Thursday, August 9, 2012

Awk Squawk: Backbreaker

The "back"story on my spine (whomp whomp) is that I'm all sort of hideously deformed: legs different lengths, tilted pelvis, two curves of the scoliosis, and my head isn't properly straight on my neck. It's a good thing beauty is only skin deep, because I have one ugly-ass skeletal structure.

This, understandably, used to cause me all sorts of pain. Aches, migraines, wailing and gnashing of teeth - just awful. Dr. Dad does not believe in chiropractors (MDs and Chiros and kind of like werewolves and vampires; they'll never get along and they're always bothered by whiny mopey chicks who want to be saved) but he discovered a new "osteopath" at his work. This osteopath proceeded to work all sort of miracles and actually MOVE MY SKULL AROUND, and I went from a migraine every two weeks to maybe once ever six months.

(We will call him The Spineanator, not to be confused with my beloved keychain Spiney.)

I really like The Spineanator; he's a nice young dude with an office next to Dr. Dad's, very professional, and also saved me from a life of misery and woe. I enjoy some good natured teasing (re: the flipper baby story) which is made more amusing when The Spineanator does not know how to respond to my screwball comments.

For example, a recent session:
[The entire duration of this conversation my neck is either twisted behind my shoulder, or he has me in a headlock and is bending me over a table. Again, super professional, but the must amusing position for Dr. Dad to walk in on.]

Me: So, Spineanator, could you like, break my neck if you wanted to?

The Spineanator: What?

Me: You know, if you wanted to, could you snap my neck right now and paralyze me? Or would that kill me?

S: I would have to have massive arms... like Steven Segal... but I would never do that. That would never happen. You're totally safe right now.

Me: That's not the point. So your arm muscles are strong enough to break my neck? Is it physically possible for you to do it, right now? Just snap it?

S: R. Grace, I would NEVER do that -

Me: Yeah, but I mean, hypothetically...

S: It would be really difficult.... you would have to be in a really weird position...

Me: You mean like right now? My chin is already behind my shoulder, isn't that pretty weird?

S: I don't know / I mean I've never tried / Not that I would ever do anything like that / I would never put you in any position that would endanger you

Me: So... in the movies, like Titus (best Shakespeare adaptation ever, fyi), you couldn't just come up behind me and snap my neck with one arm?

S: No... probably not... I would never try to...

Me: It just seems so easy to break someone's neck... Like when you read in Seventeen -

S: Can't say I've ever read Seventeen....

Me: There's all these stories about girls who get pushed into a pool and they just tap their head on the concrete and BAM - paralyzed right before their wedding. How is that so simple, but you've worked with spines for years and can't just - snap it?

S: Well we're trained to fix spines, not break them... and I guess in that situation it's their whole body weight coming down at an extreme angle on their head, so it's possible.

Me: So if you stood on top of the table and jumped down you could probably do it?

S: I mean, I don't know....


S: I don't know? I would never do that! I'm not going to break your neck.

[enter Dr. Dad]

Dr. Dad: Hey! Can I watch? We're so grateful for you, Spineanator. We had just given up on R. Grace ever not being in pain again until you came along. We thought she was going to suffer forever. What were you guys talking about?


Awkward Grace is BACK.

Settled into my LA apartment and ready to get my write on.
Did you miss me?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Things shouted at me on the street.

You're cute... too bad you're a BITCH!

- friendly neighborhood homeless man when I walked past today without giving him change. I love random compliments from strangers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Satanists and CS Lewis Incident

I have a confession.

I am a bad Christian.

And by that, I mean, I don't have multiple CS Lewis quotes on my Facebook profile. Seriously, if I had a dollar for every Facebook friend who has that line about ~Is he safe? No he's not safe, but he's GOOD~ [get it guys, Aslan's a metaphor for Jesus! This quote is so deep. So. Deep.] I could buy a pair of pants at Anthropologie. But I don't plaster my Facebook wall with CS Lewis quotes because it's overdone or vastly taken out of context or because some people just post 'em cause it's cool and don't actually understand the depth and the need for conversation behind them. Well, you see...

CS Lewis kind of caused a major childhood trauma.

