vanity

Vanity, dentists and drugs.

I’m getting all of my wisdom teeth removed tomorrow morning. 8:30am.


My parents spent thousands of dollars on orthodontal work to get me to have a functional smile. From grade 3 till grade 10 I had all kinds of hardware in my mouth, expanding my jaw to make room for my teeth that were growing in all directions.  Had my parents not spent that money, I would’ve looked like a shark. Given that I am inordinately vain, especially about my face – I think I am rather pretty – I am extremely grateful that they spared me from that shark fate.

I moved out in 2005. I failed at adulting, too busy trying to learn to survive on my own, not declare bankruptcy, figure out school. Typical early-adult struggle. I didn’t go to the dentist, because I didn’t particularly like dentists and I could feel one of my wisdom teeth growing and I didn’t want to hear that it needed to be removed. #denialskillsonpoint

2010. Two of my wisdom teeth had made an appearance. One became infected, really painful, causing the entire right side of my face to swell. Unacceptable! Emergency appointment at a high-end dentist downtown who prescribed antibiotics, took an X-ray, and advised me that not only are my wisdom teeth growing, they are growing in all kinds of shark-like directions, and one of them has its roots wrapped around the nerve that controls facial expressions. This would be a high risk surgery, because the risk of nicking the nerve and causing facial paralysis was extremely high. See a specialist, stat.

Excuse me, what? Facial paralysis?! I took the antibiotics and never called the specialist.

18 months later, I was due for a cleaning, and as Murphy dictates, my wisdom teeth were irritated and painful. Reluctantly, I dragged myself back to the dentist, mainly in the hopes that he’d prescribe me more drugs. He yelled at me for not having my wisdom teeth removed in the meantime. “Irresponsible! SO irresponsible. I told you. There are only 2 specialists in all of Montreal with the skill-set to remove that tooth. And they are busy. I told you. You are at risk of paralysis. And if you don’t get them removed, and the nerve gets infected, you are at risk of even more problems. GO SEE THOSE SPECIALISTS AND HAVE YOUR TEETH PULLED.”

So, I did what any adult with inadequate coping mechanisms would do. I pretended the problem didn’t exist, and tried my best to forget about it. I’ve done a fairly good job at ignoring it, despite sometimes having almost unbearable pain, and being unable to eat solid foods. But hey! At least I was still pretty and not paralyzed.

These past few months, as I’ve been struggling to get my health back on track, I began to consider going to a dentist. After all… not seeing a dentist for 6.5 years is not really best practice. But I felt I was at the limit of how many problems I could face, I didn’t want to hear that I had 45 new cavities, so I promised myself that I would deal with the dentist in the second half of 2018, once the rest of my life was under control.

Then I chipped one of my teeth eating a scone. Cue a hysterical meltdown. “I’m a terrible person, undoing all the money my parents spent on my teeth. What a brat I’ve been, I wonder how many cavities I’ve self-inflicted due to cowardice. OMG WHAT IF THE NEXT TIME ONE OF MY TEETH CHIPS IT’S A FRONT TOOTH?!”

That isn’t hyperbole. I ugly cried for 30 minutes, as I Googled the best ranked dental surgeons near my home.

That is how I found myself a few weeks ago in a dentist’s chair one block away from my apartment. The hygienist blinked when I told her it had been 7 years since I had a cleaning, rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She did a quick run through, and told the dental assistant that she’d have to do some cleaning before determining where the fillings were. I mumbled I didn’t have any. She stopped. “No fillings? And you have only seen a dentist twice in 13 years?” Yup. I told her of my previous experience with Dr. Doom-n-Gloom. She laughed. “Don’t you worry. Dr. Dentist here has pulled out thousands of wisdom teeth. He has seen it all. He will tell you if you are actually at risk of paralysis.” I nodded. She told me to open my mouth, so she could get back to world. I nodded. She waited. I told her I was scared my teeth were so fucked up she would chip them while cleaning them and then I would be disfigured. Twice I made her stop the cleaning. She thought it was because it was hurting me, or I had sensitive teeth. I explained that nope. Didn’t hurt at all. I just was so scared, I had trouble breathing. I needed time outs.

