Certain dates stick in your mind. Your BFF’s birthday from when you were little (and exactly how many months and days she was older than you). Maybe the day you got your driver’s license or the day you graduated from High School.
Every October, I’m struck by the fact that I remember – clearly – October 10, 1991.
I was 16, and I’d had braces since I was eleven. I’d borne the jokes of wearing headgear to school, and I dealt with the pain of tiny rubber bands that spanned from my upper jaw to my lower. I’d learned when to take Tylenol before and after each monthly adjustment. I brushed like a crazy thing because I did not want checkerboard teeth, stained from neglect. I hadn’t had chewing gum or caramel in five years. I’d had jaw surgery a year before, and had eight screws in my lower jaw that dental X-rays would pick up for the rest of my life.
I was ready.
It was time.
It was going to be glorious.
My braces were removed.
I was fitted with my sleek single-wire retainer that I could take out whenever I wanted. I already had contacts (the glasses I’d worn since I was 8 were history). I was ready. I was ready to be gorgeous.
I raced to the bathroom mirror and popped out my retainer and gazed upon my newly un-applianced face. I smiled at myself in the mirror, a blazing white smile of pure joy!
I think the first thing I actually said was “I look like a rabbit!”
Tears sprang to my eyes. I popped the retainer back in and sighed in relief. The slender wire crossing my large incisors was enough to put me back into my comfort zone. I might not have an overbite anymore, but I still had big teeth.
I wore my retainer religiously for the next two years. Partially, because I didn’t want those suckers to shift after dealing with as much as I’d dealt with to get them there. And in part because I needed the time to adjust to my own smile.
I am posting this today in part because I remembered it a few days ago – when the Bracesversary came and went. I’m also posting it because it’s a nice way to remind myself of taking baby steps into a new comfort zone. That even though I’ve moved from drafting into querying, I can still write. I don’t have to query dozens of agents all at once. I can take baby steps and let myself get used to the idea of putting my blazing white teeth out there for the world to see.