A little more, à propos or at least because of the poverty post.
While I think my mother has actually been there, I have never been in a position where I didn’t have someone I could ask for help with money, if I really needed it. So no, I haven’t been that poor that I had to juggle bills in a big way, really; I have had to explain to a creditor that I needed to buy a bus pass to go to work so I could earn the money to pay them (and rent, and food), though, and that giving them my bus pass money wasn’t really a good idea.
I also used to smoke, and I used to buy cigarettes before food, of course. If you have smokes, you don’t need as much food. And if you could go into the weekend with a full deck of smokes and $20, life was good. Mind you, in the mid-1980s, $20 went a lot further than it does now. In any case, I have sympathy for people who smoke. Actually I have a lot more sympathy for people who smoke than I do for the holier-than-thou people who tend to be the ones criticizing smokers. (Just please don’t smoke where it’s going to come into my open windows, because that pisses me off.)
I also spent the first 20-something–actually, no: my baby teeth were perfectly normal–spent some 15-20 years of my life with crooked teeth, and with discoloration on the front two because I’d had tetracycline as an infant. The tetracycline was a last resort: they knew it could have bad effects on future teeth, but I guess I was right on the brink. So I survived, and then had these striped two front teeth, and then surrounding ones were crooked. (Four molars have also been problematic: two developed abcesses and are gone, one is filled within an inch of its life, and one is crowned.) Some time in my early teens, I had a veneer put on the two front teeth, as a cheaper alternative to caps. (I also had a stomach-churning fear of dentists, so I always wanted to spend as little time in the chair as possible; my parents I think could not have afforded braces, but I also didn’t want years of braces, so that made it easy not to get them.)
While the veneers were great, they were not without pitfalls. I remember missing someone’s birthday party once because the veneer fell off, and I was far too self-conscious to go out with the raw surface behind showing.
From time to time, a veneer would fall off, break off, whatever. A Montréal dentist replaced one with one that didn’t match the one next to it: a little thinner, a little less long. I developed a fear of biting apples, corn on the cob, ribs, crispy baguettes…you might laugh, but I lost one with a baguette. Even weirder, I lost one with a goddam doughnut.
Eventually, I was earning enough money to spend $15,000 to get actual crowns put in (six across and one in the back). I managed to not get root canals for the six front teeth; my dentist (head of the cosmetic dentistry branch of the ADA or something similarly impressive) managed to give me nearly normal teeth by building some up in the front and reducing others, and making all the colours match (this was huge for me: veneers are a little hit and miss, and when replaced separately…). The only thing he didn’t manage was to make the two front teeth actually match each other: that nameless Montréal dentist’s decision to make a smaller replacement has been semi-permanently in place ever since.
That all happened about 20 years ago. It was HUGE for me. When I was in high school and college, I wanted to be in the movies (I was in a performing arts school, so it’s not quite as stupid wishful thinking as it sounds: I acted and I sang). But I had these teeth, and massive self-confidence issues. I think if I’d managed the fancy teeth when I was still in high school, things could have turned out pretty differently.
Regardless, it’s a huge change; you feel completely different when you’re able to smile without measuring how much you open your lips, or forget and then close it right away, or not constantly gauge how people are reacting to it. And they do, they really do. Crooked teeth are such an incredible class marker in the US. I went to a private school, and you could tell the scholarship kids basically by their lack of orthodontia. I don’t know that I was aware of it in those terms at the time, but later, yes.
I think Dr Safavi gave me a life of 7-10 years on the crowns. I’ve been on borrowed time ever since. Even though I have some dental coverage through work, I still would be on the hook for a fair amount of $$ if I have to replace them. And more than likely would have to get a few root canals. You’d think I’d floss more often!
Anyway, I guess I have three major nightmare themes: one is the house catching fire; another is the random crime-getting shot-running away-flying one; and the last one is the falling in the street and breaking my teeth on the curb or something one. Or sometimes it’s the one where all the caps spontaneously fall off and I’m left with the little pointy stubs like those tribes who file their teeth down. Which are basically all that I have left of those six across.
So KillerMartinis’ missing teeth situation, in the parlance of the day, “resonated” with me. And tweeting this morning with Erin Kissane about it, she said the teeth aspect dispelled her “default skepticism” and it likewise did with me. When I click to chip in to one of these things from some stranger on the internet, I try to stop for a minute and ask myself whether it’s bona fide, and then whether, if it’s shown to be a fake, I will begrudge my few bucks. And I decided that no, I don’t mind helping this woman fix her teeth and get herself back on track. If it’s a total scam then I’ve just popped a few dollars in the tip jar for a pretty good performance, and that’s OK, too, I guess.
But what is UP with the people who think that people without money shouldn’t be able to string a series of words together coherently? “You can’t be poor, you write too well.” What? Wealth is no sign of intelligence or ability to string words together coherently; poverty is no sign of stupidity or ignorance. Wealth gives massively greater opportunities to gain knowledge, I guess that’s the main difference. But the library is usually free, if you live near one. Now there’s a whole wide internet out there, with countless libraries of information waiting to be found. Yet people with no intellectual curiosity get mad because someone they consider below them properly uses a lot of fancy words? Words are free, motherfuckers. I can learn as many of them as I want to. So can anyone.