Our house is full of books - a bookshelf (or two) in every bedroom, and a big one in the hallway. Books everywhere. And as an awkward tween, I had plenty of free time to read for pleasure (reading for fun is a totally foreign concept in high school, except when you geek out and read the entirety of your Media Effects textbook because it's SO INTERESTING). I went through a big classics kick in middle school where I read tomes like "Peter Pan," "Mary Poppins," "Tarzan," and for some unknown reason, "Jane Eyre." In between these meaty books I liked to read your typical fluff tweeny-coming-of-age tale or one of my mom's murder mysteries. My middle school crush on Hercule Poirot rivals my current friends' swooning over Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock.

So I went to my parent's bookshelf to find a good murder mystery. Leafing past the heap of "How to Deal with Your Awful Daughter" and "Times to Torture Terrible Tweens" (which I also read for fun so I could learn how to sabotage my parents' punishments, haha!) I found a slender book in a purply-pink cover. It looked pretty old and well-read, and the lettering on the cover was gothic and foreboding. I requested myself away in my room to begin reading.

An hour later, I realized my parents were Satanists.

This book, you see, was correspondence between two demons on how to corrupt a good Christian. It was so frightening and utterly detailed on how to corrupt a good, pure soul that I put it down halfway in. Why would my parents have such a book? Why would it be so obviously well worn, and half-hidden behind the usual books? Wasn't I a good Christian - didn't I go to church and youth group and stuff? Maybe this was a key, a small snippet, a glimpse into the terrifying truth - my parents were worshipping the devil and just playing along until they could destroy us.

Suddenly, my parents' explanation for me not being baptized: "The church we went to when you were born didn't do infant baptism, and at this point we want you to make a conscious decision" paled in comparison to the real truth: they didn't want me baptized so I would have no protect when they tried to ruin my soul.

[[[[ Let me explain how I jumped to such an extreme conclusion. You can skip this part if you too would have totally believed your parents were the right-hand of the devil after uncovering a hidden, menacing tome of evil.]]]]
1) I was a tween. Tweendom is God's joke on humanity. You hate everything. You hate yourself; you hate your parents. Everything is uncomfortable and nothing makes sense. Your brain is overwhelmed with hormones and the sudden capacity to do complex reasoning, without any sort of guidance on logic. YOU ACT WEIRD.

2) "I have a vivid imagination" doesn't even being to explain it. My imagination is through-the-roof wild. Usually this is a good thing in my chosen career and hobbies. However, at the time, it was partially fueled by a totally unchecked anxiety disorder. I was scared of a lot in middle school and for (seemingly) good reason. I now know how to stop being ridiculous, but ten years ago, nope. Grand ideas + fear = YOU ACT WEIRD.

3) Everything about the book seemed evil. I had seen television shows about this, I think. Every demonic possession movie has something about an old evil book. I might have just watched the Exorcist. Demons talking in detail. All signs point straight to hell. YOU ACT WEIRD.

end explanation

What's a twelve year old to do when she thinks her parents are worshipping the devil? CONFRONT THEM ALONE, OBVIOUSLY.

I checked on Lil Watz in his room, reading peacefully about whales. So unaware. So uncorrupt. I could not let his soul be eaten or whatever my parents were planning on doing to us.

I carried the book outstretched away from my body downstairs. I don't think I was actually clutching a Bible, or had a circle of salt or anything. I was the most ill-prepared demon hunter ever. But you know, the power of Christ compels you or something or other. Lady mother sat in her favorite chair, seemingly innocently reading a book about a garden/bed-and-breakfast-owner-turned-crimesolver-in-a-sleepy-english-town. But she couldn't fool me, not any more. I knew I had to play it cool; I couldn't let on that I knew her secret.

"So, lady mother, I found this book in your room." There. Easy. Non-confrontation, open to interpretation. She looked up, startled. Was that concern in her eyes? Did she guess that I knew?

"Where'd you find that? I don't know if you'll like that book." Definitely a hint of concern. Why wouldn't I like the book? Because I'd find out her and Dr. Dad's secrets? Could she tell I was about to panic?

"I started reading it. I found it very... interesting." I stared at her. Knowingly. I raised my eyebrows. Time to come clean, demon.

She turned back to her book.

"MOM ARE YOU A SATANIST?" I half-yelped. So much for subtlety. She looked up, definitely concerned now.

"What? R. Grace, what on Earth, why would you think that?" How dumb did this demon think I was?

