The petite perky receptionist at the orthodontist’s office smiled up at me through her braces (Will Work for Orthodontia) and said, “OK, now, I’m going to give you a little homework assignment, but don’t you worry! We don’t want you to stress over it at all – we won’t grade you on it!”
I looked around the office, packed with awkward metal-mouthed youngsters, and understood her default choice of script. But, really, I’m a matron. I could be her mother. She might consider me at least a peer.
I do try not to harbor prejudice against petite perky little women half my age just because they’re petite and perky and half my age. But it goes hard with me, especially the “we are peers” thing. There surely have to be some perks for wrinkles and grey hair and bifocals and what they used to call “liver spots.”
I remember being fascinated as a kid by those vague magazine advertisements for Porcelana Cream. What were liver spots? How did they harm you? Did it mean your liver was bad? Was Porcelana Cream, then, something that ladies who secretly drank turned to when trying to cover their tracks? In that case, might I surmise that the woman I babysat for was a closet drunk, since she had Porcelana in her medicine cabinet?
I was a babysitter who pondered things (and who nosed through medicine cabinets). Feminine deodorants, for instance. Those same magazines had lots of obscure glossy ads for solutions to “embarrassing personal problems.” What personal problems? The lady I babysat for had feminine deodorant in stock, too. Even the directions on the spray can were vague: “apply to affected area.” One’s feet, I supposed. Perhaps women’s feet were a greater source of olfactory embarrassment than men’s. Or perhaps women’s underarms – really feminine types needed a really feminine deodorant to use there.
I was not particularly feminine, so I decided that the world was a puzzling place and that I didn’t need to worry about it.
I do have to worry about my homework assignment, though, which is to write MISSY’S JAW NARRATIVE. The receptionist gave me a sheet with that printed at the top (capital letters hers). The orthodontist wants to know IN MY OWN WORDS (capital letters again hers) what I think my problem is. Guess I can’t get mom to write my paper for me this time.
So I shall tell him that I was hiking in the mountains last summer, feeling vigorous and outdoorsy and strong and athletic (none of which actually describes me), ready to launch into my best Julie Andrews.
I flung open my arms, began belting “The hills are alive . . ,” and tripped over a tree root, hitting the earth like a felled cow. I broke my fall with my right ear, on a rock. Since then, my left jaw has not been happy.
Now, there are those who are delighted to find that I can’t open my mouth, but I find it somewhat frustrating. So I will write up my little essay and blame bifocals and cheap ill-fitting hiking boots and inattention and maybe liver spots for my injury, and then acknowledge the obvious fact that no-one over the age of fifty should really be allowed outside, anyway.