Friday, March 28, 2008


I'm a fairly self-contained person, when it comes to negative emotions. I'm not really sure why, I can't point to anything in my life and say "that made me this way." But there it is, when I feel like emotional crap, I tend to shut the emotional part off and just get through the day.

That fact has been an asset, and a hindrance.

All through my great grandmother's illness, from the day she fell on her way back from the mailbox and shattered her kneecap all the way to the night she died, and her funeral, I was able to step back from the emotions and do what I needed to do, and the things that no one else could bring themselves to do.

On the other hand, when I was sunk in depression after breaking up with the boyfriend in the previous story, I got so used to shutting my emotions off that I didn't even realize how depressed I was until I tried to quit smoking and my doctor put me on anti-depressants to help with the emotional part of the quitting process. I've been trying to actually deal with the things that I used to shove aside, whenever possible, since then. I spent nearly a year pretty much on auto pilot, and once I broke out of it, I didn't like it.

In the same vein, I'm just beginning to realize exactly how sensitive I had become about my teeth. I realized this when I was talking to the girl that has been my best friend since second grade last night about this whole thing, and she was surprised at certain things that I finally admitted.

As many of you can probably imagine, considering the information I've shared about it so far, my teeth were in pretty bad shape. I'm still embarrassed to admit how bad they looked, but I haven't knowingly allowed a photograph to be taken of me in which I was smiling for... shit... five years, maybe more.

There were very few people that I could look in the face when I smiled, and most of them were close family members. The girl I mentioned was one of them, so maybe that's why she didn't realize....

I myself hadn't realized how ingrained it had become to look away from someone, or look down, or put a hand over my mouth when I smiled, until it wasn't an issue anymore. Or, anyway, until I thought it wouldn't be an issue anymore... there's a whole new set of issues now, but that comes later.

Farmmom, bless her heart, said it trying to make me feel better when I was stumbling around the Old Homestead drugged out of my ever lovin mind and muttering incoherently.

"Well, baby, you can smile now."

I think she has understood me best all my life, and I am so thankful for that, I can't even think of a way to say it. She brought it into the light so that I could start dealing with it.

See, I wasn't just self-conscious about my teeth. I'd been told for so many years by so many different dentists that it was because I didn't brush enough, or didn't floss, or because I ate sweets or a dozen other things, that while I knew that I was doing the right things regardless of what they said I still felt responsible for it. And that was only reinforced over the years as the looks from people got progressively more disgusted, in spite of my brushing my teeth so hard my gums bled.

It all collaborated to make me into a person who couldn't smile at herself in the mirror without being disgusted.

And I shoved it aside and ignored it. It was easy to make it believable, as far as being "pretty" is concerned... you know, makeup, hair perfect, all that crap... I could care less most of the time. Oh, I clean up once in a while when I'm going out, but day to day I dress for function, and if my t-shirt is baggy, that just means it's comfy. If it's stained, well, I don't have to worry about getting it dirty at the barn. Pony tails are my friend because they keep my hair the hell out of my way.

My friend commented last night, when we were talking about how paranoid I am about anyone seeing me without the denture, "Well, dude, it's you. It bothers you now, but eventually it'll just be a part of you and you'll give a crap less."

She was shocked when I disagreed.

I started off at a disadvantage in the teeth department. There's bad genes on both sides of the Farm Family, and I got a good dose, to the extent that I was in junior high when I had my first root canal. A tooth had grown in hollow, and had managed to get an infection.

After that, they just got worse. It wasn't a fast downhill slide until the last several years, but it was entirely too fast for me.

And now, I have a denture. Before I had it done I thought about not telling anyone exactly what I was getting done, but logic reasserted itself and I realized that there was no way on earth that I could pass it off as anything but what it was. So, I could pretend it wasn't happening, and let the pissants snicker behind my back, or I could own up to it.

It was a closer decision than I like to admit, in spite of my general lack of giving a shit about what the general populace thinks about my personal habits for the most part. I can hold my head high, look someone in the eye and return fire when they're talking smack about my wardrobe, my weight, or my choice of friends, but one glimmer of "eww" in their eyes when I smiled and I would just collapse in upon myself. My eyes would glue themselves to the ground and I wouldn't look up until the conversation was over.

Because I couldn't blame them. I felt the same way.

Then, over spring break, the teeth came out and the denture went in. Everyone kept telling me that it was for the best and it would be so much better now, and all kinds of other platitudes. Don't get me wrong I love my family and I know they meant the best, but I was wrestling with the fact that I had no choice but the denture at age 23. Mamaw got hers at 19, but that's meaningless to me. I've never known her with any other smile than the one she's got now. That's just her, and this wasn't me. It was a major change in my life.

I didn't tell anyone about this internal struggle, of course. Oh, Farmmom and I talked about it a little bit, but it was never really in depth. The rest of them, this blog is the first they'll hear about it, for the most part. Sorry guys, it's just easier when I have time to compose my thoughts and explain things all at once, and text gives it a step of distance.

So, everyone was trying to make me feel better and for the most part I had the same kind of feelings I had when my great grandma died. I just got sick of hearing it. I wasn't ready to deal with it yet. It was an image issue and trust me, for the first week after they pulled the teeth, I did not feel any better about my image. I looked like someone had slapped me in the mouth with a two by four, and I felt like death warmed over between the drugs and the amount of blood I was swallowing. I couldn't eat, I was pale, I didn't have the energy to stay awake long enough to wash my hair so it was disgusting.

Then I went back to classes.

And the first thing out of everyone's mouth was, "Smile!"