"I started reading this book. I know what it's about. You're looking for souls to corrupt. Why do you have this book? Why do I have to wake up early for church if you're a Satanist?" Gasp, gasp. As usual, I couldn't keep my big ol' R. Grace mouth shut and I poured out all my fears about this book. Most of them sounded incredibly silly once spoken aloud, though they made perfect sense in my head. Lady mother sat there, next to some embroidery project she was working on for a Nativity set, looking like the same ol' boring, reliable, loving Lady Mother I'd always known.

And to her credit, she didn't even laugh at me.

She explained that "The Screwtape Letters" was actually a very popular book with Christians, written by a really popular theologian named C.S. Lewis. I didn't quite understand how detailed instructions of how to corrupt a Christian was supposed to help Christians, but she said it was an example of what NOT to do, problems we face every day. I was more convinced when she explained this C.S. Lewis guy was behind the whole Chronicles Of Narnia series. She then suggests I try reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, as it might be more on my level.

"Eww, the Chronicles of Narnia? Those books SUCK. I'm definitely not worried anymore." And I went off to paint my nails electric blue and wallow in pubescent angst. I lived to be awkward for another day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What can you do with a sentimental heart?

I don't usually post about my life outside of awkwardness and silliness, but I am graduating college soon. I recently rediscovered this picture of me (my parents met at the college I now attend). Baby R. Grace has come full circle.

Go Heels!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Worms that Weren't Incident

Collegetown had a very mild winter this year, and for that I was insanely grateful.
You see, when I hear "Winter is Coming," I think of one thing:


It also means Game of Thrones but underneath all that warm fuzziness of bloodshed and sex is scratch, scratch, scratching.

As mentioned in the Awk Squawk about asking a new resident if my treatment would give me flipper babies, I have eczema. It is gross and miserable and hideous. It also get aggravated by lack of sunlight, thick scratchy fabrics and long, hot showers. Those three factors define my winter in a nutshell. Dr. Dad is like a wool evangelist and as a doctor's child I have been sufficiently scared away from the cancer beds. I still don't understand why apartment complexes offer tanning beds as part of their "complimentary services," but you ask the staff for a pack of smokes and they look at you like you're crazy. And lukewarm showers in the winter? When I am paying for heating in my house and always cold? Surely you jest. 

Itch, itch.

These days, I have two powerful aids on my side. I possess super thick miracle cream from the doctor and very very (very very) mild soap. 

However in high school, I was not so lucky. 

First, I did not exactly know what was going on with my skin (Is this puberty? Dammit body get your shit together). Second,  I was the typical teenage girl obsessed with bath products. Super smelly lotiony all-moisture-stripping chemical-overload ground into my epidermis with a loofah? ... but the label says "Midnight Path" or "Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Cookie Crumble"and who doesn't want to smell like a grocery store? Finally, big chunky (but still close-fitting? I never did figure out high school style) cable knit sweaters were "in." However, being in NC where it only gets legitimately cold maybe one month of the year, these big fluffy sweaters usually went on bare skin.

Or maybe that was just me?

Anyways, I was a senior and high school and AWESOME. Lead in the school play, President of the English Honor Society (nerd) etc. Winter hit and I reveled in turning down track&field because  I was so embarrassingly slow I wanted to focus on theatre. Our Advanced Theater class was a pretty close knit group, mostly because no one else in the school wanted anything to do with us.

A particularly scratchy afternoon in the doldrums of January began to drive me crazy. I had on a pink fuzzy sweater from American Eagle - I remember this specifically because AE was SO COOL but Lady Mother would never spend money on cool name brand clothes. This was before shopping at Goodwill was trendy. She wanted me to focus on things like my grades and personality instead of dressing like the popular kids, that cruel fiend. But somehow, probably through a combination of prolonged whining and Christmas-present-time-mania, I got an American Eagle sweater.

And it itched like the fires of hell mixed with poison ivy.

So I scratched all morning and afternoon, but I would not take the damn thing of because it was AMERICAN EAGLE, for crying out loud! I almost could understand Kate Moss's statement that:"nothing tastes as good as skinny feels," because no relief from the horrible itching would feel as good as the brief nods of approval in the hallway. Beauty is pain, right?

