Moment of Tooth

For over a decade, my friend Dulci has been my “in case of emergency” person for everything. She is super responsible, she is one of my best friends, and I know her phone number by heart.

I began seeing my current dentist, to whom I shall refer as “Dr. A.” (not her real initial), in 2004. At every appointment in our first nine years together, Dr. A. applied intense verbal pressure on me to get married: With her hands in my mouth, giving me no opportunity to immediately respond, she pelted me with questions about whether I was dating anyone and when I would marry.

On all of those eighteen occasions, once Dr. A. removed her hands and thus restored my speech, I gave her the truthful answer: I had not yet met a man whom I felt I could marry.

I never told her about any of my relationships, since our appointments were always over by that point — and frankly, I resented the expectation that I should defend myself. A free bird, long-term partnership has never been my life’s highest goal. While I may marry someday, it’s not a given in my case. I don’t mean to torment Dr. A., but I live by a deeply held principle that one should never settle down simply to appease one’s dentist.

Besides, our love lives do not fall under the purview of our dental health professionals. Everyone knows such talk is more appropriately reserved for our hair stylists and colorists, who don’t even have to ask before the relationship stories pour forth.

Two years ago, tired of Dr. A.’s agenda-pushing questions, I tried another dentist. I gave it two appointments before deciding that neither his office’s chaotic state nor his dental hygienist’s nicotine-scented hands were a fluke.

Last year, I saw a new dentist in my former office building, whom my co-workers at the time recommended. After my first appointment, the dentist’s receptionist called me several times, trying to push adult braces on me. At my second appointment, the dentist threatened that one of my teeth was on course to fall out if I didn’t let her associate perform expensive dental surgery on it. When I shared that story with my co-workers later that day, two out of three said she’d told them the same thing about their own teeth.

Dr. A. may be nosy, but she is also well organized. Plus, she smells fine, and she shows genuine concern for my teeth and my expenses. She is more fraught over my marital status than I could ever be, but she just wants me to be happy, even if it’s happiness as measured by her personal yardstick. Having exercised my free spirit proclivities in the dental care arena, I am happy to recommit myself to Dr. A., now that I’ve seen what’s out there on the dentally-unpaired scene.

At my appointment this morning, since I’d been away for two years, Dr. A. had me fill out an intake sheet, for the first time since our first visit eleven years ago. As I always do, and as I must have done the first time around, I listed Dulci as my “in case of emergency” person, writing “friend” in the line asking the nature of our relationship.

As I sat down in the chair, Dr. A. surprised me. Rather than asking whether I’m dating anyone, she inquired, “How’s your social life, Katie?”

Then she shoved my new intake sheet in my face, pointed to the “friend” reference I’d made to Dulci, and asked, “Hmm? Hmmmmm?”

I guess Dr. A. thinks this is the ’80s and we live in Mississippi … in which case, I would have listed Dulci as my “roommate,” if the situation were as Dr. A. suggested this morning.

Dulci, I know you are a happily married, straight mother of three. But Dr. A. has just given me the cover story that will get her off my back. So if it’s all the same to you, I’m going to break up your home on paper. Dr. A. has been waiting over a decade for this win, and I have to give it to her, if for no other reason that it might stop her perpetual cross-examination.

If this works for you, then you should also know that you and I are getting married within the next six months. Apologies to your husband Mike, but I need something to tell Dr. A. at my next appointment. Being the good “friend” that you are, I know you understand.

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