Dr. Dentist examined me. He looked at the X-ray. Good news: other than the molar that is next to the messed up wisdom shark tooth that has turned into a monster-cavity, I don’t have any cavities. I’m lucky. So we made an appointment for my wisdom teeth. Tomorrow. I told him I was really nervous. I asked for all the drugs. All of them. Knock me out, render me unconscious, because otherwise I will not survive this ordeal. I will have a heart attack from the fear that the Universe will use this opportunity to force me to deal with my vanity, by rendering me paralyzed. How could it resist? Even I find it funny, as a concept. And terrifying. I explained to Dr. Dentist, “Sir, I’m still single, you have no idea how brutal it is out there, nobody gives a shit about your personality, so if I am already having this much trouble while I am pretty, can you imagine how brutal it will be if I am paralyzed? Please sir. Please. Don’t paralyze me. I’m too young to be relegated to a life of loneliness and solitude. My face. You’ll take care of it?” He promised. He also admitted that usually he motivates his patients to take care of their teeth for health reasons, but in my case, he could see that I could best be manipulated through my vanity. And so, if I was so vain, surely I could see that smiles with receding gums were not attractive, so perhaps I would consider taking up flossing on a regular basis?

I’ve flossed every day since that visit.

He prescribed me all the drugs. All of them. Including a sedative so that I sleep tonight. Which I appreciate, except that now I have anxiety that I will sleep through my alarm and miss my appointment.

#vainestanxioustrainwreckever

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Learning to enjoy being a girl

Reared in a strict Christian household, I was taught that pride is THE biggest of all vices, and vanity was more trivial, obnoxious and easily spotted – a transparent window into person’s character, and indicative of poor judgment and priorities (I notice a certain irony, now, that it is by appealing to my vanity that I was dissuaded from ever exhibiting any). As an only child, with an invalid mother, I grew up without any role models of how to be a girly girl. Sure, my mother would talk of how in her youth she loved the theatre of clothes, and passed a lot of her knowledge on to me, but it remained something that was not deserving of time and effort. I internalized the message that caring about my appearance (other than to avoid appearing slovenly/underdressed/vulgar/sexy) was indicative of poor priorities and a lack of meaning and purpose in my life. Worse, given that I was a woman in a man’s world, it was imperative that I earn people’s respect for my intelligence and character, not for something as transient and superficial as my appearance.

Well.

Early on in my career, I learned the lesson that people respond better to someone who is well put together. Dressing for the part (of smart, competent, reliable, engaging career woman) was necessary to ease the social interactions that are so key in the business world. But that wasn’t  vanity, that was a practical recognition of behavioural norms. So I revamped my wardrobe transforming myself into a power accountant. Still, I avoided spending unnecessary time on my appearance, other than investing the time necessary to shop for well-cut flattering clothes and good haircuts. #couldntbebothered

In the past 24 months, I’ve undergone a bumpy journey to body acceptance. My (former) therapist prescribed me with the obligation of never going more than 48 hours without getting a minimum of 30mins of exercise. He stressed that it wasn’t a matter of breaking a sweat, but of moving enough to trigger the endorphins my brain so needed to counteract its corrosive tricks, like going for a walk outdoors. And so was born the notion that I should commit to doing things that make me feel better – that I must be an agent (to some extent) of my happiness and well-being. From that point on, I made sure to never do less than 3 intense workouts per week. The link between my emotional and mental equilibrium and the consistency of my workouts was apparent almost immediately. My dietary habits also improved: I applied the same notion that I should eat what I genuinely wanted to eat to make me feel good. Sometimes that could mean chocolate and wine for the soul, French fries and pizza for the fun of it, or salad and chicken because I hate the bloaty, gassy feeling that comes from eating unhealthily for more than 2-3 consecutive meals. Unsurprisingly, I lost a fair bit of weight and got in shape. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing:

Then, I had a second watershed moment: accepting the sexy. Through dance, I’ve started to enjoy my body as a source of appreciation to myself and others.

I can finally admit that I LIKE having a bangin’ bod – something I never believed was within my reach. I LIKE that people admire it: I enjoy it, I’ve worked hard for it, I’ve gone through so much with it, I’m proud of it. I LIKE feeling good about my appearance, and will continue to take the time and effort to help my body and my brain be the best versions possible. I LIKE putting together an outfit that is flattering and makes me feel like whatever version of myself I feel like portraying. Always? No. There are plenty of days every week where I roll out of bed, pull on wtv is easily accessible/clean and forget to put on mascara. But there are plenty of days where I enjoy taking an hour getting ready for work and spend the day feeling like a million bucks. Maybe because I am so confident in my intelligence and my character, I no longer feel that has to be the first thing people notice about me. Any person who deals with me for longer than 30 minutes and does not realize I am smart, pretty awesome and beyond competent at what I do is merely demonstrating their sub-par observation skills.