However, there came a point in the late afternoon where I thought I might actually start pulling my hair out just to distract myself from the itching. I figured enough was enough and I would finally cave and-

roll up the sleeves a little bit.

Hah, you didn't think I would actually TAKE OF THE HORRIBLY AFFLICTING SWEATER, did you? That requires a level of common sense not present in seventeen-year-old girls who just want to be cool.

That particular day in theater we had a substitute teacher. Subs were great because we could convince them to do almost anything, like replay the sex-on-the-stairs scene from American History X at least four times in a row before she got suspicious. We pretty much had free reign.

I rolled up the sleeves as far as they would go, revealing three-inch diameter red, scaly, horrible circles of eczema on the inside of my elbows, with smaller circles smattered around my wrists. I tried to discreetly cover them by crossing my arms and sneak some slow, mournful scratches on the cracked desert battleground of my flesh.

"OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT" came a screech from the girl sitting next to me. I honestly don't remember her name or much about her, except she had the prettiest dirty-blond hair I've ever seen. The substitute stopped her droning and everyone swiveled to look at me. I crossed my arms tighter with my hands clamped over the inside of my elbows. Of course, that only aggravated the itching.

Oh, fuck it.

Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch.

"OH MY GOD YOU HAVE RINGWORM. R. GRACE HAS RINGWORM. R. GRACE IS GOING TO GIVE US ALL RINGWORM OH MY GOD SHE'S COVERED IN WORMS." The girl was almost hysterical. Everyone stared at the scaly patches on my arms. The substitute looked like she was about to faint.

"Actually ringworm is a fungus, it's not 'worms'."

That was my first response. I didn't think to defend myself, or deny it was ringworm, or assure everyone they weren't crawling with disease and would be detained at Ellis Island because of me. I am so glaringly Dr. Dad's own daughter, I had to CORRECT HER DEFINITION of ringworm first.


Well that didn't help matters.

I tried to calmly explain to the substitute that it was just eczema, that it always looks like this, that I wasn't contagious... and she was just a vehemently trying to convince me that I needed to go to the school nurse or anywhere far, far away from her.

Trying to save face, I suddenly remembered I had lotion in my backpack. It was something like "Moonberry Dream Vanilla Blossom" with extra added chemicals and perfumes. Utterly the worst thing possible to put on sensitive skin, with the exception of possibly hydrochloric acid. Possibly.

"Oh look, I will just rub some lotion on it and everything will be better. No worries!" I said cheerfully, as I clenched my jaw and bit back tears of agony as I rubbed the reeking, chemically lotion into my scales, shooting stinging pain up my arm. The flesh puffed up and looked almost oozy, but at least there weren't flakes. My arms were burning. The itching had not died down, it was now just complimented with fire and tingling stings.

But I could tell from the judgmental glares around me that it wasn't enough.

So I slowly, miserably, unrolled my sleeves, encasing my sad battered skin with the rough, irritating sweater. And I sat on my hand for the rest of the class, counting the seconds in my head until I could run out of the room and rip off that horrible sweater once and for all.

Except, it was still an American Eagle sweater. And it was kind of worth it, since that one cute boy told me I looked nice. I might have worn it a couple dozen more times.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gawk at the Awk: Sunglasses edition

These little child shades sat at my station at work last night. I took a picture with them on.
Various people asked me if I had actually purchased them, and pointed out that they looked terrible on me and I need shades a much larger size.

Of course they look terrible! They're fit for a three-year-old's face. I know what looks good and what doesn't. Right? ... right?

Then I remembered I was OBSESSED with these stunna shades I found at the PTA thrift store my freshman year of college. I wore them all the time until they broke under mysterious circumstances...

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't be trusted in my taste of sunglasses.
I still miss those orange circle shades though.
I think they were awesome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The horror in the hair incident

The last year of elementary school was rough. We had just moved to a new, bigger city where 6th grade fell under "elementary." I was new, and naive, and all the styles were different, and suddenly very aware of my Harry Potter glasses (before they were trendy) and my buck teeth. And the things I did to minimize my lameness only made it worse.

Of course.

