Thursday, December 22, 2005

Countdown goes on:

I'm just gonna keep updating it. 'Cause it's fun.

Things I have to do before my 7AM flight out of Newark Sunday morning:

1) Get my dress coat dry-cleaned. - DONE

2) Get to the post office. - DONE

3) Teeth - DONE

4) Transit Strike - OVER

5) Classes - DONE

6) Job interview - ROCKED IT. This was, I think, the best job interview I have ever had. Everything about this position, this company, and this project that I would be joining, not to mention the awesome team of people I met, is perfect for me. I was blown away, and I think they were too.

Now, I have to let this go. I'll hear what I hear, when I hear it.

7) Student clinic Friday night - DONE

8) Student Clinic Saturday morning. I AM SO fucking tired.

8.5) Shower, wash and dry hair, grab singing clothes, and head into the city.

9) Saturday afternoon, choir rehearsal at my church. Call is at 4PM.

10) Saturday evening, church service. The second wind should kick in about this time.

Certain things I want, in my early thirties, I know will pass away. Certain other things will stay with me forever. Certain people fulfill certain needs. I have a lot to think about.

Next week.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Still Procrastinating

I laughed my ass off at this.


I have to go buy my dad a Christmas present, a shirt or something, and the best place to do that is the Ubermall, which I abhor, and is probably going to be a nightmare today. Yeah, I could shop other places first. I know I'm going to wind up at the Ubermall. I want to spend as little time doing this as possible.

I aced my Kinesiology test. Happy Dance.

I got presents for my Mom, my Mom's best friend, and for Kristin and Lisa, who I might see if they can bop down from Chicago. Happy Dance.

As of yesterday, I'm going to be singing in my church's Christmas Eve service. I'm not doing a solo, I'm simply singing in the choir. I don't even have a choir solo. I'm nothing special. Which is what I'm used to being in that place. Which is a whole blog post in itself, which I might write one of these days. But the point is, this time, the choir is a bunch of good singers who I really liked rehearsing with last night, and we are being directed by someone I know very well and have a lot of respect for. Someone I wish I was closer to. Someone who, when she calls and asks me to be part of something, I can't turn down, regardless of my past hurts and bitterness. This service, this time, will be a positive experience. My Piano Man is accompanying the service. I'm anticipating a nice feeling that I don't have very often: being surrounded by good people, doing something I love, just for an hour, on Christmas Eve.

Happy Dance. I hope I will be posting about that.

Ever since I got my teeth filled, they actually hurt more. One of them is very sensitive to pressure, which the dentist told me was something I need to be alert to. It's a sign that there is a problem. Great. So I have no idea what he's going to do, but I hope I don't have to endure his re-doing those teeth, or god knows what else. Oh, and fuck you very much to the MTA, who decided to have their Transit Strike on the day of my next dental appointment rather than on Friday like they were supposed to. OF ALL THE DAYS THEY COULD DO IT THEY HAVE TO PICK TUESDAY. Like I'm not stressed out enough.

Angry Dance.

Yesterday, I went to G's gym and lifted weights, and worked up a sweat on an elliptical machine. I'm as much of a gym person as he is, but this is not the first time I've done this. I actually find myself loving how it feels to work out, and loving how I feel after a workout. Part of that whole health kick I've been on, I guess. So, yesterday, G made things official and negotiated a three-month limited membership for me. My schedule is so screwy that I'll likely only be able to go on weekends (PLEASE LET ME GET THAT JOB), so the Gym manager gave us a deal. So now I can pump up and lose that ass I've grown and be able to lift things heavier than a remote control and all that cool shit. Happy Dance.

I bought scallion potato bread yesterday. It's delish. Happy Dance.


Now I really have to dance off to the mall.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pre-Holiday Winter Musings...

I suppose it's natural, when the snow falls, and people stay indoors more, and the sun goes down at 5pm, for my head to rattle more loudly than usual with random thoughts of various subjects which normally I would avoid. There's simply less to distract me, in the Wintertime.

