As a general rule, I'm pretty quick to confess my many mess-ups, mishaps, quirks and idiosyncrasies. Laugh with me, laugh at me--I don't care. It just feels good to laugh. That said, I've felt reluctant to share my most recent embarrassing moment, even though Jason's been begging me to blog about it. Not only is it really embarrassing, as in honey-I'm-sorry-but-we-have-to-move-because-I-can-longer-show-my-face-in-public humiliation, but it means I have to reveal one of my darkest secrets:
I have a pathological fear of dentists.
Seriously. I'm neurotic. I think my terror may be connected to having the anaesthesia wear off early when my wisdom teeth were taken out at a dental school. Or perhaps my psyche was damaged when my first cavities were filled immediately following my first gynecological appointment. (Two unenviable pre-marital tasks before being booted off my parents' insurance.) Jason, however, is convinced that my angst stems from singing about a sadistic dentist during a high school production of "Little Shop of Horrors."
No matter what the cause, I absolutely dread going to the dentist. After an appointment a few months ago, I told the receptionist that I'd rather go through labor than sit in a dental chair. She thought I was joking, but I was dead serious. The papery bibs, the dehumanizing masks, the harsh noise, the sharp instruments, the acrid smell of fluoride--it's enough to make my heart race just thinking about it. All of which probably explains why my girls never had a proper dental appointment-- until Tuesday.
Even though I knew that a check-up was long overdue, I kept procrastinating because I simply couldn't stomach the thought of visiting the dentist any more than absolutely necessary for human survival. Finally, I lighted upon a solution: my husband! If I scheduled the appointments far enough in advance, Jason could take the girls for me. All went well with my scheme until Monday when Jason learned of an unexpected, last minute business trip to Salt Lake City. I was trapped.
Now, at this point in the story you have to understand that Jason and I go to separate dentists. Jason goes to a super nice dentist who lives up the street and has an office around the corner. A family man, this dentist is regularly seen strolling with his wife and their dog. He and Jason shared a tent during a scout campout last year. On Sundays, I sing with this dentist in our church choir and teach his daughter in Young Womens.
Even though our neighborhood dentist is both skilled and friendly, I, on the other hand, choose to drive across town to a dentist where I can slip by incognito. His brusque, somewhat cold demeanor is more congruous with my imaginations of how a proper dentist should act. Moreover, I can suffer through the appointment privately and leave it all behind me, at least for another six months. To me, baring your dirty teeth is like baring your dirty underwear. The last thing I want is for someone I respect to get stuck examining my nasty plaque. When I go to church on Sunday, I have plenty to feel guilty about without seeing my dentist at the church organ. Every note seems to ring, "Repent and floss much more."
So, you can imagine my horror when I realized that I not only had to take my kids to the dentist, but to the dentist who plays the piano for them in Sunday School. I was mortified. I had nightmares. (Seriously, I really did.) I nearly canceled the appointments all together, but finally decided that was ridiculous. My personal neuroses had interfered with the oral health of my children long enough. I was a big girl, and I could handle this. We went to the appointment.
From the moment we got in the door, I felt anxious. The girls, on the other hand, were amazing--chipper and excited. When the hygienist came out and asked who wanted to go first, Talia raised her hand and squealed "Me, me, me!" Mercifully, I was not asked to accompany her back to the chair. Even in the waiting room, I was uptight and distracted. I tried to read a few magazine articles, but soon found myself pacing. Nothing on TV could hold my interest. Eli's chatter went unnoticed. Time crawled. After what seemed like an eternity, Talia and Brooklyn traded places. Eager to escape the office for a few minutes, I drove Talia up the road and dropped her off at preschool. When I got back, I overheard a few snippits of conversation. "Cavities." "Both girls." "Need filled."
My heart raced. My stomach sank. A lump formed in my throat. Despite my best efforts to keep my composure, I knew I was losing the battle. You see, it's one thing to let your morbid fear of dentists rot your own teeth. It's quite another to allow your psychosis to affect your children. And, let's face it--when you're the Mom, it's always your fault.
I was a horrible mother. My kids' teeth were rotting because of me. The whole world knew. And worst of all, we would have to go back to the dentist.
When the hygienist finally came out to say that the dentist was ready to speak with me, I knew I couldn't handle it. Like a crazy woman, I begged them to please just give me the paperwork and let me go. My husband would call, they could give him the full report, schedule any return appointments, whatever. (Even in my disheveled state, I knew one thing quite clearly--I wouldn't be back.) As for the dentist, I asked them to please send my kindest regards and apologies. I'd talk to him in church on Sunday.
And with that, I gathered up my son, my purse, a few tattered shreds of dignity, and fled right out the front door. But as I was loading Eli into his car seat, the receptionist came flying after me. Couldn't I come in for just a second? The dentist at least wanted to say hello. Trailing behind this woman was something I had forgotten.
I completely forgot my daughter. In my neurotic attempt to flee the office as fast as humanly possible, I left her sitting in the dentist's chair. While I presume that I would have noticed her absence soon (if not, I suppose she could have walked home), my neglect is concrete evidence: when it comes to dentists, I absolutely cannot be trusted.
And so, face burning with shame, I slunk back into the office for several minutes of the world's most awkward small talk. Muttering incoherently about dental offices and dirty underwear (why would I say that!), I foggily tried to answer questions about choir and plans for Christmas. Meanwhile, my brain is misfiring, trying to grasp how this nice, friendly man in front of me can be the mean, awful dentist with the terrible dental report for my children. Finally, in a moment of mercy, Kevin (no longer a dentist) remarked, "You can't even concentrate in here, can you?"
And with that, I was dismissed. Let go. Freed from the dental prison. This time, I carefully gathered up all my children, sank into the car, and realized there is only one option. We have to move.
Anybody have a spare basement?