Classmates often called me Brace Face or Tin Grin. Actually, the original taunt was a little longer. It was BraceFaceTinGrinHairyHairyFatStuff. You’d think that high school seniors would have learned to elevate their diction by then, but taunts were not a by-product of elementary school playgrounds only.
The nicknames weren’t even accurate because I had white, ceramic brackets, a fad of the early 80’s. Orthodontists returned to metal brackets when they realized that the kids who didn’t brush their teeth ended up with spaghetti-tinged brackets. But, Brace Face was tolerable and Tin Grin could be kinda’ sorta’ cute. But the Hairy Hairy Fat Stuff was overboard.
I had wanted braces, though, because I had horribly crooked teeth. In fifth grade, my dentist pulled four teeth and cemented a retainer on the inside of my bottom teeth. His plan was to make enough room for my adult teeth. It didn’t work. My eye-teeth lodged half-way down making me self-conscious about smiling.
Sometimes I covered my teeth with my hand when I smiled.
Like that helped.
By high school, I’d mastered the art of half-smiling to cover my teeth with my lips.
My orthodontist called them “prominent eye-teeth.” He pulled four more teeth and charged my parents $55 a month for two years for braces. I’m still so grateful to my parents for investing so much money in my smile.
The nearest orthodontist was 114 miles away in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This was during the “55 Saves Lives” campaign, so it took over two hours to drive. I could miss an entire day of school on the day of my appointment. My parents worried about me driving in a big city with traffic lights and turning lanes, since Langdon only had a four-way stop on Main Street. I could bring a friend along, and they also received an excused absence from the attendance office.
My parents can’t ground me anymore, so I’ll admit they should’ve been more concerned about my friends, not the traffic.
Anyhoo, during my senior year, I had a column in the local newspaper. Of course, I tried to thrill my readers about my exciting life as a teenager. This is before social media, so I was the only teenager in the county bearing their soul to the general public.
You can read the original text of the brace’s column below.
OK, it isn’t the original text because of youthful ignorance and the typesetter “editing” my writing to inaccuracy. Can you [sic] your typesetter? To modernize, I’ve added Oxford commas and taken away one of our spaces after a period. You’re welcome.
Teenage Confession of a Brace Face
This week the topic I will discuss with serious intent is–brace yourself for this one–braces.
I have been plagued with crooked teeth all my life, so for the next few years I will be plagued with enough wire in my mouth for the Burlington Northern Railroad.
I’m not exactly complaining, I kinda’ like my metal mouth. In fact, I’ve lost quite a few pounds since I got them on, simply for the reason that most of the food I stuff in my mouth doesn’t make it to my stomach. It gets stuck somewhere along the line on one of my various wires.
Now, when someone is looking for me, they no longer bother to call my name. They just turn on their metal detector and casually stroll along until the blasted thing starts beeping.
As all braces-wearers know, the minute a wire starts irritating beyond tolerance, you just slap a gob of wax over it. The only problem with this is that I forget to remove the wax before I eat.
Consequently, I have swallowed at least a ton of wax the past few months my teeth have been in metal confinement. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I started to sweat wax.
When everyone started saying “It hurts to be beautiful,” they must have had people with braces in mind, for the process of getting braces on is quite painful.
First, you get metal caps hammered down over your back teeth, then they glue the metal brackets to your front teeth with a foul-tasting glue.
Once this is done and you are trying to keep from screaming bloody murder, they thread a wire through all that metal mess to help pull your teeth in the right direction. Then, every time you go to the orthodontist, he’ll pull the wire tighter and tighter and tighter until you’re positive all your teeth have been cranked to the front of your mouth.
Besides tightening the wires, he’ll put in bigger ones to increase the pulling strength, and believe me, it does.
Every time I come back from the orthodontist, I’m on a strict liquid diet for a few days. That means I have eggnog for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, milkshakes for supper, and pop for an afternoon snack. Sounds like a really rough diet, huh?
One thing I can advise braces-wearers not to do is put anything inedible in your mouth. One day while I was ever-so-diligently working, I thoughtfully put the end of my pen in my mouth.
Kinda’ dumb move on my part because it didn’t help my thinking, but the clip on the end of the pen clipped itself right onto one of my wires.
Tell me if I didn’t feel like the fool I am! There I was, sitting with this stupid pen caught in my mouth. I didn’t want to gather any unnecessary attention, so I quietly struggled within my mouth trying to dislodge the pen.
I was trying to be careful, ‘cuz I didn’t want to pull the whole metal works from my mouth, so I gently tugged, twisted, and finally succeeded in removing that varmint. Good thing, ‘cuz if I would’ve sat there any longer with my mouth gaping open and my fingers fishing around in my mouth, people would have begun to wonder.
In spite of all the pain and problems, I’m glad I decided to get braces. Just think, in a few years, I can start smiling again!
Confession of a Senior Citizen Brace Face To Be
Old age and a severe blow to my face made my teeth crooked again.
And even though I’m heavier than I was in high school, I’m confident I won’t be hearing, BraceFaceTinGrinHairyHairyFatStuff.
Because they’ve invented invisible braces.