School is going very well. I have my second round of exams, starting last night, and I'm pretty sure I aced my Anatomy Test. Tonight is Kinesiology, and I know the material reasonably well. At the end of next week - Christmas Eve morning and the night before - I have to work in the student clinic, which is the most rewarding thing I've done in a long time.

School couldn't be much better, and thank God, since I'm so great about stressing the rest of my life. My classes have become my happy place.

My temp agency informed me yesterday, gently, that because of my inability to work in Westchester county past 4:30, they have been unable to place me in any jobs. My agent is a great gal, and has done all she can for me, but this is just how things are in Corporate Westchester County. Nobody cares that I'm willing to come in at 7AM if need be, and never take a lunch hour. Personally, I think it's because everyone in Westchester wants to show up as late as they can - they'd rather stay late in the evenings than get up earlier. I can relate to that... but I'm in night school. I worked maybe a total of two weeks over the last two months. I can't survive on this. I have to find work in Rockland County, or in North Jersey.

Tomorrow I'm going to approach a Staffing Agency in Rockland County. Wish me luck. Work is very hard to find here, and salaries are as tiny as the deep south. People live here, they don't work here.

That said, I am waiting to hear from a large company in New Jersey. If I were to get that job, I would be able to work very normal, even generous hours. My school is a mere few minutes from the company. The job they are looking to fill seems tailor-made for me, and my old boss from three years ago, who I got along famously with, is now a Vice President there. I should be a shoe-in... But they are balking at setting up an interview. I am trying to hold the "story of my life" feelings at bay, but it's hard.

I am out of money. I have no more savings left. I am still pretty deep in debt, and my unemployment checks are too small for me to meet my bare minimum of monthly expenses. I am completely living off of G right now, and I feel ashamed. I shouldn't feel ashamed, I should feel fortunate and grateful. And I do feel those things as well... but mostly, I'm ashamed. It's humilating, being a 34-year old adult with good education and solid work experience... and being out of work for over a year.

G, on the other hand, has just landed a new job in Manhattan, for a nice raise and some very sweet benefits. His career path is solid and straight.

I admit rather ruefully that I spent a certain amount of time poring over what he has that I don't. Well, for starters, a Master's Degree in Accounting, and a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor's degree. And he's bilingual. He said he hated accounting, and the only reason he got that Master's is that he knew what kind of job he'd like, and that employers were looking for people with Masters in Accounting. So he forked over two years of his life and a pile of cash, and bought himself the career ticket he needed. It worked. Couldn't I have done that as well?

Not really. I despise, loathe, and abhor everything to do with finance, bean-counting, and number-crunching, to the point where I exhibit physical symptoms of stress when I try to bite the bullet and do it anyway. I managed the financial operations of my first professional job in Manhattan, back in 1998. I didn't sleep well for a year. My then-fiancee was worried that I would be in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. I would stay until eight or nine at night re-doing calculations, getting different answers six or seven times, until I finally got the same answer twice. Math anxiety. And the knowledge that the Vice Presidents would blame me for any discrepancies. I quit that job after a year, to get married.

So. No Master's in Accounting for me. But... what am I good at?

I won't go into details here, but the sad truth is that my skills are not highly valued in today's marketplace. I don't bring in money, I help retain the customers you already have. That's not what companies are investing in. And Admin Assistant work? Admins are expected to do three times the work for half the pay than they were a few years ago. The post-post-911 economy at work again. And I'm willing to do that! But nobody is biting. I've lost track of how many resumes, how many interviews...

As far as my artistic talents go, I went to the auditions when I was young, and took the classes, and yadayadayada. There was always someone better than me, I suppose. I was never snapped up. Oh, my voice gets attention... but nobody wants to work with me, and for the life of me, nobody can tell me why. I always say that I haven't fallen in with the right bunch of fellas. Secretly I think that nowadays, nobody wants to share profits. Bands don't need vocalists to get gigs. I still think that if I played an instrument, I'd have been able to get work. Still could, even today. But right now, between school and job-hunting, I don't have time to learn an instrument. And I couldn't afford to buy one anyway. And now we're getting silly. Am I really talking about this!?

