When Vanity Bites Back, or Life with Invisialign

My OKCupid user name back in the day was SheLIkesToSmile. Now, I can do that with straighter teeth... and by now, I mean a year from now.
My OKCupid user name back in the day was SheLIkesToSmile. Now, I can do that with straighter teeth… and by now, I mean a year from now.

I have this one tooth. It’s the lateral incisor on my right. It sits back behind my canine and my central incisor — a punishment for abandoning my retainer too soon. In the wrong light, I can look like a hockey player who lost a fight with a puck to my mouth. In the best light, I look like the kid whose teeth just grew in and whose parents still haven’t booked her appointment with the orthodontist.

I see it in every photo and every time I go to smile, I’m aware of it. But the tooth that make me look like a kindergartner doesn’t stop me from smiling. Life’s too short not to smile… but it does mean that I usually fight to stand on the left of any portrait (a fight I always inevitably loose.)

In the summer of 2012, an upper wisdom tooth abscessed, and before I could say “ouch” I was under anesthesia and undergoing a double tooth extraction. I woke up in a dentist office overlooking Central Park and stumbled a few blocks south east to the Brasserie, where I complimented some mild pain killers with a martini before passing out again at home. I was lucky — my face was barely puffy and when I went out the next day to celebrate the return of a few friends from the London Olympics, no one could tell I had just survived an oral surgery that seems to knock people off their feet for days.

Sometimes, with the wrong angle, I can look like this….

The trouble came a year later when my teeth started to shift again. Jaw and tooth pain compounded with my misplaced incisor inspired me to look into the full orthodontic works. I could handle braces again, I thought. I mean, I already look like I’m 16, why not? It might be nice to be carded more often again.

When it turned out I was a candidate for invisialign, I was pretty stoked. I could handle having braces in my social life, but being ol’ metal mouth again in a professional one was less appealing. It was even better when my quote for the treatment came in under my no-go threshold.

So on December 28th, my dentist attached some pretty sexy anchors to my teeth and sent me home with my first trial.

It was like wearing a mouth guard. Within the first hour, I was kicking myself. My lower jaw was jutting out, I couldn’t figure out how to keep my mouth closed, and saliva was pouring down my chin in the most unattractive way. I lisped and talking for more than 30 seconds was exhausting. Was this sheer act of vanity destined to be my downfall? That $7,000 could have been put to good use elsewhere… like on clothes. Would lipo have been less expensive?

“There goes your sex life,” my mother said as she passed me a tissue.

It was family movie night, and as we sat in the theater watching the coming attractions, a large drop of drool fell out of the corner of my mouth and onto my shirt.

It was something I hadn’t considered. Between tooth brushes and birth control, there were already enough accessories to pack on an adult sleep over, adding an invisalign kit into the mix definitely exed the possibilities of a casual overnight. Plus, “honey, just excuse me while I put my teeth back in,” is not the sexiest phrase for the under octogenarian set.

Being ready for anything just got complicated.

My new life as a single girl with dental appliances was put to the test faster than I expected. In another display of my talent for Bad Timing, I had scheduled a first date with a dreamy commercial pilot turned lawyer within the first 24 hours of beginning invisialign.

For the most part, it all went off without a hitch, largely because I left the device at home. However, my teeth hurt so much I couldn’t chew anything more solid than mashed potatoes and everything we ordered seemed to be made of bricks. As our date moved into its 6 hour (and my third, maybe fourth? drink) I started getting anxious — I had passed my 4 hour invisialign-free limit. And I was hungry. Like, really hungry.

Our good night kiss was brief. Like Cinderella I had to get home before the clock struck “too late!” and my tooth shifted back into its crocked place. Orthodontics are at least as expensive and irreplaceable as glass slippers…

The Dates that Teach you to See Differently

Is that my date? I said to myself. Is that my date LEAVING before I even get there? Am I being stood up? Does he think I can’t see him under that umbrella??!?!?  I pulled the parking stub out of the muni-meter, threw it on my dashboard, and clomped the half block to the steps of the Met.

This was my first time in heels since tearing a ligament in my knee exactly one month and 7 days earlier — I was already regretting the decision.

Pause. Set scene. Flash back to a year ago this August:

I had cashed in a sick day to catch-up on medical bills and made the decision to rain check dinner with an old flame in order to make time in my weekend for a first date. This move was out of character for me — when I give someone space on my calendar, I don’t bump them for “a better deal” — but in this case, it was a choice between looking back and moving forward. Even though dinner with my ex promised to be platonic (and fun), my gut told me I should move forward.

It was in an effort to move forward, after all, that I committed to a one-month, full-paid membership on “How About We.” I gave myself 30 days of open waters fishing. What got caught in the net was a tall, sharp-witted, Ivy-League, UES-inhabiting “Construction Worker.” The Village People stand-in showed intelligence and a sense of humour in our exchanges — he didn’t get thrown back into the sea.

