Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On growing up

There is a certain type of innocence that can only be lost by growing up. For some, this comes gradually. Little by little you gain responsibility, and somewhere down the line you discover that your three kids, an ex-husband, plus the adult version of m&m – mortgage and minivan – probably are signs that you’re a grown-up now. For others, it comes in a specific incidence, abruptly, instantly. It can be an unpleasant situation, like the death of a close one which suddenly kicks you out of the comfortable zone of post-childhood/pre-adulthood. It can conversely be a happy occasion, like the day you finally land the job of your dreams.

To me, it was the latter. And by latter, I mean the latter of the first two options, not the latter of the two under-categories of the second option (clarity is overestimated).

My growing up came quickly, and it was not a gradual thing. Or at least it did not feel that way.

Yesterday I went to the dentist. It was a while since my last visit. In Norway, you are automatically summoned to the dentist’s office until a certain age. It’s like a magic trick. Also similar to a magic trick is the fact that it is free to visit the dentist until this particular age. It’s brilliant. Far less brilliant, however, is that you are kicked out of the automatic summoning system and the no cost system at once. The result? Thousands of young adults/old kids like myself ignore the fact that we are now supposed to take care of dentistry ourselves. Yes, yes, I still brush my teeth. I even floss. But I did not rush making an appointment to see the dentist.

A few weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t been to the dentist at all since before my visit to Japan. Which, however close in my heart, is starting to become fairly distant in time. I last visited the dentist in 2006. That is four years ago. Wow. Time flies.

I have not experience any particular problems with my teeth these past four years, but it’s recommended to have your teeth professionally checked every once in a while. So I called and booked an appointment.

How very grown up I felt doing that without my mother telling me to do so!

How very childish of me…

When I arrived at the dentist, again feeling very grown up, it did not occur to me that I should have anything to worry about.

Until that moment, all my visits to the dentist have been pleasant ones. “Pleasant???” you say? Well, yes. As a kid I used to love going to the dentist. It meant a few hours away from school, and it meant I got to pick a prize from the top drawer. Even when I was too old for the minuscule tubes of toothpaste and the fake jewelry, I liked going to the dentist. I was always told that my teeth looked fine, that I was doing a great job brushing them, and that I had zero cavities. Always. I’ve never had any cavities. Ever.

Until now, that is.

The dentist I visited yesterday was nice enough. In fact, she was really nice. She was also very thorough, and she too praised my tooth brushing skills. She could also inform me that despite my lengthy dentist withdrawal, my teeth appeared to be in good condition. Except… I had one small cavity.

I was grown up before the words were fully out of her mouth. I was no longer part of the “very exclusive” part of the population with zero cavities (“null hull” – it even rhymes in Norwegian!). Suddenly I felt old, and dirty and tricked. The world as I had known it, where you visited the dentist to receive praise, was crumbling. My next visit to the dentist will not award me a tube of toothpaste or a fake ring; it will give me my first shot of anesthesia and a round with the drill. My naïve idea of going through life being a goodie two shoes that never had any cavities was crushed. I might as well take up smoking now!

Well, no, I won’t. I’m an adult, after all. I know that smoking is bad for you, and I know that it is silly to take it up as a habit to get back at the world for giving me cavities. Cavity, actually. It’s still just the one. The dentist assured me that there did not appear to be new ones forming. She even claimed this first one probably could not have been avoided even if I had come sooner. So it wasn’t my fault. The growing up happened without my knowledge or approval, and there was nothing to be done about it.

But the world will never be quite the same again.


M.J. Nicholls said...

I had null hull until I was sixteen, when I had to get something done. The dentist pointed out how odd it was someone my age had to get a cavity.

Then again, a diet of Pepsi and sweets from the age of seven upwards does that to you.

Lovely post.

Jan Morrison said...

oh, I had plenty as a child but still not bad according to the dentists I visited. I just went to the dentist last week after FIVE years. Yikes. Talk about ignoring things. But it was one thing and another - no money, no coverage I'm covered and I had been frightened enough the last time - no cavities but bad plaque - I'd really taken care and I was rewarded! My teeth were in 'amazing shape' for someone who hadn't been for their six month checkups! I do have to have orthodontary done but again no blame - it is just something I would have to do no matter what. I'm not looking forward to paying huge amounts (even with insurance) and having pain though. Still a kid I guess. said...

My last dentist visit was also rather intimidating. It had only been two years, but the almost cavities from my days wth braces had finally developed past their puppy stage. The dentist announced with a half smile that I brush my teeth too eagerly, and with the look of a school teacher who secretly loves to correct bad spelling that cavities are expensive. If she had glasses whe would have placed them on the tip of her nose while asking me if I finally had learned my lesson. With the size of the bill i received when going home, one would think that I had learned.

When I was little the dentists were all very nice, and I got small tubes of toothpaste and plastic finger rings on my way out. Now I got a sarcastic comment, a half smile and a big bill.

Growing up sucks some times.

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