Every since Big Joe's funeral, I've been keenly aware that my parents and I just don't matter to most people in my Mom's side of the family. We just aren't important to them, now that Grandma is gone. People used to invite us places because they wanted to see Grandma and knew that we were a package deal. It's so clear. It kind of hurts... but frankly, I think this reveals more about them than it does about my Mom and I. Mom and I are not awful people. We're not irritating. We're just different, and in my family, they can't handle that. We're not Catholic. We're liberal. We're polite in spite of that, which puzzles them. We're pretty without wearing expensive clothes and big hairdos and fake nails. We don't wear much makeup, and we read. We read books, thick ones, and we don't watch much TV. When we go to the movies, it's never for the comedies. My family is nothing like us. And frankly... I'd rather be me. I didn't used to feel that way, but I do now.

I miss the family I used to have. I miss some friends that I lost touch with.

No real conclusions here, and that's life.

I have to go cram for my Kinesiology test now. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Quiz Time

The Sorcerer / Sorceress: In the middle ages
sorcerers were regarded highly as wise and as a
result they usually found themselves as the
king or queen's most trusted advisor. As a
sorceress you most likely are gifted with
artistic talent and are an exceptionally
perceptive, persuasive, and creative
individual. At your worst however you can be
manipulative, elitist, and have a high and
mighty sort of nature.

Who would you have been in the middle ages?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Never Mind

I deleted my last post because I felt like I was spitting into the wind.

I'll just say: Misogyny sucks. It's just another form of bigotry. Please, think hard about the things you say about women, and about the women in your life, before you post stuff on the internet. Think hard about the kind of person you want to be, and how you are representing yourself.

Whoever you are, wherever you are.

Much more to the point: Sexism. When's the last time you seriously thought about it?

Monday, December 12, 2005

MzOuiser 4, Fear 0

Today, I had four cavities filled on the right side of my mouth, two molars on top and two on the bottom. Three hours later, the novocaine started to wear off. Four hours later, I'm on Advil. The ache is pretty intense.

I felt no pain. The procedure was painless. Really, truly painless.

I feel like I have slain a demon.

My dentist helped to invent this device. There is a needle on the tip of it, but it's teeny, and he uses a topical anaesthetic gel that is freakishly strong. They used the gel on me a couple of weeks ago, when I had my first cleaning in seven years, and I was amazed at it's power. So with the gel knocking out the top layer of sensation, I didn't feel the needle go in. And with the device controlling the Novocaine delivery, a slow drip that takes about 15 seconds, I didn't feel the "pinch" of the fluid entering my gums. The soft tissues of my gum absorbed the Novocaine drop by drop, effortlessly. I felt my jaw go numb, but that's it.

When he started drilling, I actually laughed. It was a tension release. The worst part was the vibration of one of the other tools - the drill I didn't really feel. But he used something else that vibrated strongly, that he didn't seem to enjoy using any more than I enjoyed feeling it. It was LOUD, but again, not at all painful, just annoying. The cavity on the top back molar was pretty deep.

The bottom jaw is apparently difficult to isolate as far as nerve response goes, so the good doctor simply numbed the whole right side of my neck and face! At least, so it seemed. Basically, a nerve block. I have never felt anything quite so weird.

I shook and cried until the initial injections were finished. Nobody was fazed, nobody was irritated. All I heard was more "You're doing great, Ouiser!" And I was given the option to do the bottom jaw at a future date, if I decided that I'd had enough. I chose to do both top and bottom today. I chose to have my lower jaw injected and drilled, right then and there. I chose, and my choice was respected. And I know if I had chosen otherwise, it would have been alright too.