For example, I was terribly self-conscious about the HUGE HIDEOUS SCAR* on my lower lip. I got teased a lot about my face because I had the general facial proportions of a poison dart frog. The boys at school called me "catfish" and would swim past me in the hallways, exaggeratedly gulping in water to filter through their gills. Though the constant teasing related to the size of my mouth, I somehow related it to my HUGE HIDEOUS SCAR and tried to cover it with makeup. From the ages of 11-13 I wore thick, dark dark purple lipstick two shades lighter than "goth massacre." And sometimes when I tired of the kiddie Marilyn Manson look, I switched to a shiny metallic blue lipgloss. No one would see my HUGE HIDEOUS SCAR so they'd stop picking on me, right? For some bizarre reason the teasing continued.

But all this was about to change.

I was going to enter the seventh grade.

My elementary school class would be splitting up, integrating with new people who didn't know I was a certified dork. And after all, MIDDLE SCHOOL shone as a cultural and social beacon of acceptance and new chances. What could go wrong?

Pretty much everything.

For starters, my mean mean Lady Mother made me ride the bus. I suppose in her defense, Lil Watz had to be at Elementary school at almost the exact same time, but still. The elementary school technically backed up to our backyard. He could walk. All he needed to do was cross a rushing toxic-sludge creek, wade through brambles and vicious underbrush on a unmarked path, not piss off the angry souls resting in the scary potter's field (which I discovered on day by TRIPPING OVER A GRAVESTONE. Second-scariest moment of my life), and crossing a desolate field. Totally doable for a third-grader. GOSH MOM.

All the jackasses who picked on me in sixth grade? Yeah, turns out they all lived in my neighborhood. Meaning, they all rode my bus. Meaning, for thirty minutes every morning and thirty minutes every afternoon, there was no adult supervision to quell their merciless torment.

I had entered middle school, and also apparently hell.

Though bookended by the slow, methodical destruction of my self esteem, I enjoyed class. I met my bff (still to this day, ten years later) A. Stox in my homeroom and really enjoyed my teachers. I think they were kind of worried about me, though. My language arts teacher pulled me aside to suggest dyslexia testing once, and I explained to her that I'd gotten bored and decided to start writing all my vowels mirror-flipped. She was not amused. I flipped them back.

A. Stocks and I greatly enjoyed our homeroom, which doubled as pre-algebra. Less of the lumbering jerks in this class. Our teacher, Mr. Ra, was in a word, ostentatious. He wore bright, loud clothes and shouted about pre-algebra in a bright, loud manner. And the hand gestures. Oh child. Those wild exaggerated hand motions would put an angry Italian mother to shame. But I liked him, and pre-algebra presented the first scholastic challenge since... ever, so I mostly felt content.

One crisp autumn morning I was in particularly high spirits as I waited for the bus. The weather seemed lovely, the trees all aglow. I mostly tuned out the "you're so ugly / bug eyes / hey catfish face / swim home to your school of ugly catfish / catfish face / ugly ugly ugly" chorus and listened to a CD on my portable CD player (good gravy I'm old. Also I listened to Switchfoot's "Dare You To Move" which was branded weird freak music until a year later when they put out a music video on MTV) and went on to class. Things were going swimmingly (ha, fishpun) until...


I froze.

This had to be some sort of mean joke, right? But I barely knew the kid sitting next to me, and she had on a look of utter revulsion even worse than the faces of my bus bullies. And suddenly, because it had been pointed out, my scalp crawled with unfathomable itching. I pictured my entire head overrun with lice, millions of white bugs trafficking about me. My whole body ached yearning to scratch my head until I'd torn all my hair out and destroyed the source of the itching. twenty-seven pair of viciously judgmental preteen eyes locked on my thin, mortified frame. I was going to die. If not from lice, then of embarrassment.

Mr. Ra came over, furious to be interrupted from his lavish lecture and looked at my head. And shrieked.


His face, a mask of horror. His arms, windmilling in terror. Even my teacher thought I was gross.

I hung my head in shame and shuffled to the hallway, Mr. Ra close behind. We arrived outside the classroom and I realized every other teacher on the hall had their door open. Slacker students, unmoved by their teachers' soliloquies on social studies, suddenly grew vastly entertained by the spectacle right outside their door. I still had an audience witnessing my humiliation.

Mr. Ra danced around me for a second, muttering things that sounded like "nasty" and "disgusting" as I tried to think of how to politely ask my parents how to ship me off to boarding school on another continent. Suddenly he issued a command: "Hold still." I froze.


