This afternoon I visited my dentist's office to get my teeth cleaned, though you would've thought I was on my to Iraq with my negative attitude. I hate dentists: not the people, just the profession. There must be a different way to deal with teeth. In fact, I'll do a google search to validate my point. A dental appointment is never a pleasant experience, so why am I expected to be polite & smile my way through the entire session? I wanna slap the person who came up with these societal non-virtues. But I digress.
What's really bothering me is the neglect I've had for the care of my teeth since childhood. I was a chronic bedwetter, traumatized to the point of poor hygiene habits. I felt such shame about my body I wouldn't take care of myself before going to school. Of course, I blamed my brothas & sistahs for their mistreatment, yet I was unable and/or unwilling to look at the part I played in the situation. Seems the victim role was my calling as an infant, though I have no Oscar to show for it. Whatever.
Part of my early confusion came with certain family members & folks in my hood saying I have a great smile. As an adult someone once remarked about my smile, "its infectious." But when people constantly abuse you with anti-homosexual epithets you feel neither attractive nor valued. Additionally, the prevailing anti-Black images & perspectives in Western society had me feeling my full mouth - now considered "exotic" in the racist fashion industry - was damaged goods. I remember taking a picture in the seventh grade with a female teacher & purposely closing my mouth to make my lips appear thin. Let's just say I had some serious esteem issues from the jump-off.
I don't recall regular dental visits as a child or teenager. Then again, I smoked a lot of weed so my memory is as reliable as Ronald Reagan's. Oh shit, he be dead. Remember when he testified before Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings & when asked about his role in the war he said "I don't remember" about 150 times? You don't remember? I do. The shit I remember after smoking all that weed...sigh, those were the good ole' days...until crack came along & wiped out our community (not to mention the little room I lived in; my room was so small I had to step outside to sneeze).
Ok, so what does all of this back story have to do with today's dental appointment? Deepak Chopra says, "as long as you are a prisoner of your past, you cannot tell yourself a new story." He be deep. Anyway, understanding the way I react to my current reality helps me accept my struggles & appreciate my successes. As much as I like dislike going to the dentist, I can only benefit from a sane perspective. I pray before I go & meditate while sitting in the chair, which, to me, feels like sitting in a torture chamber, though I've never been in a torture chamber but you get the picture, right? Right?
I've been a reluctant, yet consistent patient at the NYU School of Dentistry on & off for well over a year now. I was impressed by the diversity of their staff. Their student-interns are attentive, courteous & prompt. I like that. If I have to wait for more than an hour I'm ready to bounce. If I have to wait for more than 45 minutes I'm ready to bounce. If I have to wait for more than 30 minutes I'm ready to bounce. Okay, I'm impatient. Damn. I don't like making admissions because they trigger my culturally-induced suspicions. As Dave Chapelle told Oprah, "what's a Black man without his paranoia?"
Dave Chapelle has my vote for President of the United States...
My dentist is a pleasant woman of Indian descent. I like her & feel comforted by her gentle disposition. However, she has an annoying habit of asking me if I'm okay - while in the midst of prodding all sides of my mouth with sharp objects that have me feeling like she's doing arthroscopic surgery. For example, I need major cleaning on all quadrants (its a new word I learned & it makes me feel smart), which requires consistent attendance & diligent aftercare. After she numbed my mouth before injecting me with a shot of lidocaine, she said to me, "are you in pain?" I wanted to say, bitch, do you see a smile on my face? But, unlike Don Imus or Isiah Thomas, I'm not down with misogyny.
The session took nearly 90 minutes in total. A couple of times her supervisor came through to give her guidance & point out shortcomings. Its been several hours later & I still feel sore. I did wait a couple of hours, as she suggested, before eating. I went to the Chinese food joint across the street & ordered some sesame tofu, brown rice & broccoli. I have to go back for ongoing treatment (sigh) in 10 days. I hope I show up. Real talk.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.