Which, when you're struggling with issues about your teeth, the fact that you've just had fifteen of them pulled, and gotten a denture that is both too perfect and just a tiny bit off to possibly be real, sounds like "Hey! Nasty Smile Girl! Show me your fake teeth!"

Sparky nearly got his head taken off when he asked me to smile at him, and he was one of the kindest about it.

Honestly, I'm coming to terms with it, slowly. It helps that I'll be able to design my permanent how I want, so that I can feel like it will pass the test for looking real. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel on that part.

But every morning when I'm getting ready for class, I have to practice smiling in the mirror. I can't remember how to do it without trying to hide my teeth. I catch myself looking away from the people I'm talking to when I'm telling a funny story.

I have to relearn a lot of things. And the process isn't helped when everyone stares at my mouth every time I open it. Eventually I, and they, will get past that. Until then, I get to struggle with the dual issues of feeling self-conscious about my teeth and getting pissed off at myself for being self-conscious.

It's a tough row, but it's gotta get hoed, one way or another. I'll get there. Maybe admitting it here will help. At the least it has made me think about things in an organized fashion instead of just reacting to them.

Wow... Flashback

I'm sitting here listening to the country station on my TV, and they're playing some older songs that I haven't heard in a while.

Right now, Dixie Chicks's Travelin' Soldier is playing.

Ok I should probably clear something up, now that I think of it. I have what some have called a defect... I have a thing for military men. It goes a bit above and beyond the usual "ooo uniform" bit, really, but I have come to terms with that fact and have, to a certain extent, reined myself in.

My first really serious boyfriend was in the Navy. I was nineteen and he looked so nummy in his dress whites... It's such a cheesy story.

We met at the County Pageant dance, he was the escort for one of my best friends, who happened to be competing for the county beauty queen that year. She introduced us, and to this day I maintain that she just wanted another "Navy girlfriend" to hang out with. Her boyfriend (now her husband) is a Navy man too. Anyway, she had to go change her clothes and she told me to entertain him while she was gone.

That night the three of us crashed out on my parents couch watching movies in a big people pile. The next night he and I crashed out on my parents couch watching movies in a small pile. And the next night.

We spent a week together, and when his leave was up and he had to go back to Norfolk, we emailed every day. By the time he got leave again seven months later and came home to surprise his parents for their anniversary we were signing the emails "I Love You" and I was sure he was Mr. Right.

I lost my virginity in a hotel room in Denver the night I picked him up from the airport. Yes, I was still a virgin at 19. You'd understand if you met the guys I grew up around.

Anyway, things kept on progressing, and he got out of the Navy a couple of months later. A week before his discharge I flew to Virginia to drive back with him, and I had a blast hanging with his buddies. We went to Paramount's King's Dominion on Mother's day, and I called Farmmom from a payphone while he and his buddy Boozer were going on a ride that I wasn't interested in.

Of course, Virginia is also where it all started to unravel. I was working construction by then and I had told him about a lot of the close calls I had, just blowing off steam mostly. Well, we were sitting down to dinner with one of his friends one night and the friend asked me what I did. When I told him, my boyfriend simply stated "But she'll be getting a different job, that one is too dangerous."

On another occasion, while we were bsing with his friends, they got on the subject of the nuclear ships and how the Navy had done a study that showed that men who served on nuclear powered ships were more likely to have girl babies than boys. He looked at me and said "So we're probably going to have girls, honey." I choked on my drink and said "I wasn't aware that kids were on the table!"

Well we had a big fight on the way back over something stupid, and when we got home he decided that he'd rather spend his time hanging out with my friend (who I introduced to him as my "Other Brother, B") with another girl.

I found out and B begged me not to kill him because he was hoping that I'd just give up on the boyfriend and he wouldn't have to be the one tell me. Well, the boyfriend had brought me a jewelery set from Dubai, and I wore the ring that came with it all the time. That is, I wore it after I found a jeweler that would resize it for me, since the gold was purer than they ever use here, most jewelers refused to touch it.

I took it off that night, put it back in the box, and had B drive me to the boyfriends house... where I proceeded to throw it at his head. I was... ahem... a little upset.

Thank god for my friends, I was surrounded by guys and none of them knew how to deal with me crying, because they had never seen me cry before. N finally managed to make me laugh by leading with "hey, now that you're single," and spouting the world's cheesiest pick up lines.

That whole thing really messed with my head though, for a long time. Especially when I found out that he had turned around and given the jewelery that I had... ahem... returned to him... to the girl he cheated on me with. A year later, nearly to the day, they were married.

Anyway, that song is the one I would listen to when I was feeling sad over his being so far away when he was deployed, and it's been a long time since I've listened to it, so it gave me a hell of a flashback. That song and Brad Paisley's "Little Moments" will always remind me of him, and that time in my life.

I have, thankfully, reached the point where I can look back on that time without much bitterness, and be glad of the experiences that I gained because of him. I took my first commercial flight, saw the ocean for the first time, toured the USS Enterprise, and visited Churchill Downs (where he was bored out of his mind while I soaked in the Kentucky Derby Museum, and the backside tour, and the day's races) because of him. I had my heart broken for the first time, because of him, and I learned that it doesn't last forever. I learned that I can actually cuss bad enough to make a sailor blush, too.

Most of all I learned that regardless of how bad it is at the time, there's always something to be gained, whether it's knowledge, or just the experiences.

He's not the only military man my hormones have gone nuts over either. There's been a National Guardsman, two Army guys, a Marine, and a guy in the Air Force. I'm not biased, as long as they have a dress uniform and wear it well, I'll start drooling.

Sad, isn't it?