I'm pretty sure that's illegal, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

After two swipes (I'm pretty sure the first one was just for dramatic effect), something wiggly and strange flew out on the floor.

A fuzzy wuzzy caterpillar.

Or, Pyrrharctia isabella, also known as a woolly bear. About an inch-and-a-half long, bright orange and black. It shuffled along on the cheap tile, beginning its long trek home.

And it had been hanging out in my hair for at least two hours. I realized it must have fallen out of one of the big pine trees I stood under as I waited for the bus. Two small miracles had occurred in that short time: none of the bus bastards had noticed the giant woolly bear wriggling on my head. And also, I had somehow managed to not squish it with my headphones. A caterpillar was pretty bad, I'd been permanently scarred for life, but at least it wasn't caterpillar guts. I mean, gross.

Mr. Ra straightened his collar. I looked around the hall to see the faces of students framed in the doorways, eye wide with terror that a teacher had just whacked me about the head multiple times. As soon as I caught their eyes, they turned away with rapt attention to their teachers, lest they received a thwacking too.

"Don't ever let that happen again." Mr. Ra said stiffly and turned to reenter the classroom.

I stood there for a moment in utter shock at the events of the last five minutes. The entire class, and by lunchtime the entire seventh grade, knew I had a giant bug crawling across my head and I hadn't even noticed it. Why on earth would I have just let this happen? How had it even been possible for such a strange turn of events in the first place? Though I didn't entirely understand it then, a few things started clicking into place in my mind. Sure I had my hopes and dreams, but the universe worked in a very precise and specific way, and one true thing would soon become all too apparent...

I was never going to be cool.

* I got the HUGE HIDEOUS SCAR when I was a wee babe and busted my face on a metal stool while trying to pull up and stand on my lardy baby legs. (Yes, the Grace in R.Grace was apparent at such a tender age) I never noticed it until I was seven and some kid at 4-H Club Camp came up to me and said "what's wrong with your face?" When I asked her to explain, she asserted, "Your mouth. Why is it so ugly in the corner right there?" And then she took my cookie and walked off.

In recent (like, embarrassingly recent) years, I realized the HUGE HIDEOUS SCAR is but a small twinge in the corner of my lip, and no one ever mentioned it because it's not very noticeable. I have made peace with what used to be my self-confidence kryptonite, like, "you do your thing and be there on my face, but I'm not tilting my head in that direction for pictures." 

And life goes on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A brief history of orthodontic hell

I just got all four wisdom teeth out and was reminded of the last time I faced off against mouth molesters.

I have a completely rational terror of orthodontists.

Or, for that matter, dentists, oral surgeons, periodontists, any sort of man in my mouth (heh heh.)

Non-mouth doctors don't give me the slightest shiver. Draw my blood? Cool, I wanna watch. Remove a tumor on my shoulder? Cool, show it to me. Put my feet up in stirrups and scrape me? Well, no one really enjoys that but it doesn't scare me. Stick your hands in my mouth?

Oh, hell no.

I had some really busted teeth as a wee R. Grace. Lil Watz so kindly described my mouth as "looking like a mangrove swamp." For those who've never ventured to Indonesia, mangroves are known for their gnarled, twisted roots jutting out from the murky, silty waters. If that wasn't enough, Lil Watz often compared me to a babirusa, a southeast Asian deer-pig with giant curling tusks that grow up over its lips and make it foul-tempered.

I think what I love most about my brother is his sweetness.

Needless to say, I started getting my mouth fixed as soon as my adult teeth barely got rooted in their jagged place.

First, I had a plastic night guard with a scary metal bar across the teeth. It did little good besides adding to the litany of reasons I could barely sleep at night as a young lass. X-rays reveals the holy grail of ugly ducklingdom: an overbite AND a retracted lower jaw. Overbite times two. Ooog-ly. When I hit the ripe age of ten, the orthodontist of my hometown said in no uncertain terms that the only way to fix my jaw was to break it. Intensive surgery to break my lower jaw, set it, and wire it in place for two months.

Breast implants would have been less complicated.

There I stood, trying to be a poised, interested young adult, having a mean old man tell me he was going to break my face. And weave it shut with wires. I listened to the list of things I wouldn't be able to do with my jaw wired shut in horror. How would I eat? What if I got a stomach bug? How would I answer all the questions in class? And the most terrible thought of all...

