Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Now that I’m old and toothless

Last month I turned forty. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, really. I said no presents, and please no big party. But it was harder to say no to the all-expenses-paid stay in a Florida waterfront property with a pool, surrounded by loved ones. Age does bring wisdom.

They say it’s not how old you are but how old you feel. And I must say that for a moment I did forget my age when handing out slices of tiramisu birthday cake to the under-fives around the table. They did eventually nap, though, so I think the rum might have counteracted the effect of the espresso.

I fretted away my entire thirty-ninth year dreading what it would mean to turn forty. I would be so irreversibly grown up. My knee wrinkles would be permanent. I could no longer decide to go back to school to become a professional pet groomer. I might need glasses. I couldn’t dare think that the gas-station attendant was flirting with me, or that I could ever again leave the house without a handbag. People would call me “ma’am”.

Following tradition, I suddenly decided to set myself a couple of goals to achieve before turning forty: have another baby, and secure a contract with a publisher for my memoir. If I didn’t accomplish these two feats, I thought, the world might implode. Or I might melt away in a puddle on the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West. The fact that I set these goals only three months before my birthday helped me get in touch with my inner masochist. Because, in my experience, it takes about nine months to grow a baby. And I’m pretty sure that before you find a publisher, you first need to find a literary agent.

Of course, what I realized as I tried to get the kids to stop eating the candles, my own face smeared with cocoa, was that the only thing I might end up melting into was a puddle of mascarpone. I was forty and nothing had changed. Except for a rather attractive tan.

For the past two years since biting into an innocuous piece of toast, I've dreaded losing the rest of my devitalized tooth, which no dentist would go near. I stopped eating on that side. I flossed oh-so carefully around it. I fake-laughed into the mirror to see how close to my smile line the tooth came. I had nightmares. I imagined the gaping hole in my mouth that would toss me into the category of tattooed, chain-smoking abused wives whose only friend in the entire trailer park is a stray dog.

If you have serious dental problems, I don’t recommend eating dry Corn Thins in bed in the dark. But I can’t really blame those crispy snacks for the inevitable that happened today - the rest of my tooth fell out. And you know what I felt looking down at my tooth, which incidentally was about the same color as the puffed corn? I felt relieved. The dread was finally over. And where there used to be jagged edges and dark terrifying crevices, now there was only space. Freedom.

I’m old, toothless and unpublished and I'm still here. What is there left to fear? I now have no fear of my own self-imposed deadlines: I laugh at them! I’m no longer afraid of the word “dental implant”, technically a denture. I no longer fear opening umbrellas in the house or putting away loaves of bread turned upside down. I have no fear of publishing my blog post a bit late: my seventeen faithful readers may not even notice. I’m no longer afraid of having nothing to say. I no longer fear that my butt will get pinched in a dark alley. I now have no fear of literary agents because I know that the closer I get to the one hundredth rejection, the closer I’ll be to finding the right agent. So bring the rejections on, folks! One lucky agent and I will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Even if only to withdraw cash for a dental implant.


  1. Happy birthday heddi! What a great way to spend your 40th. Me, I set no goals, life unfolds as it will, and I turn my energies to things that I have to and want to.

  2. Thanks, Mary Anna, you are a very wise girl.

  3. Heddi, the more I read your blog, the more I have to smile!

    What made me smile today (in no particular order!) 1) I turned 41 in's nice to know we're not alone! 2)I too, have a false tooth - two, actually, as the hole the real tooth left was SO BIG that they decided that two teeth were needed to fill it! I've had the bridge for 14 years and it's still going strong - and I can even eat corn thins! I have a bad, repeated dream, that I've finaly lost all of my teeth and I believe it every time I dream it. Sounds like I should post on this. 3) I so admire you for plugging away at the "getting an agent" thing - I'm about a month away from finishing my millionth edit and asking my first-choice agent to represent me...oy, it makes me naseaus. AGAIN, it's good to know we're not alone!!!

  4. Oh, Gretchen, we are both toothless and still smiling...and that makes me feel less alone too! I know what you mean about the millionth edit: a piece of writing is never really done, is it? So even if your MS still feels unfinished, just go ahead and query that agent of your dreams. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

  5. How can you say the dentist won't go near you? Well, not all dentists are like that, Heidi. I hope you get over your apprehension of dentists. Tooth loss becomes more likely as one approaches old age, and it would be best to make dentist visits more frequent to ensure good dental health.

    Bianca Jackson

  6. Dear Bianca, you're very wise! I will certainly take your advice this year, the year of the Dragon, certainly not a time for procrastination. And because I'm thinking/hoping this year will bring much to smile about, I really shouldn't delay.
    Many smiles to you.

  7. Remember the old clique, Heddi? “Life begins at 40”. Hehe. That means, you should double your effort of taking care of yourself, and that includes your teeth. You should have regular check-ups with your dentist since you already have false teeth. Take care of yourself, Heddi! I believe it’s not too late to greet, so belated happy birthday! =)

    1. I agree with you, Jamie! Hehe. Heddi can also try teeth whitening, just in case she has teeth stains. You can take good care of your teeth by simply maintaining a good oral hygiene and seeing the dentist at least twice a year. If you’re keeping your teeth in good shape, you can look younger through your smile.

  8. “I laugh at them! I’m no longer afraid of the word “dental implant”. <~ that’s the spirit, Heddi! If people can laugh and shrug off their of going through a dental implant, then everything will turn out very fine. =) Bianca and Jamie are both right about taking care of your teeth more cautiously. We all should. Hehe.

  9. Thanks Jamie, Ted and Pearl for the encouragement. And yes I'm too old to not take care of myself. And too old to still be afraid of dentists!

  10. Losing teeth can happen to anyone. That’s why it is really essential to practice oral hygiene at a very young age. This can be a good measure to prevent cavities and the premature loss of teeth. Although you’re a year older and toothless, I’m pretty sure that you have already achieved your goals and have reached your dreams. Sometimes losing teeth can simply mean that you’re a year older and wiser!

  11. Well, the time will really come when we’ll lose our teeth. However, we must do our best to care for our precious teeth for as long as we can. My parents started to lose their teeth in their forties as well, but because of modern technology, it will not be a problem for you to recover them, per se. There are many dental implants and procedures available for you!