By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I thought one of the perks of making it to middle age would be that we no longer have to suffer the indignities of puberty. No more awkward body changes. No more hormone-induced mood swings. Isn’t time and experience supposed to make us more comfortable in our own skin?
But here’s what they don’t tell you: The middle-aged skin I’m supposed to be so comfortable in by now? It’s dry and creasing at an alarming rate. I’ve bought 90 percent of all the moisturizing cream in the world yet it’s not enough. I could dip myself into a vat of Jergens lotion every day and still need more. I used to be a juicy grape and now I’m morphing into a raisin. Is there a manager I can speak to about this?
But the skin issue isn’t nearly as humiliating as what happened last week. My teenage daughter and I took a selfie together, and when I saw the photo, I also saw the tooth. Was the picture taken at a bad angle, or had my tooth gone wonky? I walked to the nearest mirror to inspect it. And yep, it’s gone wonky. Sometime during the past few years, the tooth turned ever so slightly to show its most unflattering angle. How had I not noticed?
Me (pointing to the offending tooth): “Tom, did you notice I have this tooth that has gotten crooked?”
Him: “Well, yeah, I guess.”
Me: “But you didn’t tell me?”
Him (shrugging his shoulders like a guy who wants to stay married): “Honey, you look fine!”
Me: “No, this is not fine. I’m calling the dentist tomorrow. My parents didn’t spend ungodly amounts of money to put braces on me as a teenager, only to end up at age 49 with a wonky tooth.”
So, I called the dentist, and just like a lovesick teenager writing fan letters to Rob Lowe in the 80s, I was rejected. The dentist had his assistant call to tell me I’d be better off with an orthodontist who could treat someone with “jaw issues.”
Of course, I understand the dentist’s hesitation. He’s right. I’ve got a mouth the size of a kindergartner. And my jaw pops, grinds, clicks and hurts more often than not. I didn’t think there was much I could do other than avoid tall sandwiches.
So, I went to see the orthodontist my dentist recommended, and he took pictures, x-rays and all the first-date things you do at a specialist’s office. Then he came in with a sympathetic expression and his own version of “We need to talk.”
He said my jaw might be “unstable,” and he doesn’t think we should straighten my twisted tooth until another specialist – one who treats particularly wonky jaws – says it’s safe to proceed. In two weeks, I’ll drive two hours to see yet another guy about my popping jaw, hoping he gives me permission to get braces as if I’m 15 years old all over again.
Why? Because I’d like my teeth to be straight in the pictures I take with my 15-year-old daughter (whose braces I already paid for). You see the irony here, right?
What’s next? Headgear? Pimples? Irrational anger? (Wait, I might already have that third one.)
I’m too old to be going through puberty again, minus the fertility. I’ve already paid my dues. I thought I’d graduated to a kinder, gentler phase of life. Instead, I’m a moody mess with a jacked-up jaw, dry skin, the bodily effects of time and gravity, and insecurity about my teeth. Where’s the justice?
The only good news here is I’m old enough to know I can’t rush this. Just like puberty, these Middle Age Repairs of wear and tear will take time. They’ll be frustrating. And expensive. Possibly painful. But it will pass (just like the teenage crush on Rob Lowe) and it’ll all be okay. I won’t be good as new but hopefully good enough.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at email@example.com. Her book is available on Amazon.