What if finally, finally the boy across the street realized I was the most perfect girl in the world and he wanted to kiss me?

I couldn't kiss a boy with my face all broken and bruised and wired shut.

I mean, gross.

Clearly I had my priorities straight as a pre-tween. I started sobbing in the orthodontist's office. Nuclear meltdown sobs, full body hysterical heaving and hyperventilating. I was so ugly. So ugly they were going to having to rip my face apart and make me even uglier (with the vague promise of the perfect smile somewhere in the hazy future. Like when I was fiften? That was SO OLD, god). This was just, without a doubt, the end of the world. And to top it off, I was not "using my grownup manners" in front of an adult. The horror.

Lady Mother dragged me out and I never saw that mean old man again. I hope they tarred and feathered him.

Then we moved to ~a bigger city~ and the torture began anew.

My new dentist is a wonderful man, actually. Quite jovial, the typical reminders to floss more and that I should probably get my wisdom teeth out before they started causing me problems (the second piece of advice I didn't follow because I was a teenager and therefore invincible. Yeah yeah yeah, he told me so. And if I ever eat mashed potatoes again I might start sobbing.) but a nice chap. Then, there was my orthodontist.

He scared the bejezus out of me before he even opened his perfectly clean and shiny mouth. He looked like the sort of elderly gentleman that would invite you and your wacky friends to his abandoned mansion for a dinner party, and if you could survive the night you would win a million dollars. But your chances were slim. Or maybe I just associate people with large, perfectly white teeth with homicidal tendencies. Whatever. He also possessed the most frightening eyebrows I have ever seen, at least half an inch thick and snow white. Like fuzzy wuzzy caterpillars... from hell.

So Dr. M as we shall call him, diagnosed me, yet again, as clinically ugly. There's probably a medical term for it, but that's the gist of things. Once Lady Mother told him in no uncertain terms that they were not breaking my jaw, he devised an equally vile plan: front braces and the Herbst appliance.

As a side note, until just now when I looked it up on the internet, I thought it was "Herps" appliance. I got so many "HA HA YOU HAVE HERPS-ES" because pronunciation is a lost art in North Carolina. Sorry 'bout it, ya'll.

Herps-es. Heh heh.

The Herbst appliance, probably invented during the Spanish Inquisition alongside the Rack and Thumbscrews, is a medieval torture device forced and screwed into a young tween's mouth to push their lower jaw forward and make them rue the day they were born. It looks somewhat like a set of shock absorbers, with poles that kept coming disconnected and trapping food in your gums for centuries. It's truly hideous, and can be tightened and rescrewed to slowly force the jaw farther and farther forward. It puffs out your cheeks slightly and makes you talk with a lisp.

If you think I'm exaggerating, search for "herps appliance" on the internet and the first thing that comes up is a Yahoo Question asking if it will cause permanent facial deformities.

It really is THAT BAD.

The date was set in stone. I signed the contract (probably in blood), was informed of the potential consequences (severe and irreparable trauma to the social life), ate my last meal, said my prayers and goodbye to my loved ones and...

Dr. M had a heart attack.

He was running a marathon or whatever mouth torturers do for fun and his heart gave out. The day before my appointment.


Or at least, granted a short reprieve. Six weeks later, he was fully healed (probably because he was part robot) and ready to give me a double dose of misery to make up for my few weeks of extra freedom. Installing the hardware took over and hour and a half of drills, screwdrivers, and wedges of metal shoving and prodding throughout my tiny tween mouth while I lay there, fully conscious and writhing in misery. In the midst of the pain, and blood running down the sides of my mouth, and the air-sucker thing stuck on my tongue shriveling it to the size of a small prune, I fixated on one shining goal in my delusional mind.

I was going to get a slice of pepperoni pizza after this.

I emerged from the operation bruised and battleworn. I met Lady Mother in the lobby, eyes red from tears and mouth red from caked-on blood. I made my request firm and clear. I was going to have a slice of pizza. It was the one glorious hope that kept me going through the pain. I was determined.

"PEEETHHAA." I demanded with a heavy lisp, reopening the few clotted sections as blood probably ran down my face in little rivulets. Lady Mother tried to protest, make me see reason, but I kept repeated PEETHA loudly and more bloodily until she gave up and drove me to the mall's food court.