When I was done, I sat down in the waiting area for a few minutes, shaking. I cried a little, but it was from relief. The receptionists were happy to see me doing so well. I know how good it feels to have happy customers; I certainly was one today. Before I left, I made an appointment for next Tuesday to get the right side of my mouth done - two molars on top and bottom there as well.

I cannot describe the feeling of triumph that flooded through me when the dentist removed my paper bib and said I was all done, and shook my hand. I felt so powerful, that I had mastered this fear and regained control of myself and my health. I felt like I was glowing from top to toe. Everyone will be so proud of me, I thought to myself! Mom and Dad, and G, my friends, and somewhere, my grandparents.

Most of all, I'm relieved that it's half over, and that my fear is, for the most part, gone. Right now, what scares me most is how much it all costs. I have help with that, but I wish I had health insurance.

So. Time to step up that job search.

And I love that, four hours after I had my gums injected, that I have already moved on to the next thing in my life.

Blessed be.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Inspiration, Everlasting

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

John Lennon
10/9/40 - 12/8/80

We're still working on it, John.
I'll never give up.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Moon Blessings

This autumn has felt different to me in many ways. Usually autumn depresses me. It’s not warm enough, and I know it’s only going to get colder. The knowledge that the frozen, wet winter is coming casts a shadow over most Autumn festivities, and I’m never happy with what I’m wearing. I feel like a drab, dead leaf, cold, brittle and uninteresting.

But this year, it’s different. I don’t know if it’s because I’m living with G, after so many years of awful roommates. Maybe it’s because I’m not working full time at a job I hate, so I have the time and freedom to appreciate the smaller joys in life, like yoga classes and nice weather. Maybe it’s because, though I never thought I’d say this, my grandmothers have passed on, and I am no longer worried about them, dreading the day I will have to say goodbye. Most likely it’s a combination of all these things, and something inside me has shifted.

After my dentist appointment last week, I went to Kinesiology class. It’s my most difficult class, but I enjoy it. When I got home later that night, G was still up and awake. I gave him the run-down on my dental appointment, and he hugged and kissed me and told me he was proud of me. We stayed up a little later than usual, talking about things.

When he went to bed, I changed into some black clothes, and approached my altar. I had a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to pray for. I turned off all the lights in the apartment except the kitchen, which provided a soft, ambient glow. I lit my candle, started some incense, and refreshed the water in my bowl, which represents the ocean. I placed a stone of clear quartz in the water for clarity, and a yellow stone of unknown identity, for happiness, in the water. I lit my gold candle and held it high over my head, turning to the east, south, west and north, giving thanks to the elemental spirits for blessing the events in my life, and committing myself to further work in all areas. I stood in the center of the circle I had created and held my candle high above my head, praying for continued strength and guidance, and that I could continue to feel my power fully, and be able to tap into and use it when needed. Then I sat on the floor, placed the candle in front of me, and let my mind flow.

I must have sat there, giving thanks, conversing with the goddess, for a half an hour. It was warm, and quiet, and dark. I felt my feet grounding and connecting with the earth, and felt the air drifting through my ears and nose. I sensed the fire flicking in my candles, and felt my blood gently flowing through me with a rhythm not unlike waves at the beach.

I have a small deck of Goddess Cards that G bought me a while back. Every so often, I draw a few, and see what the girls have to say. Whoever I draw sits on my altar until the next divination, so I can be reminded of their messages. It had been a while since my last divination, so at some point during my ritual, I removed the cards from my altar and returned them to their deck. I shuffled them around and drew new cards:

Artemis, Guardian
Sarasvati, the Arts
Coventina, Purification
Ixchel, Medicine Woman
Sedna, Infinite Supply

Their messages, printed on the cards:

“You and your loved ones are safe and spiritually protected.”
“Express yourself through creative activities.”
“It is time for a cleansing detoxification of your body and mind.”
“You are a channel for divine healing power.”
“You are supplied for today and all of your tomorrows.”

