For those who are familiar with “The Chronicles of the Upheavals”, you know that it’s set in North America. I promised some international friends that I would have more international content in the sequels. (It would be nice to speculate what the rest of the world is doing…)
So, I was heading to Cape Town, South Africa for my annual writing retreat, when I ran into a big challenge: having a tooth fall out of my head. (It just left; no warning, no cause, no goodbye note…) That necessitated me changing my destination to Thailand, to get my smile fixed and write at the same time. (Having the work done in the US would have cost the equivalent of FIVE round-trip plane tickets to Thailand, including room and board.)
Dental work (having it or talking about it) is no easy matter for me. My teeth have been a source of shame and humiliation for me, from the time they first came in. (My mother, as most people [then and now], took the medications that were prescribed to her while she was pregnant with me. One or more of them stained my teeth yellow, and made my bones and teeth brittle and easy to break.) Whenever I despair about being teased and ridiculed as a child, I remember: she could have taken thalidomide. It was readily available at that time. I am deeply thankful to have arms and legs.
It’s so easy to blame the victim in situations like this. My teeth were stained because I was lazy. I was dirty. All I had to do was just brush harder. I had a public school teacher take me into the restroom and brushed my teeth for me — then complained that they would be white if she had gotten to me “sooner”. (In my case, “sooner” would have meant “in utero”.)
For those who have been part of my work around “Deep Identity”, you know that the things that happen to you when you are 0-7 years old stay with you a long, long time. (For those who don’t know about “Deep Identity”, I talk about it in my book, “Practicing Inclusivity”.
Reminds me of a story: Some years ago, I became gym buddies with a regular (we’ll call her “Judy”). At the time, she weighed 350-400 pounds. She had LOST over 200 pounds already, through regular exercise and diet. She was determined to lose another 200 pounds over the next year or so. 5-6 days a week at the gym. She was always filled with pep, energy and positive determination. We all did our best to encourage her.
One day, when I came into the gym, she was openly crying. A woman on the bus had publicly berated her for being “fat”. (At 400 pounds, she took up most of two seats.) Judy said, “She just humiliated me, in public! She thought that “shaming” me would make me lose weight! She said I needed to stop eating so much and stop watching TV so much! SHE HAS NO IDEA HOW HARD I’M WORKING TO LOSE WEIGHT! And, that I’m SUCCESSFUL at it!”
(This makes me think about President-Elect Trump, our “Shamer-In-Chief”. A man who has mastered the art of the low blow… A person quick to make judgments and condemnations of others… with little or no facts. Remember: he is there for a REASON…)
So… I got to face my own shame and humiliation, head-on. While in Portland in December, I had a major training for a major consulting client. You have no idea how many hours of self-talk and meditation it took for me to show up missing a front tooth.
So… fast forward to Thailand…
The tooth work is going okay. I found a dentist online. Thailand specializes in international dental work, so I had quite a pick. (They will pick you up at the airport, drive you to their own hotel, arrange safari packages for you between trips to the dentist… I had no need for the “tourist” treatment. I am not and have never been a “tourist”. If you ever see a photo of me bungee-jumping somewhere, rest assured that its Photoshopped!)
I’ve got a partial plate, so my smile is back! (Cost in US: $750+. Cost in Thailand: $50.). I go back next week for my permanent dental bridge. (Cost in US: $12,000+. Cost in Thailand: $1,500.). I know people in the States who have dental insurance, and STILL have to pay out of their pockets more than I’m paying here in Thailand!
My last sore point: as I’ve done with every dentist who has ever looked into my mouth, I asked, “Is there anything that you can do about the color and condition of my teeth?”
He took off his face mask and slowly shook his head. “I can grind them down and put enamel veneers over each tooth,” he said. “But, that won’t stop them from breaking. And, the veneers will come off – your teeth just aren’t good.”
I tried not to feel like a 6-year-old…
PS: Just in case you were wondering about quality over here: my partial plate is so good, I have trouble figuring out which teeth are natural! Looking forward to the bridge work…