It was the most painful eating experience of my life. I think I cried with every bite. But I finished the whole damn thing.

I then ate mush for the rest of the week.

At least the worst was over now. The pain only came briefly during "tightening" sessions, where they screwed my lower jaw forward. I could eat whatever I wanted, as long as I could unhinge the bars and scoop out the food caught along my cheeks. The teasing was brutal as I rode the bus with some of the cruelest and stupidest specimens of humanity. My hopes of kissing a boy withered and died. Some day this fugly duckling would turn into a swan... when I was fifteen and an old wizened spinster, past my prime and only able to wistfully look back on the days of my youth. But the worst had passed.

Until they went to remove the appliance.

Dr. M and his lovely aide (who remains one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met in my life) went to work. The glue holding the appliance to my teeth had to be drilled off. Mini-chainsaws, mini-drills, about three-air suckers, pliers, and so many hands in my mouth. I might have had a major freak out.

It might have been such a bad freakout that twenty minutes in, we had to "take a short break" with the appliance dangling partially out of my mouth, because I was crying so hard I was starting to hyperventilate they couldn't work.

I got my shit together and went back under the knife. I begged forgiveness for whatever atrocities I'd committed to deserve this fate. I steeled myself against the pain, the chipping and whirring and drilling against my teeth and gums until... a sharp, blinding agony spiraled into the soft flesh on the underside of my tongue.

Yes, my tongue is awesome. I can touch both my nose and the underside of my chin with it. So maybe it takes up a lot of space in my mouth and maybe it can be super wiggly, like alien arm syndrome of the mouth. But suddenly it was under attack. The drill had slipped and plowed right into my tongue.

I tried to make distressed sounds to alert the doctor and attendant that I was in more than the usual you-are-destroying-my-face pain. I was surprised they didn't worry about the extra blood gushing out, burning like the fires of a thousand suns. I might have heard a grunt to stop wiggling so much. I couldn't even fixate on pizza. I prayed the next time the drill slipped it would be through the roof of my mouth, destroying my brain and putting my misery to an end.

I somehow emerged from the removal alive, though not without permanent emotional scarring. The orthodontist left in a huff, probably to terrorize some other small child. I meekly told the assistant that my tongue hurt, and asked if she could look at it.

"Oh, honey, it's probably just the usual bumps and and bruises." I then lifted my tongue to show her the mangled, oozing underside.

"OH GOD, I mean, ummm, oh honey, let me get you some numbing cream and pain medicine." The color drained from her face and she returned with roughly ten tubes of ora-gel and a handful of individually-wrapped aspirin. You know it's bad when the people in charge look horrified.

I went home after applying enough numbing gel to make me a drooling idiot, and pulled my tongue up in front of the mirror to survey the destruction. Sure enough, there was a deep pit in the underside of my tongue, covered in a tough white fleshy scab. Apparently tongues are similar to starfish, and it mostly grew back.

I went back shortly later to get the full set of braces and get diagnosed with TMJ. At a youth group beach trip, my jaw had locked up and could only open a quarter of an inch. I thought I had somehow dislocated it and freaked out accordingly, thus scaring off boys even with minimal metal in my mouth.

If this blog is any indication, I'm a very high stress and high anxiety person, and that leads me to clenching my teeth in my sleep. I could crack iron bars with these chompers. That, in addition to moving my jaw inches out of place, cause a slipped disc in my jaw. The temporary solution? Cutting down an athletic/football mouth guard to fit my mouth while I slept.

I am the one dorky loser who was excited about getting her braces off because that meant RETAINERS! Six years later, and it's probably been less than twenty nights total without them.

Many more months of agony and dweebiness and I finally got my braces off. The saga had ended. And since I wore my retainers all the time, my perfect smile stayed in place. I once burned my gums with those whitening strips, but all in all my oral woes had come to an end.

Until my wisdom teeth started a'wailin. But they're out now and after pain medicine withdraw and infection, I'm in the clear.

And how does this story end for Lil Watz? Mangrove Mouth gave way to Robo-Tooth for a while when I had the metal in my mouth, and he still calls me a babirusa for my foul temper. He had an equally rough time with a crossbite and some horrible device on the roof of his mouth that had to be turned with a key.

Oh, and he wants to be a dentist, so I'll never be able to escape.