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I've Got Thirty-Two Problems but a Cavity Ain't One

I'm not a person, I'm a big red button that says Do Not Press.

Ever since I can remember, Dad and Amanda never got along. Why would they? He was chill and nice, and she was a bossy brat. They went together like peanutbutter and poison. Peas and napalm. So one time, she got it in her head that she needed braces. And once something got in Amanda's head it stayed, and once she had a problem with something, you'd best believe she was gonna make it your problem, too. She thought that unless she got her teeth fixed, she was gonna grow up to be ugly and that boys wouldn't like her.

Now, she wasn't wrong. Both of us did have really raggedy-looking teeth, just nasty, crooked, sharp, unappealing teeth. But she just had to go and bring me into it. She was right, of course. But still.

She asked Dad first, but he said well, I don't have enough money for all that, what with me not having a job and all, what with the Johnsons kicking me out of the family business. How am I supposed to afford braces when I don't even have a job? Sorry I gave you shitty genetics, he said, but since I can't afford these braces you so desperately need, why don't you ask the Johnson's to help you, since they got all the money around here? He said it sarcastically, but Amanda was always kind of slow about sarcasm, so she actually did go and ask the Johnsons. Yes sir-ree, she marched right on over to Grandma Peg who was sort of the head of everything, and said hey, I think me and Stephanie need braces, of course, bringing me into this, and you know what? Grandma Peg actually did it. She said by golly, I think you're right. Y'all done inherited some terrible-looking teeth, so we gotta fix that right up.

Actual photo of me before braces

Actual photo of me before braces

The only problem is, I was scared of the dentist. That's why I didn't want Amanda bringing me into this. I was so scared of the dentist that I hadn't been in years. They had all these freaky tools and weird-smelling stuff, hoo boy I still hate the dentist actually. My Dad tried to take me a couple times, but I wouldn't go in, and he said shit, I can't afford to pay for the dentist if you won't even go inside the building. Amanda would go, and she would try to get me to go in there with her so I could watch what they did to her and see that it wasn't so bad. She even said she'd make me an ice cream sundae afterwards, trying to bribe me with that, but Dad knew how I was. He knew that if I didn't want to do something I wasn't gonna do it, that's just how I am. So I hadn't gone in years and years.

So Amanda got her braces in and it went fine, it was cool, but I couldn't go. I kept pretending to be sick. Of course I didn't want to get that nice old dentist sick too, so I said I was sick and they kept rescheduling it, then when I couldn't do that anymore I ran away, but that only lasted for an afternoon, but I just couldn't go, I just couldn't, I knew they were going to do all kinds of weird shit to me and I knew it would take hours and days and weeks to do it all and I was just too scared. So finally, Grandma Peg sent me to one of those dentists that knock you the fuck out with nitrous while they do everything. She didn't wanna do that originally because it was more expensive. Dad makes it sound like the Johnsons were rich, but even back then I knew they weren't. We didn't have one of those fancy dentists with the nitrous in Wilcox County, so we had to go all the way the hell to Macon for that dentist. So Amanda had a dentist right there in town, and I had one in Macon that took an hour to get to and cost three times as much. I felt bad that Grandma Peg had to pay more, but I did get my braces in, with no screaming and crying because every time I went there they'd just knock me the fuck out. But anyway that's how come I got such awesome teeth because I sure as hell wasn't born with them.

Since Grandma Peg paid for my teeth to get done, now she thought she owned my teeth. Every time she saw me, I had to open my mouth like she was buying a horse or something. Like how they say, looking a horse in the mouth, I guess to make sure it's a good horse. She'd make me open my mouth and she'd be looking at my teeth, making sure I was keeping them clean and all that. I don't think that lady had any kind of education at all. I might not have all the way graduated high school, but at least I went. I don't think she ever even started high school. But she should've been a dentist herself because she knew a lot about teeth, more than any normal person would. She called them by their real names, like bicuspid and incisor and shit. She'd be like oh honey, oh sugar, it looks like you've got some gingivitis going on, and I still don't know what that is. She was so strict about my teeth, and the thing is that Grandma Doctor Dentist here didn't have shit for teeth herself. She only had like five teeth left. And I don't know exactly what gingivitis is, but I'm pretty sure she had it big-time. But whatever Grandma, thanks for the braces I guess. And bothering me about my teeth all the time did work, because I really did take good care of them.

Actual photo of me after

Actual photo of me after

© 2022 Stephanie Johnson

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