Meet me at the Met
Meet me at the Met

The Met museum would be the site for this first rendez-vous, and as I made my way to 5th Avenue and 82nd, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know what this guy looked like.

What had won me over was a sense of humor and obvious intelligence. The handful of profile pictures gave me no real sense of his appearance, other than that he was brunette and tall enough to see the top of my refrigerator. That wasn’t enough to help me pick him out in a crowd.

I found a parking spot off Madison on 82nd. I sat in my car waiting to purchase my parking ticket, when I stepped out to see a vaguely familiar man in blue gingham walk right by me, half looking at me out of the corner of his eye.

Oh, god. Please let that not me him. 

I was reasonably sure I was being stood up, but I was a few blocks from a friend and knew I’d be able to muster a plan b if Mr. High Rise had pulled a runner.

Oh, no. It’s him. I let out an audible sigh as the man in the blue gingham and the umbrella walked towards me in the Great Hall, hand out-reached and a sheepish look on his face. That’s right, bud. I caught you. I assumed his showing up meant I had at least earned a check in the “looks” column, and for that I convinced myself I was flattered.

The truth is, generally, I don’t like museum outings as first dates. To me, walking around the hushed galleries, swapping insights, is an intimate experience. Gut told me this was a bad idea, especially when our pre-date phone conversation went something like this:

“You live on the upper east side? We could meet at the Met.”

“The Met?”

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

“Errrr….”

“You’ve heard of it?”

“Yea…..”

“You’ve been there?”

“Maybe? When I was in college?”

Standing in the great hall, staring up at a seemingly friendly giant who had absolutely no preference which way we headed, I suggested we move towards Greece. As we fumbled our way around the Museum, we fumbled our way through each other’s back stories. I thought I knew that museum about as well as well as the back of my hand, but as we walked together, we happened onto nooks and collections I didn’t know existed. Meanwhile, he impressed me with simple but insightful reminiscing — the tile work here reminded him of the tile work in this hotel in Egypt. Did I know this pattern stood for this, etc.

We were ushered out with the final museum patrons.

I could go on about the rest of the night, but I’ve already gone past what I’m pretty sure is most blog-readers word count attention span. And so I’ll hurry to a conclusion:

Despite the facts that he wasn’t my type, he almost stood me up and a few other warning signs, we dated for nearly sin months and broke a lot of rules together (“Stay Out” signs were recommended suggestions.) For the most part, I forget we ever happened, but standing in the Met last weekend, wandering through the Charles James exhibition and some of the other wings, I flashed back to our first meeting and realized: There are people you meet in your life, and people you date who teach you to see differently, who literally show you new things about yourself or about the places you thought you knew.  But sometimes, to let yourself see, you have to go against your better judgement and accept the consequences of being just a little more enlightened.

Giving Up the Gun, Or What the Psychic Said

Once upon a time, I impulsively dropped $75 on tarot card readings.

That’s right, in an 18 hour period, 2 different psychics had their way with me and the entire contents of my wallet.  What, in God’s name, was I thinking?

At the time, I was broke, uninsured, verging on broken-hearted, and in serious need of a disinterested 3rd party’s reassurance that “Everything will be alright.”

I just didn’t plan to lose $75 for that reassurance. Luckily, neither psychic really told me what I wanted to hear.

The first reading happened at night, in the back of a French restaurant on red leather couches outside the restrooms. The psychic, (a man!), didn’t want to waste any time on assessing my career. After a flash reading, he determined there were no uncertainties there. I knew what I wanted, and it was only a matter of “when,” not if I ‘d get it. He looked at me sideways. “Tell me about the guy… he’s been around a while hasn’t he?”

Caught.

I quickly related the story of the guy I met as a freshman in college, became best friends with, and accidentally and mistakenly fell madly in love with. After 7 years and dozens of close encounters, we were toying with the idea of becoming something more.

My psychic dealt the cards and though he slowly deciphered their placement and relation, he quickly painted an accurate portrait of the relationship between me and HIM. The slow build up. The intellectual underpinnings. The unbalanced emotions (“he’s the one that has all the feeling”). The punchline? Drop him. “You’ll have a long and stable romance, but you’ll lose something of yourself,” the psychic said. “If you leave him behind, as in drop him entirely from your life, you’ll get everything you really want.”

While I was less than satisfied the less than specific assurance about my career, I was devastated by the suggestion to drop the love of my life (up until then.) So of course, I sought a second opinion…

The next day I met my girl AB for lunch at Crema, a nouveau Mexican place on 17th street in the heart of Chelsea. In those days, Chelsea was still the original Hell’s Kitchen, home to the most beautiful beef-cake gay men and flamboyant drag queens. Crossing the street was the equivalent of perusing a visual candy store… but it was not the place to pick-up straight men making it the perfect neighborhood for a girls-only girl date.