I thought about my parents, and how I worry about them, Dad’s blood pressure, and Mom’s loneliness. I smiled, remembering their stories of the many activities they are involved in right now in their community, and how much fun they are having. I thought about my grandparents, and how safe and happy they must be now, together in the otherworld. My heart glowed, knowing I would see them again someday.

I thought of my writing, and this blog. I thought of my play, which I’ve re-worked, and am planning to share with a couple of people. I remembered my box of beads, and that Christmas is coming. I thought of the song I’d written in my sleep and then forgotten. I thought of many, many ways I could express myself creatively.

I thought of my diet, and how I’ve slacked during the last six months, and how awful my allergies were this past summer.

I thought of my very first shift in the student clinic, which I was scheduled the work the very next night.

Infinite supply… I realized this does not mean money, and my focus on money has been blinding me to sources of nourishment and paths to fulfillment.

I went back to my Goddess Deck. I dug through it until I found the card for Aphrodite. She has come up in the last three divinations I have performed, and her image has graced my altar for more months than I can remember. For some reason I just wanted to see her again. In this card’s depiction of her, she has long, wildly flowing red hair, pale skin, and wears elaborate green robes with ropes of pearls around her waist and shoulders. She holds a honeysuckle vine in her right hand (honeysuckles grow in the backyard of my house in Illinois) and a dove flutters around her (my friends from my old tree). This is, of course, a fantasy image of myself. She is shown with her arms extended and her back arched, dancing, eyes closed, with stars sparkling behind her. The caption says Inner Goddess and her message is “Awaken the goddess within you through dance, self-care, and appreciating your own divinity.”

I fastened this card to the wall above my altar before putting the deck away. I’d like Aphrodite to stick around for awhile, even though I’ve clearly gotten quite good at the practices she has taught me. I may not need her right now, but I really like her.

The next day, Friday, I had my first shift in the student clinic at my school. I had three clients, and performed three 60-minute full body massages. My clients were happy with my work, and said so on the evaluation forms they filled out before they left. They tipped me. I thought my heart would burst with love. Love for humanity, love for the generations of women in my family who passed their nurturing spirit onto me, and love for myself, for finally having the courage to do something so directly in line with my ideals for living, for taking the risks associated with pursuing this line of work. Thanks, Ixchel. The few dollars I slipped into my pocket were simply earthly representations of the real payment I received – the knowledge that I had made someone feel better, that I had helped to heal, even in the smallest of ways, and the awareness that this time next year, I would be taking my place in a community of healers whose motto is Do No Harm.

If only that were everyone’s motto.

Yesterday, G and I did some work on my car’s brakes, and we got some domestic work done, groceries and whatnot, just because we had the energy and the time.

This morning, we were rewarded for our hard work with a lovely blanket of snow, and the knowledge that we had no obligations to drive anywhere today. When the snow let up at about 10:15, G readied himself to finish the work on my car, and today, we are doing that together, in front of the building we live in together.

This week I will start a detox diet, and next weekend will do a one-day fast. It feels like a whole-body representation of getting my cavities filled. The December 15th Full Moon will appear right in the middle of all my dental work. Full Moons bring abundance, and signify projects coming to fruition and, well, fullness. I’m thinking a little “mid-term” celebration might be in order. I’ll still have one set of cavities to fill, and who knows what the periodontist might say. But getting that first set of fillings on the 12th is going to be a real accomplishment for me, and I plan to acknowledge it!

The next New Moon is December 30th, New Year’s Eve. I’ll be spending it in Maine with G and Trip and Slam. I’ll have a mouth full of healthy teeth and a de-toxed body. I’ll have completed two more clinic shifts by then, and another set of exams.

That champagne is going to taste very, very sweet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Teeth and Bridges

There was a New Moon last Thursday, December 1. New Moons symbolize New Beginnings. If you want to have the heavens on your side, so to speak, start a new venture on the day of the New Moon.

