"Hey Marci, would you want to go out sometime?"
I didn't see the Facebook message until a couple days after it was sent by a guy named Danny. I was pretty sure we'd matched on Tinder months ago, but my friend-of-a-friend access to his profile gave me more insight than a dating app could; among other things, I could see that he's an artist, that we have two mutual friends (both of whom I trust), and that he's really cute.
Why the hell not? I thought.
I replied to Danny with an apology for not seeing his message sooner. We chatted for a while, and he easily passed the witty-banter test. Eventually, the conversation came back around to "going out sometime" -- but "sometime," he explained, couldn't be in the next few days.
"It has to be in a week or two," he said. "I'm not playing hard to get. It's just that I got hit by a car and have to get my face fixed first."
I immediately assumed he'd been hit by the car in the couple of days since he had asked me out, and I asked him if he was OK. It turns out, however, that the accident happened months ago; he'd been jumping through hoops trying to get his three top front teeth replaced, and he still didn't have a set date for a dental procedure.
"I would never judge you for your temporary lack of teeth," I told him.
"Wait till you see me in person," he replied. And with that, we made plans for a Sunday night.
I met Danny at a bar in his neighborhood; he'd worked a double shift at a midtown restaurant, and I thought I'd save him another lengthy subway ride. My first impression of him was that he's very handsome and smelled really good.
In fact, it wasn't until a few sentences into our conversation that I even remembered he was missing teeth. His speech was barely impeded, and his smile was still warm despite the hole in the middle. I realized his tooth situation was barely registering in my brain -- the first of several realizations I had that night.
1. Regrettably, I make assumptions about people missing teeth.
Even though it didn't diminish Danny's attractiveness, there were moments throughout the night where I would briefly notice that his central teeth were absent. And for a split second, it changed the sum of his face parts in a way that reminded me, had he not told me about his ordeal and he just showed up toothless, that I'd probably be making subconscious judgments and assumptions.
There's a stigma attached to missing teeth, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has unwittingly prejudged someone with a tooth or three out of place. Even though I've seen my own father missing a tooth after one of his dental implants fell out, I've caught myself attributing a stranger's missing teeth to poor hygiene or poverty, neither of which should necessarily be held against the mouth's owner; and it rarely occurs to me that it could be the result of an accident, like in Danny's case, because I've long assumed missing and cracked teeth can be fixed within days, if not hours, of a mishap.
Which brings me to my next realization of the night...
2. Getting your teeth fixed is a goddamn ordeal.
I'm embarrassed that I didn't know just how difficult it can be to get missing teeth replaced. I worked for years at a magazine that specialized in cosmetic dentistry, and yet, I never imagined that it could take months to get even a temporary solution.
Danny (who gave me the OK to write about all of this, by the way) explained to me that he was hit by a cab as he was crossing the street. He had the right of way, but the driver rammed into him, forcing him to fall face-first into the pavement. There were witnesses, but the police apparently didn't interview anyone but Danny and the driver, who, of course, said Danny came out of nowhere. So in addition to the driver lying in his statement, there are lawyers who specialize in making it seem like it was the cab-accident victim's fault, and Danny has been told by a couple of personal injury attorneys that he doesn't have a very strong case. (I know -- I don't get it, either.)
But that's just the beginning. Even if there was settlement money coming his way, dentists and oral surgeons have been reluctant to start working on Danny's teeth. First, the bones of his upper jaw had to heal -- not a quick process. But even now, months later, the handful of professionals he's gone to have wanted nothing to do with the precarious situation going on in his mouth. I can't imagine how frustrating that is.
3. Hourly motels don't take credit cards.
The night was going really well, and we were hoping to hang out at his place after playing a little pinball at the bar, but he lost both his phone battery and the electronic key that would get him into his building's lobby. It was 2 a.m. and raining at this point, and he shamefully buzzed his apartment, hoping a roommate might still be awake. No response.
"Any chance we could crash at your place?" he asked.
"Ugh, it's such a mess," I said. "Should we see if there are any cheap motels in the area?" You know, because I'm a genius, and I wasn't going to leave the guy hanging.
I used my iPhone to find relatively affordable lodging, and we hopped in a cab for a five-minute ride to what we were hoping would be a safe place to sleep for the next few hours. Our hopes were dashed when, upon entering, we saw that the window between us and the receptionist was actually a wall with tiny holes in it -- only sound could pass through.
"Uh... do you have any open rooms?" I muttered.
"$45 for two hours," the voice behind the perforated wall replied.
"What about for the whole night?" Danny asked.
"You want it for the whole night?" the voice said, sounding genuinely surprised that anyone would ask for such a thing. "That's $130."
"How do I give you my credit card?" I said, looking at the partition with increasing unease.
"Cash only," the voice replied.
"OK, we'll be right back," Danny said, implying that we'd go to an ATM.
We got a cab and went back to my place instead.
4. No one should wait until they look a certain way to do what they want.
This is, by far, the most important thing I learned the other night.
How many times have I thought, I'll do this or that when I lose 20 pounds or I don't look the part? I'll tell you how many times: MANY TIMES.
I've chronically jumped to the conclusion that something I perceive as undesirable about my appearance not only would hold me back from enjoying an experience, but should, as if I don't deserve to take the chance of having a good time until I look a certain way.
That's bullshit, and Danny's willingness to ask me out and meet up despite admitted self-consciousness about his missing teeth made that clear. We ended up having a great time, me with weight to lose and him with teeth to gain.
5. You can still be a good kisser if you're missing teeth.
Just sayin'. I'd go out with him again if he asked, regardless of the tooth situation.
That said, if anyone can help this guy get some new teeth, hit me up.