It only took one bite of our flautas and 2 margaritas for me to convince her that we needed to have our palms read across the street, under the neon glow of a giant sign that screamed PHSYSIC. That day Madame was offering a deal: free palm reading with tarot.

I honestly can’t remember what she told me — she may have promised I’d meet my soul mate before the end of the summer or that I’d have a job offer tomorrow — but I do remember AB and I sitting in City Bakery an hour later, sharing  chocolate chip cookie and wondering if we’d just been had.

We pooled our remaining cash (#brokegradstudents) and bought another cookie — for when in doubt of life’s next step, chocolate usually solves the problem more certainly than a foggy crystal ball.

Chocolate has all the answers. (Image from the City Sage)

 

Learning to Wear Eyeliner and Life’s Other Little Road Markers

There are some nights I'm pretty sure I've gone out looking like this...
There are some nights I’m pretty sure I’ve gone out looking like this…

I am notoriously dangerous with eye-liner. Don’t hand me anything in liquid form because I’m likely to end up with a comma shaped black blob that transverses an entire side of my face. Despite an otherwise steady hand, pencils have been known to temporarily blind me.  I’ll confess, thanks to a single brush and some guidance from the professionals at Laura Mercier, I’ve come a long way over the last two years. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been nights were I everybody calls me “Left-Eye.”

“No, I didn’t get socked by an artist at a studio visit. I just had a fight with my eye-liner… it won.”

I started wearing makeup in the 8th grade. Like most adolescent females, hormones were kicking in and wreaking havoc with my complexion. Boys no longer had cooties. We had graduated out of training bras (this is where I’m clearly dating myself, because I’m pretty sure Pink makes padded bras for 10 year-olds nowadays).  We were finding our identities and expressing them in outlandish nail polish shades while learning the subtle benefits of foundation and mascara.

This a caboodle, the girl's equivalent of a tacklebox
This a caboodle, the girl’s equivalent of a tacklebox

It was the 90s, and the caboodle was the girl’s equivalent of a tackle box — a feminine-toned, and often glittered, plastic case with little trays that folded out and mirrors that popped up. We filled it with all the tools of our trade: foundation, loose powder, eyeliner in every shade under the rainbow, eye shadow tones that complimented or clashed with our eye color, Tinkerbell brand blush, and lip glosses that tasted like cotton candy. We’d tote the box to sleep overs. A mini version lived in our lockers.

A few make-up consultations later and armed with lessons gleamed from manuals by Bobbie Brown and Kevyn Aucoin, I reconsidered my approach to “putting on my face.”  I gave the caboodle the boot.

Here’s where I begin to make a leap into life’s more significant realizations…

There comes a point when you stop experimenting and settle on a signature style.
There comes a point when you stop experimenting and settle on a signature style. I’m a black eye line and bold lipstick kind of gal

If in our teen years, we’re finding ourselves, in part through colorful experimentation, then eventually, there comes a time when we stop experimenting. Like learning to edit down word counts for papers and grants, we learn what we really need to make an impression. We find our perfect shade, our go-to routine and that’s who we are.

Yes, We can Play that Game, Too: Considering “Sex on Campus” and the “Plight” of the 20-Something Female

It’s all on us, isn’t it? The “us” being women under 35 and “it” being the fate of romantic relationships, and therefore, the modern family.

I'm so over it.
I’m so over it.

If you’re been keeping track of the New York Time’s Sunday Style section and the Atlantic Monthly of late, you’ve probably noticed a slew of pieces examining the current state of the dating world. The choices and mindsets of single women seem to garner the most attention. The verdict, it would appear, is that we’re the ones directing the dynamics of contemporary relationships based on how we decide to answer a handful of questions:

Do we engage in casual, no strings attached sex?

Do we purely practice monogamy?

Do we wed early?

Do we focus on careers first, family later?

Do we try to “have it all?”

Frankly, I’ve had enough… Leave me alone. The kids are alright, I tell you.

In this past Sunday’s NYTimes, in a piece entitled “She Can Play That Game Too,” writer Kate Taylor reported on the sex lives of college-aged woman enrolled in UPenn. Taylor seemed to give a fairly straight forward account of the mindset of the Ivy Leaguers who applied cost-benefit analysis to their romantic encounters and generally considered college a stepping-stone and vital life-directing period of resume-building. Surviving those 4 years with honors under their belts didn’t exclude also earning notches on their bedposts, but made seeking serious romantic relationships a low priority on the totem pole.

I flashed back to my own Ivy League college days.