My dentist appointment last week was not fun, and it was not painless. However, it was not excruciating either. I went to the guy my old dentist had recommended several years ago, who specializes in freaked-out phobics like me. The staff was as compassionate and supportive as I had hoped they would be. I learned that in spite of my not having been to a dentist in seven years, and in spite of my lack of flossing, I still have excellent bones, and my teeth are not on the verge of falling out. Everyone was surprised. I smugly mentioned that when I buried my grandmothers last year, in their mid-90’s, they both had full sets of strong, healthy teeth. “You’re very lucky,” the dentist said. “Good genetics,” I agreed.

However, I do have cavities in my molars. Eight of them. One suspicion confirmed. And, yes, my sealants have long worn away. Two suspicions confirmed. So I have to go back there in a week and a half, and have one side of my mouth worked on. I image they’ll want to finish the second side a week or so later, but I haven’t made that appointment yet.

God fucking dammit. Eight fillings. I've never had a cavity in my life until now.

I’m ok with this. I’ll be scared when I get there, but for right now, I’m ok. My new dentist just happens to have helped to invent The Wand. He also uses a rather strong topical anesthetic, which I got to try during my cleaning last Thursday, and it does help. The worst part of anything for me has always been the injections. From everything I’ve read about this new-fangled technology, I won’t feel much, and once I’m past that, I should be fine. I’ll be ok.

Oh, that’s right, did I mention? My dentist appointment was December first, the day of the New Moon.

I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 14 years old. I had a lot of crappy experiences but I also had a lot of great ones, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. There have been times over the last two years that I’ve felt my face flush with pride, thinking of how I used to be, and how I worked through so much to be where and who I am now. Every now and then I look around me and hug myself, and think “You did it!” I may still want for a lot of things, I have come a long way. The belief in myself that I’ve gained and the knowledge that I’m not alone or accursed in some way… I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

I feel as though this dental enterprise is the last in a series of difficult crossings I’ve had to make in my life, in my overall journey toward wholeness and wellness. There will be other ones in the future, but this is the last of the big ones that have been around since childhood. The fact that I got through the cleaning – and the gum scraping – last Thursday just exhilarated me. The staff made me feel good about myself, congratulating me for coming in at all, and reassuring me that things would be easier from here on out, now that I was committing to regular care. The pain from the cleaning was minimal, and the tears I shed were of fear, not pain or anger. Yes, I cried in the hygienist’s chair. And she told me I was doing great, and if crying made me feel better, I should go ahead and do it.

Emotional responses to dental work can come from a variety of sources. I think mine have more to do with a loss of trust during my childhood. I cry because I am mourning that loss of safety – or, more specifically, the loss of that feeling of safety that children have when they know they are being taken care of. I never really got that feeling back in any reliable sense, until very, very recently. And visiting the dentist reminds me of how that sense was destroyed. So this is my story, and this is my journey. And now, after I’ve taken care of myself in this very frightening but very important way, the story will end.

There is actually more going on than my cavities. I’ve been referred to a specialist for my receding gum problem. I have to see a periodontist, and he will most likely recommend surgery. They will take a small flap of skin from either my palate or a fleshy area of my gums, and graft it onto the receded part of my gumline. A skin graft for my receding gums!

I know, this sounds extreme. I should be panicked! But I’m not because… G has had this done. (Have I ever mentioned I'm living with a dentist's son?) I noticed the spot on his gum line once and asked him about it, and he told me the whole story. Apparently this isn’t the most uncommon procedure in the world. Not only that, G had his done eleven years ago – he pointed out that there have been advances since then, and it might be even easier for me than it was for him. He also made a point of telling me that it wasn’t really all that bad when he had it done.

Well, if he can do it, I can too.

