We live in an age of wonder. In less than 45 minutes I had 5 cavities filled while watching a Gilmore Girls marathon on ABC Family. A side effect of staying with my mother, she will take control of my health. It’s a very good thing, to be honest. Within a week I have had two dentist appointments, one eye exam, and my debt strategized. Most of this happened without me being involved, so I'm pretending I’m a famous reality star and my mother is my manager. Struggling with the Strongs, would be the name of our show, and viewers would only watch because there's cats.
I could have done all this on my own. Lack of experience, good health insurance, and ambition are a mighty combination, however. My mother has all three when it comes to taking care of pretty much everybody, and it feels nice. I may almost be 31, but I look 21 and I’m going to take advantage of that when a stranger asks me where I live.
Ambition has always been an issue for me. Or should I just call it laziness? My ex used to call me lazy, even though I would work three jobs at a time. I guess the excuse that I was tired after working 10 to 15 hour days sometimes 7 days a week escaped him. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t audition more or wanted to be a professional actress. I was more concerned with having enough money for a good time than success. Let’s be honest, I still am. Of course in my teens and early twenties I was convinced I’d make it as an actress somehow, but as soon as college ended I knew the score. If I didn’t care what my professors and peers thought, then why on earth would I care what casting directors thought. Also, the theatre scene in Minneapolis is plentiful but often non paying. I will say the work I got in the Twin Cities was wonderful, as were the people I specifically worked with. Sometimes I worry I didn't try hard enough, but wouldn’t I have tried if I really wanted to? Besides, the more time I spent with the general theatre population, the less I liked everyone. This includes my ex. Especially my ex.
My mouth tastes like metal. Little shards of fillings are dislodging in my numb mouth, my tingling tongue finds each bit. It’s slightly disturbing, like the stress dreams when your teeth fall out. Apparently this is normal, according to my boyfriend. When I worry my teeth are falling out, he's surprisingly a source of strength.
I bought an iced latte at Starbucks, and in the drive through a decent sized piece of metal found it’s way onto my lip. Of course I could barely feel the thing since I’d been pumped with gas and novocaine (a powerful and familiar sensation. Like taking too many whisky shots.) Fortunately I was self conscious of drooling and wiped it away before pulling up to the window. My efforts weren’t in vain, since the barista was clearly into me. Although, much like when I take too many whisky shots, I was thinking “who wouldn’t be into this.” I have my mother to thank. She said, “Make sure you get the gas. You want the gas.”
The dentist said I know how to take pain. I do. I’m a woman. A needle in the mouth is nothing compared to some of the bullshit we go through. Or so I’m told. Fuck knows I never want to know the reality of childbirth. She also said my teeth have deep grooves. I’m choosing to take that as a compliment as it must be the reason I love soul music so much. Thanks teeth, stay cool.
There is no accent as jarringly pleasant and hilarious to me as the Midwestern accent. I’m also terrified mine will sneak back this summer. The dentist and her assistant were your typical Midwestern women. Married, kids, I’m assuming the owners of beautiful and gigantic beige houses.
“Planning a night out with the neighbors to see some country band, finally found a sitter!”
It all puts me on edge. These women aren’t idiots, though, I don’t want to paint them that way. It amazes me what they did to my mouth while discussing their plans for the practically the next month
“My cousin is having three colors for her wedding, not two. I thought she was showing me paint swatches.”
“So my mother is getting the leg surgery after all, I just hope she can still watch the kids the next week. It’s WE Fest! Haven't missed it in 5 years."
“I couldn’t believe she brought in that cardboard box, I had three kennels ready for her. Honestly, for an intelligent woman, I have to wonder.”
Such an expert level of multitasking I’ve never witnessed. It’s all so female and normal, work friends catching up over five fillings. Truthfully, I’m a little envious. I hope my choice of Gilmore Girls inspired them to gab, although you know us ladies, we just can’t help ourselves when we get together!
Sarcasm and passive aggression are Midwestern standbys. We seem nice, but we’re not. Judgement is second only to eating here in the midwest. Perhaps that’s why my father always felt out of place. Not because he wasn’t judgemental, he was, but because the Strong’s seem to be naturally aggressive. My siblings and I tend to get angry about silly things, usually when our blood sugar is low. At least that's my sister's excuse.
One time I was standing with the fridge open, cutting off a piece of cheddar as a snack. I was doing this slightly sneakily because I knew if my father caught me, he’d a. say something mean, or b. yell at me for taking food without asking (he was strict about the weirdest shit). My covert operation failed as he turned the kitchen corner, saw me slicing, and said, “Do you want to become your grandmother? Fat and eating cheese out of the fridge? It’s disgusting.” As he took the cheese out of my hand and shoved it into the fridge, I thought, This coming from the man who’d stands in the fridge almost every day smearing globs of butter on bread, devouring it in less than two bites. Hypocrite.
To be clear, it wasn't an unfair comparison to my grandmother. Grandma regularly ate many slices of cheese, the refrigerator illuminating the plastic wrapper of the colby jack. She also ate ice cream, cookies, deli meat, and rarely a grape or piece of melon this way. Her top concern was her next meal, and I admire her for it. Life is too short not to eat delicious food. She lived to be 89 years old, and I’m convinced it’s because her main stressor was “what’s for dinner?” I suppose when you live through the depression, what else worries you?
In addition, my father’s retorts couldn’t hold a candle to the judgement that spewed out of my grandmother’s mouth. She’d say something honest but mean, and it’d be in a sweet tone with a giggle afterwards. Sometimes she was spot on, and we’d all laugh maliciously together. A critical eye is a family trait, I suppose. Hence this blog. If Grandma wasn’t criticizing my aunt’s weight or my mom’s hair, it was her neighbor’s junky car or her friend’s degenerate grandchildren. Of course her son, son in law, and nephew could do no wrong, just the women in the family.
Once when I was twelve, lanky and brace faced, I greeted her with a hug. She pulled me back and said, “Well, that’s an ugly sweater isn’t it?” It was. Her bluntness startled me. Usually she slipped criticism in with a few compliments. I found it refreshing. From that day forward I swore not to lie to a friend or loved one about their ugly clothes again. I’ve mostly succeeded and have few friends.
So my mouth isn’t as numb anymore and my tongue seems more concrete. Bugs are biting me while lawns are being mowed. I’m sitting in front of the McKennan Park Bandshell, established in 1928. The historic district of Sioux Falls, SD surrounds the park. Quaint and mostly quiet except for the car traffic on 26th Street, a fairly busy road directly behind the bandshell. I don't think many bands perform there.
I took senior photos in that bandshell, dressed in a suit and fedora, pretending to be Gene Kelly. All my photos were based on film stars or characters. Sad, isn’t it? The things a teenager does to be different. While others held footballs and posed in front of their dad’s Camaro, I spun around with an umbrella. (I’m talking about the movie Singing In The Rain for those millennials who only know who Debbie Reynolds is because she died soon after Carrie Fischer died and that made them want to start watching Star Wars).
Whatever, I looked fucking good. My cousin took my photos and my mom handed me props and I dressed like Annie Hall and Audrey Hepburn. That’s what I’m reminded of while the tip of my tongue fishes for more metal.
The dentist and her assistant are probably performing a root canal right now while discussing what outfit to wear for a husband’s boss’s dinner party, and I’m sitting here jobless and criticizing them. Even the little boy on the squeaky scooter who won’t respect the obvious 30 foot radius of empty space I require knows who’s winning in that scenario. Me, obviously, I get to be in a park after my mom paid for my dental work.