Teeth, and the Iceberg Tip of Existential Questions.

I’m very self-conscious of my jaw line. Of all things, I know. But let me explain.

Around 14, I had my first go-round with braces. I requested to get the clear porcelain kind. So, you know, they weren’t obvious. And my actually parents obliged. What a fortunate, spoiled child I was.

One week after removing them, my high school choir competed in some sort of regional competition. I can’t recall what it is. What I can recall is the delightful trio I was in with two beautiful vocalists, and when we were posing for photos after winning the equivalent of an honorable mention, one of the girls commented, “Shawn, your teeth are absolutely perfect."

I don’t remember the songs we sang. I vaguely remember the hours of practice we put into rehearsing our two (was it three?) songs. But I distinctly recall her complimenting my teeth.

Like a reckless, ungrateful child, I rarely wore my retainers. That posed a problem, you see. It turns out that I was born without one of my back molars, and so the baby tooth had never fallen out. It had, in fact, fused with my jawbone. This itty-bitty baby tooth had to be surgically removed, prior to my getting these beautiful, invisible, porcelain braces, and the gap was to be maintained through wearing my retainers in order to make space for an eventual tooth implant.

Because I never wore my retainers, my parents had to put their hard-earned dollars on the line, once again, for my second bout with braces – albeit a much shorter duration this time – to get that damn space reopened so I could get the damn fake tooth. Retainer-wearing is so counterintuitive, but that starts an exploration of another topic (read: attaining ideals).

I was pretty vigilant about wearing my retainers after finally getting the braces removed a second time, post-implantation. All these years, I have kept my retainers well and ensured wearing them on a regular basis so that my teeth would not shift so much.

UNTIL LAST OCTOBER, WHEN I BROKE A CARDINAL RULE. I placed my retainers in a napkin at a restaurant, and then proceeded to completely forget about them.

They. Were. Thrown. Out.

It’s been a year without my retainers. I swear, in photos, my jawline is changing. I hate it. This jawline is very expensive, my friends.

I’m 28 now. I foresee Invisalign in my near future. That makes three bouts with attempting to perfect my teeth.

Ideals are such an illusion.