So I have a long road ahead of me. Eight fillings and a likely gum graft lie in my future. G has offered to pay for my fillings, since I have no health insurance. I’m going to take him up on it. To be honest, I don’t have much choice. And he is so proud of me for doing this.

And I’m not really scared. Although I have to laugh about the fact that telling my Temp Agency and my School that I might need a few days off here and there to have this done is actually stressing me more than the thought of the procedure. Typical Virgo.

I couldn’t have picked a better time to have this appointment. I’m not even halfway over the bridge yet, but there’s no turning back at this point. Just knowing I’ll get through it and be fine and healthier and stronger for the effort is it’s own reward. Knowing that I’m in charge this time is the most triumphant part of all.

Love it, Love it, Love it

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Written May 4, 2005

I have a history of being afraid of dental work. I went through a lot of it as a kid, and I never really understood why I needed it until it was all over. All I knew was that this really nice guy (at least he seemed so nice) would torture me about once a month for most of my childhood. I had two sets of braces, a palate expander, and had to wear a headgear for a number of years.

Oddly, the headgear was not the worst part for me. Those things are awful for a lot of kids because they get made fun of for it. But not me. I was already a geek, and the kids had plenty of other things to make fun of me for, so the headgear was pretty much ignored.

The worst part for me was the palate expander. This was a torture device. It's in two pieces, with gears in the middle. It is bonded to your upper molars, and stretches across your upper palate. Every evening, you put a key-like thingy into it, and it pushes the two part device slightly wider in your mouth. You are literally stretching your upper jaws apart day by day, a millimeter or so at a time.

The pain was excruciating. I remember every night I'd get sick stomachs and could barely eat dinner, anticipating it. I'd cry when 9:00 came around, and it was time. My parents would sit on the couch with me and hold me, trying to be supportive, and I'd subject myself to the torture. Often I pushed the key back myself, insisting on at least this measure of control over my fate. It created headaches, which is probably why we did it at bedtime, so I could take Tylenol and sleep them off.

My mother wasn't very good at this. It probably hurt her immensely to see me in such pain, when I was in elementary school, maybe about 9 years old. She wasn't able to calm me down or make the hurt go away, and this probably made her feel inadequate. Maybe she felt ashamed or angry at herself. Maybe that's why sometimes she would get up, disgusted with me, tell me to stop being such a damn baby, scream something like "It's for your own good!" and storm out of the living room, disappearing into the back of the house, where I'd later on hear my parents arguing about me, my mother's voice screaming about "that damn kid acts like we're torturing her."

But Mom, you all were torturing me. At nine, I was incapable of understanding why straight teeth was worth all this. I knew nobody had ever died from an overbite. After years of being picked on in school, my self-esteem was already bad enough that I knew I'd never been or ever would be really pretty anyway. It just hurt so badly, and nobody could give me a good enough reason why I had to endure this. Just to be a little more normal looking? Are they kidding? I'd still have a big runny nose and be socially awkward. This wouldn't make me better at sports or snappy comebacks in the cafeteria. The responsible adults who controlled my life had no idea what I really needed... at least, so I thought... and didn't care to hear me. They dismissed my expressed concerns, and decided this mouth torture was most important. This was more than torture - it was betrayal.

I wore that expander for the better part of a year.

At some point The Device was removed, and I just had plain old braces. Getting them put on wasn't comfortable either. My visits to the orthodontist were relatively minor after that, just random cleanings, which didn't hurt. Sometimes the tartar scrapings got out of hand, but at least they were over quickly. Eventually, one blessed day, the braces came off. I was 17 years old, and I didn't give a damn what I looked like. I just wanted to walk out of that Chamber of Horrors and never, ever come back again.

I was, however, horrified to learn that when the braces came off, the little wire behind my 4 bottom front teeth was left in place... and would never be removed.

How could they do this to me? They didn't understand how psychologically scarred I was, obviously. I needed to have every trace of dental appliances, every last bit of evidence of the years of torture fucking REMOVED from my maligned mouth. I desperately needed to put this behind me... but no. I had to see that wire every day, for the rest of my life, and be reminded. Those sadistic fucks.

