It’s no secret that I have a lot of convictions about a lot of things, but if there’s one thing I feel really, really strongly about it’s that one should never, ever miss her six-month dental checkup. Like ever.
This is especially a huge bummer for me now that I pay for my own health insurance and dental coverage isn’t included, but lucky for me, I am fortunate enough to be able to afford my twice-yearly visits without much of an inconvenience. (Though I do refuse X-rays every time, which drives them bonkers.)
The thing is: I LOVE THE DENTIST. I’ve heard of people who are terrified by the experience, who have to take Valium just to get in the chair, and who seriously avoid it at all costs because they’re petrified of someone poking around in their mouth with metal objects. But I’m the exact opposite. I hop right in that chair and open my mouth as wide as possible.
“Get in there,” I’m thinking. “Let’s make those puppies shine.”
In my opinion, there’s nothing much better than that moment when you first walk out of the dentist’s office after a checkup and you run your tongue over your teeth and you can just feel how incredibly clean they are.
In fact, whenever I have my first iced tea or glass of red wine after a teeth cleaning, I always lament the moment. Like I’m about to ruin something so good. It’s kind of like the time when I was 16 and I was baptized Mormon and absolved of ALL of my sins and then I accidentally said “shit” less than four hours after the dunking and I immediately burst into tears. That’s right. I just compared teeth cleaning to my bizarre Mormon baptism.
Anyway. I’m obsessed with the dentist. And sure, maybe part of it is the fact that -- as my oldest brother pointed out -- we’ve been going to the same dentist for almost 30 years, which effectively makes our dentist the most stable male role model we’ve ever had. But I also like the free toothbrush and the Highlights magazines. And the fact that when I went in at the age of 18 with my tongue and lip pierced, all my dentist said was, “Well, I guess if you brush around them carefully, it will be okay,” even though you could tell he was totally freaking out about potential plaque build-up.
And there was also the time I got my wisdom teeth pulled and for whatever reason (a.k.a. because they’re awesome) they gave me morphine and laughing gas. When I woke up, I was in the best mood ever and looked at everyone eagerly asking, “Do I get a toy? Do I get a toy?”
They said yes and I proceeded to crawl on my hands and knees across the entire office to the “Treasure Chest” where I then spent 10 minutes carefully examining my choices while drooling on myself. I finally decided upon a beaded coin purse. I was in college. I ended up using it to hold my drugs.
Long story long: for years and years, my dentist has been a safe space. A place I enjoy going to. Something I look forward to. But lately, that’s all changed.
See, there’s a hygienist now who takes her job very seriously. Which, hey, I appreciate. Scrape that plaque off! Get in there, girl. Polish those teeth until they shine. You want to draw a little blood? Go for it. Just as long as I can see my reflection in those chompers when you’re finished.
Unfortunately, part of taking her job quite seriously suddenly involves lecturing me like I’m a 6-year-old. Last week, she seriously made me sit there while she gave me a lesson on how to floss. I’m 30-fucking-five for heaven’s sake. I know how to floss. I just don’t choose to do it on a daily basis. (I KNOW, I AM SO DISGUSTING. But I am also honest! I floss, just not like obsessively. Which makes no sense because how is it possible that I can diligently apply Latisse to my eyelids every single night but I can’t remember to shove some waxed string between my teeth? That being said, I know I’m not the only person who has this issue. There’s just something about flossing that feels tedious. Fact.)
But ignoring the fact that she gives me this flossing lesson at least once a year, the dental hygienist went through all of the steps with me. Dispensing the floss, gliding it between my teeth, getting it below the gumline, all of it. And I just sat there and took it because, well, her hands were in my mouth and there was floss between my teeth. Fine. But then. Then.
SHE GRADED ME ON MY BRUSHING AND FLOSSING.
Like, from out of nowhere. I didn’t ASK her how she felt about my dental hygiene. It wasn’t like I reached out and requested constructive criticism. Nope, she just busted out the grades as though it were mid-terms and this was my warning before my GPA dangerously plummeted due to slightly inflamed gums.
I just nodded kind of perplexed and annoyed, but quiet. After all, this is the woman who puts pointy metal objects in my mouth. I’m not going to talk back; I’m just gonna take it.
But as I walked out of the office after paying my bill, I was still fuming a little bit. I mean, who just doles out letter grades to random people when they’re least expecting it? Who ranks people on things just because they happen to feel like it?
Or at least I did that one (fine: three) time(s) I was having meaningless sex with some hot random dude. Truly, it wasn’t my fault. At first, the sex was so great that I felt like I should reward him for his performance.
“I’m giving that a solid B plus!” I announced when we were finished.
“B plus!” I said again, as though I were also about to high five him and hand him a gold star. (FINE: I actually high fived him. It’s disgusting, I know.)
And then the next time. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m gonna go with a strong A minus.”
“Are you GRADING me again?” he asked.
“Yeah, but I’m giving you an A minus, so I mean -- YOU’RE WELCOME.”
“Awesome,” he said as he hunted for his boxers.
Frankly, I thought it was a pretty sweet system and one I was excited to adopt into my every-day life. Guy performs well in bed; I give him a good grade. Who doesn’t like getting an A? Honestly, without them, I likely wouldn’t have worked nearly as hard in grad school. The high fives, I realized, could be weeded out, but there was just something satisfying about slapping hands after doling out the grades. (Also: I watch too many sports.)
Unfortunately, however, there was that night he picked me up at my house after I’d plowed through an obscene amount of wine. We drove over to his place, had sex, and then quickly got dressed so he could drive me back home. (And people say romance is dead.) As I hopped out of his truck in front of my house, I lingered and finally looked at him across the passenger seat.
“C.” I said. “Actually? C minus.”
And then I flipped my hair, shut the car door, and walked away.
And that was that.
So yeah, the dental hygienist grade-shamed me about my teeth, but I grade-shamed a random dude about his sexual skills. There’s definitely a lesson in this and I think it’s probably floss more and don’t have drunken sex with guys you just aren’t that into.
And for the record? I got an “A” for brushing and a “C” for flossing. And no, the “C” did not feel good. Not from either of them.
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