Complain. Sing show tunes really loudly and complain some more. Usually about the pain in my neck. So David bought me Babo who is gray and flat (and yep, ugly) and soft and the perfect size for the crook in my neck. It makes a big difference. Now I can just sleep on those long drives, and not complain. At least not about the pain in my neck.

So before exiting my car, I decide to grab Babo from the back seat. I tuck him under my arm and smear on one last coat of lip balm before entering the dentist’s office.

The ladies are not very friendly this morning.  Maybe because it’s early and I’m their first customer.  Or maybe because I’m THAT ONE who keeps canceling and rescheduling (whatever). I slide into a seat in the waiting room where some cheery Morning Show is being broadcast on the Spanish Channel. Babo lies in my lap and I play with his flat arms and legs, his gray fuzzy fur absorbs the sweat from my palms. The silliest thought strikes me, can he see the TV? I turn him so he doesn’t have to strain. No reason we should both have a pain in the neck.

When it’s my turn I’m lead to my very own private hellhole and I sit and wait for the dentist, Dr. Frank (who's great, really, he is, although he seems to wear a perma-grin and chuckles through everything I say, even the serious questions about receding gums and grinding my teeth at night). He comes in to give me THE SHOT which I hate, because it's administered inside my MOUTH, my GUMS for chrissake. Sitting there already numb with dread, I wonder how other people stand it. Like, older people and younger people and… well… all the people? I squeeze Babo tight to my chest, but not so tight he can’t breathe.

Dr. Frank sits down on one of those rolly-swively-stools. He chitchats to distract me while swabbing pink stuff on the spot that will become the bulls-eye. He is about to lean in with the massive needle I know is hidden behind his back, when I remember that I’ve got Babo and I need to slip him under the crook in my neck. My arms come up, Dr. Frank makes his move, and Babo and the needle nearly collide, a CLOSE CALL. Babo looks at me and seems to say, “I woulda done it, I woulda taken one for ya.” And I think, “Thanks buddy, you really are a good Ugly Doll.” 

“Whoops,” Dr. Frank says.

“I brought him as a pillow. For my neck. I get a pain in my neck." I say.

Dr. Frank laughs, his perma-grin and chuckle starting to freak me out. But he says, “Sure, no problem at all," and rolls back out of the way. 

Babo slips under my neck and I instantly feel comforted.

"Did you think I brought him to keep me company?" I ask.

Dr. Frank says, “I thought you brought him to hug.”

We both laugh and grin and chuckle but then he swiftly swivels in and jabs the needle deep into my flesh and it’s all I can do not to bite him. The POISON is seeping into my gums and I get to thinking. Why not? Why not bring Babo to keep me company, why not bring him just to hug? I could have brought a rolled up towel for my neck and Babo JUST TO HUG. Can’t that be okay for a 43-year-old woman to do? To bring her car-pet to her dentist appointment just for comfort?

As I lose feeling in my lips, my chin, half of my tongue, I try to gauge the amount of time that has passed. It's been maybe five minutes, I think. I’m really concerned with the speed in which THE POISON wears off. Just this week I read an article at the gym that says anesthesia wears off faster for women than men, so what if my dentist (even my favorite dentist Dr. Frank) dilly dallies and the anesthesia doesn’t outlast the procedure? What if, mid-drilling, my nerves come alive and I start flailing uncontrollably? I could gag on the saliva-sucking thing or get gouged in the eye by the drill, It Could Happen. So I like to keep track of the time, just in case. From under my neck Babo whispers in my ear, “Just bite your lip a little, just a test.”  So I do, still numb. “Don't worry, we’ll make it,” he says. 

I relax my neck into Babo’s cushy tummy and think of a lady I’ve seen on the Western bus, the 207. She looks like she could be 207. And she has a doll. Maybe you’ve seen her, seen them. They are both equally ragged and simple and somewhat empty behind the eyes. They both have black hair and dirty hands. She is always whispering to the doll and stroking its locks, stroking the side of her face with the baby doll’s face, cheek to cheek. And she is ugly and the doll is ugly (from wear and tear and living a hard life it seems) but you can tell that this doll is just oozing with love, it has absorbed years and years of tears and kisses and whispers. The lady cradles her doll having somehow managed not to outgrow her childhood comfort. Or maybe she's just crazy.

Man, I wish I had a little bit of that kinda crazy right now. Some soothing. I wish I had the Red Spoon, wish I could rub it on my elbow (or bite on the handle). I imagine the Red Spoon’s painted-on face smiling at me, congratulating me, acknowledging that I’m making it through an especially tough time. That would be nice. I sigh and even through the drilling, Babo hears. He whispers, “Hang in there, you’re doing just great.”

So when I’m finally done, they usher me out of the hellhole (just in time, because my rubbery lip is starting to tingle). I pay my $290 (yes I PAY for this insanity) and schedule my follow-up appointment where they will, I’m told, “deliver the crown,” and I think at $290 it better be jewel encrusted and come with a scepter.

I get home and eat mandarin oranges from a jar (because I don’t have any cheesecake). I eat them before my jaw thaws which is a bad idea because mandarin oranges feel like cheek and I run to the bathroom and see the inside of my mouth is bloody. Standing there in front of the mirror I wonder, what will give me comfort when I don’t have any teeth left?

My jaw aches a little, but for once there’s no pain in my neck. My neck, my bare neck. I’d already forgotten. No Babo. He’s still in the car, where I haphazardly threw him. So I run out to the car. He’s doing a handstand, tipped precariously against the passenger-side door, face smooshed into the seat. Some thanks, huh. I lean in, give his ugly arm a grateful squeeze and sit him comfortably, facing forward, so he can see.


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