How I avoided looking Barney even after putting full braces

2007-8 were one of those bad years that when I remember, I spit thrice over my shoulder so that it doesn’t repeat itself again. I was stuck in a teaching job that had 2 satisfying aspects only: my department and students.
It paid little, expected a lot and left a constant mark in the form of a chronic neck pain. Social wise: I was a silent witness to the marriage frenzy that my single friends were passing through. Approaching our thirties seemed to have put a mental and social pressure on both sexes.
My male friends kept calculating the number of kids they’d have by the age of 35 and my female friend wiped her tears, saying that we both should consider the idea of marrying divorcees and widowers to raise their children.
Even my wise Indian colleagues kept wondering about my family’s stance of my marriage prospect (including the toilet cleaner). This was the time when acne erupted on my face for the first time and I had to wear braces at the age of 28.
The story behind my braces is funny. My old dentist suggested that I wear full ones which I refused completely. I only needed braces for my lower teeth that were crowded. He argued that it would be nice to have straight teeth, and for that he’d extract two teeth. I argued back that looking like Barney the Dinosaur was the last thing that I had in mind. My doctor wasn’t familiar with the character and kept insisting on doing full braces on every visit. To convince him, I gifted him a Barney soft toy. I even encouraged him to share it with other patients who opted for the Hollywood Smile. He laughed and finally agreed to do braces for my lower teeth only.
Wearing braces wasn’t a pleasant experience at all. Other than the tooth ache that went for days, hard food became a distant dream and salads were a nightmare to eat in public. After removing the braces, I kept wearing retainers for a while. But then I stopped as it disturbed my sleeping.
Ten years later, my teeth were back to their crowded state and my upper ones started jutting out. My young dentist kept pointing that out on every visit, stating that it was becoming hard for him to clean my teeth. I gathered my courage and decided to go for full braces. The new doctor smiled saying that I don’t need to remove any teeth for full braces (and I won’t look like Barney after removing them. Phew!).
So, on Monday, April 30, I got my first full braces at the age of 39. Well, it only took 25 minutes to put on and a week of pain to get adjusted to. Now I sound like Duffy Duck when speaking (lisping and spitting uncontrollably). But the worst part is that when smiling, I can’t retrieve my lips back into the original unsmiling expression. My lips would get stuck to the brackets and I’d have to pull hard to put them back in place. The brackets also tuck into my inner cheeks and cause ulcer.
Sleeping on the back is the safest solution to wake up pain free the next day. This nightmare would last for 8 long months. The only advantage is that my eating manners had suddenly became so lady like. I can’t wolf down food anymore, instead I have to cut it down into small pieces, take small bites, chew slowly (and painfully) and cover my mouth when speaking. I could make my mother proud!
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.