I tell myself this isn’t vanity, as my happiness is not dependent on others’ perception in myself: I delight in my body and mind. Is it pride, the mother of all sins? I sure hope not. It feels like joy and peace, which is such a blessing after years of anxiety, paranoid brain and depression. I have no intention of fighting these new-found gleeful feels.

Sometimes vanity is the only thing keeping me going

I am seriously lacking in pride. However, for better or worse, I have an abundance of vanity. Vanity dictates a LOT of my behavior, and is frequently the reason I keep a lid on my crazy. I used to smugly believe that I wasn’t one of those psycho girls that causes public scenes. False. I definitely have a strong dose of psycho in me. I just refuse to expose myself to others’ contempt, ridicule and judgment. I have the appearance of (mostly) keeping my shit together. But on the inside? Its a hot mess.


Because I am a masochist, I did a two hour class of kizomba (sexy dancing) last night as part my quest to integrate my sexual/sensual side into my identity. I hated it. It didn’t help that Beaut was there (yes, yes, we still talk – I don’t even want to discuss how much of an idiot I am. I can’t exactly blame him for contributing to my depressive symptoms when I continue to hang out with him, now can I?) and a) he never used to call me sexy/beautiful and b) he gets the giggles when he sees my white-girl-trying-to-dance moves. He claims he was teasing me – that is what friends do, yeah? I wanted to punch him in the mouth, because FUCK OFF, he knows how hard this is for me, so he can take his giggles and jump out of a window with them. Being surrounded by all these girls, all shapes and sizes, moving their hips seductively, while I felt about as sensual as a tree trunk, did not help my mood. Seeing all those girls drape themselves over Beaut, to his obvious enjoyment? I wanted to take their faces and bash them into the floor while he watched, and then give him a little sweet peck on the cheek.

Did I make a scene? No – I smiled charmingly at all my dance partners and concentrated on learning the steps. Did I exhibit any violent tendencies? No, of course not. I fought my brain for two hours, happily said goodbye to all my new dance friends, went home, gave myself a high-five for trying to work through my insecurities, and then cried myself to sleep.

I told myself last night that I’d never do kizomba again. Now, I think instead I will continue to do kizomba, until such a point as I master being sexy, as a weapon, and then I will dance with Beaut, give him a boner in class, and point and laugh. Loudly. Because that is what friends do, yeah? It’s just gentle teasing.

ANYHOW.

This morning, I woke up feeling hungover from these miserable insecurities of being an undesirable female blob. I didn’t want to go to work. Instead, I put on a skirt that my mother bought for me when I was 16 (16 years ago!!!), and that still fits. How many women in their thirties can say the same thing about their wardrobe? That’s right. I might be as sensual as a tree trunk, but my body is pretty damn good – good enough that I know MANY girls and women wouldn’t mind ONE BIT looking like me. That’s the only thing stopping me from hysterics right now. I might despise myself, but my vanity is soothed by the knowledge that others admire/envy me. Because I am clearly a kind, generous, soul. WHATEVER. At least I am at work.

#survivingmeltdownsoneskirtatatime

This Friday brought to you by a vain Amazon 

Convo with Bballer:

  

The art of being woman:

I can feel this way (pic above), yet still fret about how my jeans are too tight. I can feel that way and still feel completely incompetent due to my inability to stick to a nutrition plan that would allow me to drop the 10lbs I promised Coach I would months ago. 

But at the same time, I’ve learned to dress and shop better, to highlight my body’s strengths. I’ve learned to enjoy getting ready in the morning and constructing an image for the day that I’ll show the world: sometimes girly, sometimes powerful, sometimes nerdy, sometimes whimsical, sometimes beautiful, depending on my mood. The variations are endless. (The only variation I am still uncomfortable with is the sexy one. How well that fits with my Vanilla personality! Consistency is key, so they say.)

When I look at myself in the mirror, even on the most PMS-y, bloated day, I’m happy with what I see. Even though my belly is not flat, and my pawg-y butt and thighs have a bit too much jiggle, I’m content. My body and I have been through a lot together: we have the scars to show for it. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to take care of it, and often I still get it wrong. But by working together, overcoming injuries, some of which are decades-old, my body now allows me to box. I know my body is doing the best it can, and it’s my job to try help it along, and appreciate it for as long as I can. Because the day will come where my body will tire out and start to fail, whether due to illness or old age. When that day comes, I want to be able to look back on my life and say to my body, “we had a good run together. Well done.”

This Amazon business ain’t easy.