When I was six years old, I had to wear braces for three years.
I had (as I remember) a pretty intense underbite.
It was okay, though, partly because my jutting-out lower jaw made me look really tough
but mostly because I LOVED having braces.
Seriously – I loved them.
Wearing braces meant that I constantly had something to run my tongue over when I was really focused on a drawing.
It meant that I had something to complain about with the older kids at my school. We’d commiserate about how terrible having braces was – and since I was the youngest, it meant my plight was the worst, so I commanded a certain amount of respect in those circles.
But I loved having braces the most because I was able to change the color of the rubber bands to go along with every holiday.
The seasonal braces really fit with the tough-guy image I’d been cultivating!
I’d have orange and black bands for Halloween green and red ones for Christmas, red and pink for Valentines day, green and white for St. Patrick’s day, and red white and blue on Independence day!
What can I say? I looked great.
I have vivid memories of all of this. I’d go so far to say that these years with braces defined my childhood and made me who I am today (still extremely fashionable and tough, with a deep appreciation for dentists and their craft).
A couple years ago, I had to go to a different dentist – my parents changed their insurance, so I was no longer able to see the dentist from my youth. This new dentist was really young, and there weren’t pillows embroidered with puns about teeth (“The Tooth Will Set You Free!”) strewn about his office like I was used to, so I knew he had to be some kind of fraud.
He introduced himself, gave me a baggie with a toothbrush in it (no stickers – cheap.) and sat down to go over my orthodontic history with me.
“So,” he said, looking at my file. “I see you’ve already had braces.”
“Yeah.” I replied. “I had them for three years – from when I was six years old until I was nine.”
He looked at me strangely. “Are you sure?”
Really? Was I sure? Me, the child queen of orthodontics? Me, who underwent hours of mildly uncomfortable band replacements several times a year in order to have seasonally festive mouth decor?
Was I sure?
I laughed in his face, and told him everything.
He went to his office to call my old orthodontist to clear everything up and fix the mistake he’d clearly made. When he finally returned, I sat, poised on that dental chair like it was a throne. I was ready for groveling.
“Well, Olivia – it seems like you’ve confused yourself somehow. You only wore braces for three months.”
No. Nonsense. Nope.
No no no no NO.
He put me on the phone with my old orthodontist, and I still couldn’t believe it.
I called my dad, and I still couldn’t believe it.
Finally, my mother came in and and confirmed the horrible truth:
I’d imagined all those years – those sweet, defining years with that comforting metal-and-rubber embrace.
They never happened. Apparently I’d only ever had the bands changed once after pleading with my orthodontist about it: red and green, for Christmas. And when I came in to get my braces off, my orthodontist remembers me saying “Well, that was a long three years, but really worth it all!”, but she didn’t say anything because she always thought of me as being strange and precocious and I’d said much odder things to her over the years.
What else have I completely fabricated in my mind and then accepted as truth? God! What is real and what isn’t?