Sunday, February 19, 2012

He Told Me to Open Wide...

Just so you know that I do intend to entertain as well as whine, herewith the young Miss M. at her bawdiest (well, close), to introduce a tale of woe.

The minibreak was a great success, but darlings, the hours preceding it were fraught.  Our saga starts one night late last week, when I was swanning about feeling terribly posh at a very glam local soirée, the kind of gala party at which these parts excel.  A band was playing, the canapés were being handed about, and, on behalf of Golden Handcuffs Consulting Amalgamated International (before whose mast, as it were, I labor), I was all set to give a gracious little speech.

Alas, it was not to be.  While moving around, greeting friend and foe alike (have you mastered the art of the forced smile? I have, and deploy it at will), I had the uneasy feeling that all was not right.  I bit with gay abandon into a shrimp puff, and knew for a fact that it was so:  a decade of dental neglect had come home to roost, and how.  Gathering up the remnants of my suddenly vanished elegance (and not a few fragments of tooth), I skedaddled, leaving my clever little remarks to a colleague and racing home to commiserate with poor Mr. Muscato.

Now, I do confess it isn't wise to leave these things undone, but you have to realize I have what amounts to a genuine phobia about dentists, the legacy of my late mother's unquestioning devotion to her childhood practitioner, who by the time I came around was best described as Dr. Shakes McParkinsons.  Between the ages of one-and-a-half and six, I was forced to spend ample time in his terrifyingly primitive offices (all of his equipment was black enamel, the kind more usually seen on vintage typewriters or the switchboards answered by extras in films of the '30s.  Much of it was pedal-operated.  Get the picture?) as the result of an early childhood accident.  Never the most coordinated of tots, I fell off a bed.  Into a wastebasket.  About three weeks later, my elder brother looked up at breakfast one morning and asked, "Did the baby's nose always look like that?"  It hadn't, and neither had most of what turned out to be a thoroughly rearranged jaw.  It's amazing, really, that I have teeth at all.  My early childhood was a festival of bizarre full-cranial apparatuses to be worn at night, as well as the complete lack of any photos of me smiling, what with not having any front baby teeth.  I'm still probably the only person you know who can eat corn on the cob without using any canine teeth.  Molaring away isn't efficient, but until I was about eleven, I had no choice.

In any case, the tender ministrations of Doctor Shakes left their mark.  For a number of years, I was terrified not merely of dentists, but of anyone in white.  Weddings were a fiasco of helpless wailing, and poor Grandmother Muscato used to ring ahead to the local department store to have the ladies in Cosmetics near the door stow their labcoats in order to avoid my having a meltdown on the way to her favorite destination, Modern Matrons, the most elegant corner of Better Dresses.  The combination of crippling fear and some of the places we've lived (the average dental facility in West Africa making Doctor Shakes's SweeneyToddian premises look like the Mayo Clinic) have meant putting off the day of reckoning until, as this past Thursday, I had no choice.

So off we went, me in no fit shape to be seen in public, to a dentist highly recommended by one of Mr. Muscato's friends.  One of his more sadistic friends, it turns out, for the dentist - let's call him Dr. Ahmed - was nothing if not direct.  "Your mouth," he informed me in no uncertain terms and a nearly unintelligible Syrian accent, "ees a dizeszter."  And then, ignoring all attempts to make him pity me my crippling fears, and abetted by two equally obdurate Philippina assistants, he set to to work, pausing only long enough for me to contemplate what seemed to be my clearly imminent mortality, but not long enough for me to demand novocaine (novocaine?  I wanted morphine).  He drilled, he filled, he used some sort of miniaturized jackhammer on places that haven't seen the light of day in ages, and, while he may not the kind of dentist immortalized in the classic number above (although he is, I have to admit, comely enough for a middle-aged Syrian dentist), he certainly was thorough.

I think his take-no-prisoners approach may have done what years of Specialists in the Sensitive Patient back in Manhattan were never able to achieve.  I have to go back for a second appointment next week, and while I'm hardly looking forward to it, I'll probably go.  And I must say things are feeling better.

The only real effect of all this on our lovely weekend was a certain tenderness, leading to a great deal of soup and the less chewy cuts of meat.  Now we're home safely, the dogs are over the moon - and I have to take Mr. Muscato to the dentist.  He's not quite the dizeszter I was, but it looks like we'll be seeing more and more of Dr. Ahmed...


  1. You are the consummate storyteller, Mr M - I was in stitches laughing at times! Although my own "dentistry woes" cannot compare, I too have lost parts of tooth on such soft delicacies as pizza and vol-au-vent at inopportune moments, so I can sympathise... Jx

  2. The everyday becomes enthralling, dramatic, heartbreaking, illuminating, nostalgic, and beautifully, amusingly human.

    Chekhov, Cheever, Munro, Muscato.

  3. Dental drama! Damn!

    Great choice for a video clip. I saw Miss Midler on that very tour...and can truly say that it somehow changed my life.

  4. Valium helps all dental visits. I bring my own, and plenty of it, just in case they forget.

  5. You know, I've wanted to like Valium, truly I have, but all it ever does is put my hand to sleep. I sit around, still anxious/uncomfortable/distraught (or whatever reason to give it a whirl), with no change at all except that now I'm anxious/uncomfortable/distraught (or whatever) and flapping. It's not attractive...