My future was mine to mold... or make a total mess of
My future was mine to mold… or make a total mess of

I was an economics major — you bet I applied cost-benefit analysis to dating (and well, to everything else… and everything, including men, got rated in terms of its “utility.”) But more significantly, like the women Taylor interviewed, I realized the stakes were high. I had a very unique opportunity. I was a Division 1 college athlete and in 4 years, I would have a degree from one of the most lauded universities in the world. The molding clay that was future had been handed to me on a silver platter and I had all the power in the universe to turn it into a masterpiece.

I could also make a total muck of it.

And let me tell you, making a muck of it was far easier.

I’ll always remember that night during my final week as an undergraduate when one of my best male friends took my hand and said to me: “I’m so proud of you and happy for you for everything you’ve accomplished. But our relationship could have been very different if you’d been around more.”

Your first question is probably: Do I have any regrets?

My answer: Absolutely not.

I’m 19. I’ve Never Had a Job. Oh, But I’m Supposed to Know What I want in a Husband?

What irked me the most about this article was the seeming pressure it put on women to make-up their minds in their early 20s, or hell, even late teens about how their life was going to unfold.

And Susan Patton wonders why young women are cautious about getting married and pregnant young
And Susan Patton wonders why young women are cautious about getting married and pregnant young

Susan Patton, who was widely quoted as the “anti-feminist” in the article was disappointed when she asked a class of Princeton undergraduate females if they wanted kids and a family and met hesitation.

Susan Patton is absurd.

Today’s young women are the witnesses of an increasing divorce rate and pre-nups, and the beneficiaries of new job sectors. This is not the generation of my mother, who was married at 18, went through college a wife and left her country and family to follow her husband’s career.

Are you surprised a teenager or 20-something would proceed with caution when it comes to committed relationships?

What I learned in college, burning the midnight oil on papers, clocking my hours at practice, writing for the college newspaper, and making friends more important than lovers, was who I was and what was genuinely important to me.

At 21, no boyfriend was going to figure that out for me.

I wish I could say I went to Columbia to find a rich husband — of course if I did, my 6 years on campus would have been a complete and utter failure. But I went there to find me, Kathleen.

So, mission accomplished.

How do you like them apples, Susan Patton?

The Seam-Splitters

I've nicknamed my thighs the seam splitters....
I’ve nicknamed my thighs the seam splitters….

I’ve nick-named my thighs “the seam-splitters.”

Arguably, it’s not a very flattering nickname, and I’m sure you’re wondering why a young woman would want to give such a self-effacing and school-playground-teasing nickname to a part of her body. Or, perhaps you’re saying to me, “common, your thighs aren’t thaaaat big.”

No, really. They are. Just ask my wounded pants…

Right now there are 3 pairs of jeans draped over a wicker armchair in my bedroom, each a victim of the seam-splitters. One pair just returned from a tailor who painstaking reconstructed the upper legs with patches, as if the jean were an ancient, priceless Athenian terra cotta vase. The other two are awaiting the same treatment, though they are more likely destined for the trash.

None of these victims have seen more than a year of action, and yet, despite their youth, there they lay, the stitching along the inner thighs torn asunder, split and worn away — jeans in their prime, fatally maimed in the name of fashion.

I know the distressed/patched/custom look is always chic, but still....
I know the distressed/patched/custom look is always chic, but still….

It’s a fate I prepare myself for every time I go shopping: the jeans I buy will split along the inner thighs.  I’ve come to think of jeans as if they are pantyhose: not quite single use, but I shouldn’t get too attached —  it’s only a matter of time before “tricks of the trade,”  like applied clear nail polish or hairspray fail and the devastating run wins, rendering them unwearable.

I’ve learned to spot all the signs that a tear is pending, that the next wear will probably be my last. If I do find a winning pair, they get set aside as “special occasion” jeans. Sometimes, I just buy two right up front.

In high school, I wrote an essay for my AP English class entitled: I Run on Diesel. I was, of course, referring to the Italian denim brand that finally offered me a cut of jeans that seemed to accommodate what my father so kindly referred to as my “thunder thighs.” If there’s nothing else to take away from this look back on my teen years, its that my battle to find well-fitting, properly-enforced leg-wear has been lifelong…

What is a relatively new phenomenon is acceptance. This is just how I’m built. We all have those body areas that give us grief and make us self conscious. For most of my life, that area was my thighs.  For years, I attacked fitness routines and diets promising trimmer legs. It was a mean twist of irony when, as I got fitter, my legs packed on muscle, so instead of shrinking, they got bigger. When I was a competitive athlete, my thunder thighs were an asset. Now that I’m retired, my main goal at the gym is to keep my thighs in seam-splitting shape.

Jeans, be warned.

I’ve learned to ❤ my thunder thighs, aka “The Seam Splitters”