Thursday, August 21, 2008

Send in the Tooth Fairy

"Shake my hand, rip my teeth out," I said.

The oral surgeon had the grace to look disconcerted as we shook hands.

The certificates on his wall proclaimed that he is a medical doctor and also a dentist. It crossed my mind that he might be an undertaker too, but there was no documentation to that effect.

It seems that at my ripe old age I need to have my wisdom teeth, which I had thought to keep forever, removed. They are doomed. I should hang a sign that this property is condemned.

There is a lesson in impermanence here which never occurred to me.

While waiting for the doctor I studied two before-and-after photographs of patients who had maxillofacial surgery. The man in the top picture had no chin while the woman below him on the wall had a pugnacious prize fighter chin. In the after pictures, he was bulked up while she was minimized. I wondered if they took some of her excess equipment and gave it to him.

I was read a laundry list of Things That Could Go Wrong, although I was assured that most were unlikely, then asked to sign a release which felt like promising my firstborn child to Rumpelstiltskin. I admit to what could be an unhealthy attachment to my own body parts as we have all been very happy together for a very long time. And now some of us have reached the end of the road.

I told the doctor's scheduler that I needed a few weeks to get used to the idea and she suggested the second week of September. I opted for September 11th since that day is already living in infamy. How better to commemorate the destruction of the World Trade Center than to host a search and destroy mission right in my own mouth?

The doctor gave me a choice of Vicodin or Darvocet and I chose the latter because the name reminded me of Darvon, which I was given after my third child was born by emergency C-Section. It was a very nice drug and under its influence I dreamed of flying across the Atlantic on a Milk Bone dog biscuit.

I will have to eat soft foods for a week and have already arranged with Flip to make his killer mashed potatoes. Every day. I am going to be the Star Patient and in return he has graciously offered to take any leftover drugs off my hands. Flip is helpful that way. It would please us both if he could take all my drugs for me.

"Will you be able to talk?" he asked.

"I might not for a day or two," I said.

A flash of pleasure crossed his face which he quickly controlled. Flip is a married man. He knows better.

"I won't be able to cook either," I said.

His smirk disappeared instantly.

The oral surgeon seems like a lovely person but I wonder how he sleeps at night, divesting people of their personal parts, as he does, by day. It also doesn't seem right that this will cost so much when I am providing all the materials.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Call me Lady Godiva

As we headed home from the chocolate shop I asked Flip, "Do you want me to carry the rest of your truffles in my purse?"

I licked my fingers on which a little dark chocolate dipped candied orange peel had melted.

"Can I trust you?"

"You married me. There is an assumption of trust."

He paused, then handed over the aromatic little gold Godiva bag, which I stuffed in with my wallet, keys and his other glasses.

Men only get married so they can use purses without carrying them.

"Are you sure you won't eat my chocolate?"

I shrugged. "If you died, I would eat your chocolate in a minute, no question. But you're still living. That changes everything."

"It warms my heart," he said.

He reminded me for the 5th or 6th time today that he is a good-looking guy. He claims that I never tell him so, which is not true, while he tells me "all the time" how good I look, also not true.

I finally put it to him. "Overweening ego and Alzheimer's is too much on the same plate. I can't deal with both, so take your pick."

He's thinking about it.

I softened the blow. "You are a good-looking guy," I said. "I'm lucky to be seen with you."

He got all misty.

"Of course, they don't know you're balmy."

As soon as we got home he turned on the television. Flip is on intimate terms with every "Law and Order" episode ever aired.

"Alzheimer's is in all the ads," he remarked.

"Oh, good. I'll take three."

I watched, too, for a minute. "It's becoming epidemic. It will be much more common in a few years as the boomers age. You're a pioneer, a trailblazer."

He studied the actor in the Aricept ad, who was much older than he is. "He's pretty good."

"You'll have to work hard to top that," I said.

Some of the commercials are really sneaky. They cut to them seamlessly and mimic the lighting in the shows, sucking you in before you can put the remote on mute. (And I do mean sucking.)

There is a test to let you know if you've been watching "Law & Order" too long:

If you see a woman's face with closed eyes and assume it's a cadaver but when you look more closely you realize it's an ad for face cream, you might have a problem. It makes me uneasy that I've grown so used to seeing dead bodies that I automatically process corpses over cosmetics.

There is also the matter of the very flowery commercial which shows a sweet-looking older woman getting married in a lovely gown and -- Depends. I think this scares me even more than becoming one of the corpses because if someone kills you, you're dead. It's over. But Depends is forever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How do you say "Milli Vanilli" in Chinese?

China dazzled the world with its $100-million Olympics opening ceremony which sought to present the image of a Utopian China replete with the perfect baby teeth of a little girl who sang a powerful ode to her country. Except the exquisite voice was not hers. It was the recorded voice of another little girl deemed less pretty than the one lip-synching on center stage.

The charming image of Lin Miaoke, nine-years old, "singing" her heart out in a red dress, appeared around the world while the unseen real singer, seven-year old Yang Peiyi, was replaced at the last minute because a senior Communist Party official thought it more important to feature a prettier child.

"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," he said. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."

You would think the Olympics would be about authenticity, competitors from every country doing their personal best. How is it possible, then, to justify choosing a "prettier" child over a genuinely talented one to represent her country?

In 1964, when Warner Brothers made a film of the Broadway hit show, "My Fair Lady," Julie Andrews, who had originated the role and garnered multiple awards in the US and Europe, was not cast as Eliza Doolittle because studio executives didn't consider her gorgeous enough. The role went to Audrey Hepburn, whose immense charm and beauty could never be disputed, but she was also tone-deaf. Her musical numbers were sung by Marni Nixon, for decades the movie voice of every actress who couldn't sing.

I had hoped we were past such superficial lunacy, but extreme reverence for physical perfection seems to be a worldwide phenomenon which won't quit. It is particularly disheartening when it trumps ability and sends young people the unhealthy message that no matter how hard they work to develop their talents, they will never be as good as those who were accidentally born beautiful.

In the words of Confucius, that other Chinese dude, "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."