Everything dental, in my mind, became associated with people who I am supposed to trust, who claim to care about me, even love me, who get me to relax, let down my guard, and allow myself to be vulnerable, and then proceed to inflict horrific pain on me for hours, showing contempt for me when I cry. It was the ultimate destruction of trust, and it happened when I was a pretty young kid. I would never really trust a medical professional again, and it wasn't so great for my relationship with my parents either. Even the friendly nurses had lied to me, telling me in my most vulnerable early teen years, when I emerged crying into the waiting room, how worth it would be when it was all over, when I had a beautiful smile and all the boys wanted to take me to prom. You don't tell a 13-year-old that. You just don't do it.

I think the most insidious tactic they pulled with me was to tell me that my smile would be so pretty, that I'd get cast in all those Ingenue roles I dreamed of playing in the local community theatre. Boy, they really knew how to push my buttons. They told me I'd never make it to Hollywood to be a star if I didn't submit, because movie stars all have perfect smiles. As a young artsy geek, theatre was all that mattered to me, and I was threatened with the loss of what few dreams I had.

Of course, I never got cast anyway. I was never popular with boys or girls. My life was just as shitty as it had ever been. I don't think I really ever believed that dental work would get me cast, or a boyfriend, but I couldn't stand that those people thought so little of fucking with my head like that.

An even deeper level of cold, hard, black realization came when, as I got older, it became clear that even if I had known everyone was just storying me to buy my compliance, I still wouldn't have had a choice. I was a kid. They would have strapped me to the chair. My consent was meaningless. They fucked with my head not out of concern for me, but because they thought it might make their jobs easier. Their days easier. Their lives easier.

I wonder if I would have been better off strapped to a chair screaming. At least then I would have known who cared about me and who didn't.

Today, I am 33 years old, and haven't been to a dentist in over five years. Likely longer. I've forgotten when I last visited.

I have post-traumatic stress. If I'm watching TV, and there is a scene involving dental issues in any way, my teeth ache. I tried once to go to a dentist in New York City, and simply filling out the intake forms caused such an anxiety storm that I left the office and never went back. They left a message a day later, asking in an irritated tone why I had disappeared. I never called them back. I don't remember what year that was.

During the years I was married, my old dentist back home, who knew me intimately, recommended someone in the city who specialized in people like me. I took me a great deal of courage to call them, and a number of months, but I finally did, and they were wonderful on the phone. They sent me a brochure. I almost made an appointment, but my husband screamed at me not to go, because they weren't in our health insurance plan. Of course I bowed to his will. I may never forgive him for that.

My gums have receeded so much that I can't drink from a cup with ice in it without discomfort. I brush regularly and use antibacterial mouthwash, but flossing has induced nausea on many occasions. I don't know why I get nauseated by flossing, but I do, and my teeth are suffering for it. I've bought every kind of floss on the market. I just can't do it. I watched my Mom floss recently, trying to see how she does it, and I almost threw up. She was disgusted with me. My dad says I need counseling for this. He's right. I've got an emotional blockage that's going to cost me my teeth.

Just a few days ago I noticed that the molar on the lower left side, second from the back, is ultra-sensitive at the gumline. I looked at it, and the gum there has receeded even more. I'm scared.

I'm really scared. I'm crying right now, typing this.

When I was 15, after an overly-enthusiastic dental assistant had given me a tartar-scraping, I told my mother that nothing was worth this, that I didn't care if I never had a date in my life and never got cast onstage ever again. I was willing to sell out every dream a teenaged girl dreams, just to be able to wake up one morning and know that I'd never have to dread seeing the word "Orthodontist" on the calendar again, counting down the days in mounting terror.

Now, at 33... I am sure that I will have to go back.

Goddess, help me. I may as well be nine years old again. I just want someone to hold my hand.