When I was seven the dentist told my mother that I had a jaw deformity. To hear the dentist describe it, I would be hideous and unlovable and it would barely function as a working jaw until it was fixed. And there were only two choices:
Have it fixed right now; immediately (obviously the only choice for a parent that actually, you know, cared about their child)
Or wait until I was in my late teens to have my jaw broken and reset and wired shut. This would be excruciatingly painful and possibly kill me. Also, it would definitely cause me to not get a date for the prom.
Which wound up actually happening; okay that dentist may have been psychic.
They chose the immediate, right away option. This involved a complicated permanent retainer that was cemented into the roof of my mouth. I am not exaggerating when I say the cement used in that procedure tastes exactly like a garbage truck full of wet, hot, decomposing garbage.
And yes, I do know how that tastes, now. Once, while on the back of an ex’s motorcycle, a garbage truck pulled out in front of us and I got a delicious face full of garbage water. And the taste was spot on.
Once the retainer was in my mouth, the dentist demonstrated how to use it properly. Every morning and every night, one of my parents had to take this little key, stick their entire adult sized hand into my seven year old sized mouth, and tighten the retainer.
This was even less fun than it sounds. And it was unbelievably painful which was not disclosed to me during the whole decision making process. Probably because my dentist was a sadist that enjoyed torturing little girls and their parents in painful and humiliating rituals.
Maybe he was trying to instill in me a healthy fear of dentists. I don’t know. If so, it didn’t work. Dentists aren’t even on a top 20 list of things I am afraid of. I’m afraid of things like zombies and emotions and becoming a real life Cassandra. I don’t have time to be afraid of things as mundane as the dentist.
Also, the retainer was not flush with the roof of my mouth. There was a half inch gap between the retainer and my mouth. Did I mention that it was permanent and cemented up there? This meant that it was just big enough to trap food, but I was not able to get the food out.
I eventually found that if I held my mouth just right, I could create a suction that would suck the food out of this gap and into my mouth to be chewed up and swallowed with the rest of my meal. The noise this caused was halfway between slurping soup and sucking a straw in an empty drink. And just as loud.
It was classy.
This evil retainer tightening ritual went on every morning and every night for about a year. It brought tears to my eyes and caused me to lose my appetite most of the time as my mouth and jaw were in near constant pain.
One day, the dentist saw that I had become desensitized to the pain and social rejection he was causing me. And he decided to remove the permanent retainer. After another bout with the delicious taste of garbage they were off.
And then it was time for the removable retainer. Mine was purple and glittery. Because pretty is important when pulling something coated in long strings of saliva from your mouth. (I am a particularly spitty person too).
It came in it’s own little pink case that looked like something you would keep tampons in and smelled like wet dog and halitosis.
And also, the braces. But that is a story for another time.
Update: I just looked it up and this is called a palate expander. Ew. I must have blocked that out. Turns out they were expanding my jaw and not tightening it. Either way. It still hurt like a motherfucker.