With every twist of the small metal key, my upper jaw was slowly pushed further and further apart until my front teeth no longer overlapped, but distanced themselves so far from one another that I could slide three credit cards between them, like a renegade teenager attempting to swipe credit cards with Julia Roberts’ likeness in Pretty Woman. As might be suspected, braces weren't my ‘thing’ and when I heard the pop of my two front beaver teeth coming apart in my sophomore biology class, I knew things were going to get worse before they got better.
I had braces for three years and although I was lucky enough to not have to bear the burden of headgear like some, for me it was the still the worst sort of experience to endure. It only takes one time of getting punched in the face at metal show and having your braces thrust through your bottom lip to remind you that little brackets of metal aren't meant for the mouth. Braces didn’t have much impact on my flirting abilities though. With or without them I was terrible and girls were not into me. Finally, after nearly a thousand days of those little guys on my pearly whites, they came off and where once were a crooked set of chompers now were two stunning rows of teeth that even the best dentist would have to shield his or her eyes from due to pure beauty.
All good things must come to an end, though.
I later relocated to Wichita, Kansas for a new job at a church where I knew I was going to be desperately lonesome. So I preemptively bought a puppy from one of those stores in a mall where they keep all the puppies in the windows and you feel so sad for them that you are compelled to buy them. Anyway, I was sad and they looked sad, so I bought one and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. However, while my puppy was growing into adulthood she one day to hopped up on the toilet while I was at work and dug into my open toiletry bag that I left on the bathroom sink. As she rifled through my dull Schick razors and old spice deodorant, she conveniently found my retainers and thought they would make a wonderful addition to her chew toy collection. In case you didn't know, it's pretty difficult to keep teeth straight when the retainer takes on the form of my dog’s mouth and not my own.
Being a poor youth pastor living in a rundown brick apartment complex at the center of Kansas' biggest city didn't afford me the luxury of finding a new orthodontist to get a new retainer. So, in all of my 21-year-old wisdom, I thought I didn't need to figure out how to keep these teeth straight, they would just stay straight forever, because, why wouldn't they? It turns out, they didn't stay straight and actually moved pretty fast. They were like children that behave in class for hours patiently only to be told that recess time is upon them and then go crazy out of sorts. My mouth was like an elementary school playground and my teeth were second graders who were told playtime had begun.
Now, 6 years later, recess is over and my playground is in permanent disarray and it's kind of ok, at least for now. I wouldn't tell my parents that because they probably could have purchased another 1997 Honda Accord for the cost of those initial playground improvements. However, what I've learned is that life is still fine. Sure, in almost every photo I take it looks like I'm missing a tooth due to one of them deciding to move back a bit out of the spotlight. And, I’m reminded of the insolence of all the others every time I bite into a piece of cheese and see the distinct cutout mark they leave behind. Occasionally, it can be sort of depressing to think about, yet, when the sun sets and my head hits the pillow, I can rest assured knowing crooked teeth haven’t affected my job, my wife's opinion of me, or my relationship with God. If anything, they’ve reminded me that life is more than appearances, possessions, and consumptions. Here’s to crooked teeth and imperfections.
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Side note, I quite possibly might have the straightest teeth in London other than my wife.