Crowned

rootcanalSo my front tooth broke off about a month ago. That tooth is a crown that I have had for more than a decade, and perhaps it was due for a break, but the timing was terrible. (Question: is there ever a good time to break a tooth?)  The tooth–a front tooth–broke off about three hours before I was supposed to leave for the airport for our fifteen-hour flight to New York from Abu Dhabi, which meant that I spent my traveling time tight-lipped, answering questions pretty much in closed-mouth monosyllables to avoid frightening people with my crone-like mouth.

Got to New York, got myself to the dentist, got myself a temporary crown and spent the next month sort of feeling that different tooth the way you do when there’s something not quite right in your mouth. A tongue fidget, really.

For those of you with uncrowned teeth, the process of being crowned is not as pleasant as, say, the phrase “coronation” might imply. Far better to become the ruler of a small country than to find yourself in the dentist’s chair with approximately six people plunging their hands into your mouth.

Why do dentists and their assistants insist on talking to you while you’re splayed out in their chair, your mouth full of assorted non-mouth objects and next to you a tray of gadgets that in another context would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention?

“How does this feel?”

“Unnhunh…”

“Doing okay?”

“Unnnhunnnh” (which means, roughly translated, are you effing serious am I doing okay as you plunge a needle into my gum so you can do the “build up” of the nubbin tooth under the temporary crown? Yep, yep, doing just fine, thanks, unnnghaggh).

I got my crown at the American Dental Center here in Abu Dhabi, which is not to be confused with the British, the German, the French, or the Dubai. Who knew that teeth were such a nationalist preoccupation? At the American Dental center, I was seen to by a crackerjack group of Filipina women, most of whom I think are trained as dentists in the Philippines but who cannot get the full licensing here, and by a cheerfully expert Argentinian dentist. Not one US citizen stuck their hands in my mouth.

The procedure didn’t really hurt (or not much), but the noises emerging from one’s mouth during these sorts of things can be difficult to bear. The whirrings and grindings and clippings and tappings (they literally hammered out the temporary crown) – all those sounds should happen in someone’s workroom, not my mouth. But the resultant permanent crown is a thing of beauty. Not a perfect thing of beauty because then it wouldn’t match my other teeth, but it’s a pretty perfect match. The specialist who builds teeth uses this handy dandy template:

teethIt’s like paint chips. But with teeth. The tooth artist held different tooth samples next to the teeth in my mouth while he and the dentist conferred, sounding a bit like they were playing “Battleship:” apparently my tooth is D2, A2, and a bit of B1.

I am now the proud owner of D2A2B1, which matches my other teeth so perfectly you’d never know it was a fake (or so I tell myself). It’s nice to have my teeth all back where they belong but I have some questions. Do the tooth sample trays look the same, regardless  of which nation’s dentist you see? Does the British dentist offer up big Prince Charles choppers and the French dentist proffer nicotine stains? And where, oh where, does one study to become a tooth artist?

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Waiting for a train in Austria…without the Von Trapps

In October, I had the joyful experience of spending a few days in Vienna and Salzburg with my siblings and my mom. We laughed and drank, listened to music and walked through wonderful old streets exploring Austria’s history–real and imagined. There were the real spots–Mozart this and that, Beethoven here and there–and the imagined spots, most of which had to do with Maria-the-singing-nun and the Von Trapp family.  Did you know that all those landmarks from the movie are spread out all over the city of Salzburg? Movie magic at its best, along with the fact that the Von Trapps skipped merrily over the Alps to freedom, just ahead of the Anschluss.

While we were in Salzburg, we saw a very different picture of people escaping repression: trainloads of refugees from Syria being herded along the train platform and out to the Red Cross tents that had been set up in the parking lot. Where these people were going to go from there is anyone’s guess. But I don’t think they were going to be skipping and singing any time soon.

My article about the refugees, real and imagined, appeared here in The National.

 

photo credit

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Elizabeth Warren, Planned Parenthood, and Me…Redux

Six years ago, I wrote a post about Dr George Tiller, who was murdered by someone who called himself “pro-life.”

I’ll leave you a minute to savor the horrific ironies in that statement.

And now, six years later, it’s not only the body of a doctor that is on the line but all of Planned Parenthood, as the wackadoodles in the US Senate attempt to defund the entire organization.

Elizabeth Warren, bless her, gave a fiery speech on the Senate floor in which she asked the Republican Senators “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

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By this point, I have to say that those don’t seem like rhetorical questions. It seems as if yes, in fact, a large segment of this country is living–or would like to live– in some putative golden age when the only people in the United States with rights are white people who can’t get pregnant, ever.

Welcome to the age of Not Mattering. Non-white bodies don’t seem to matter that much; bodies of people who can get pregnant don’t seem to matter that much; bodies of anyone outside a very narrow demographic swath don’t seem to matter that much.

When my friends and I joined marches for reproductive rights decades ago–decades–we never imagined that now, well into middle age (dear god, how did we get to middle age?),  we would be fighting the same fight, helping our (much wanted) sons and daughters fight the same fight, wondering why on earth people are still so afraid of women controlling their own reproductive choices.

The marvelous Katha Pollitt writes “the whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary,” and she’s right.

Six years ago, watching the vigil for Dr Tiller, I thought “surely things can’t get any worse.” And while for the Tiller family, that’s probably the truth, I’m wondering how much worse things are going to get for the rest of us.

 

 

 

My column about Dr. Tiller was collected in a volume edited by the marvelous Joanne Bamberger, called Mothers of Intention

Posted in Children, family, Feminism, Gender, Kids, Parenting, Politics, ranting | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Whose Family Values Are They, Anyway? Happy Adoption Day!

I wrote this post almost four years ago. In that four-year time, gay marriage has become law in almost half the states in the Union and yesterday Tylenol ran a new ad that celebrated all the different types of families you can imagine — including some that look like mine.  To celebrate #HowWeFamily, here’s this post again…

My extended family will officially, legally, extend by one more person today, August 29.

My brother is going to become a father.

It’s very exciting and my mom has gone out west to join him for the big day.  They’ll meet at the courthouse where the papers will be finalized and then they’ll go out to lunch: my brother, my mom, my now-official nephew, his mother, and a few assorted other relatives.

It’s an event that would make Michelle Bachmann’s well-groomed toes curl in horror and make all of Rick Perry’s hair stand up straight (Michelle’s would stand up straight, too, except she uses too much hairspray. Come to think of it, maybe Rick does too).  In fact, my brother is pissing off the entire cohort of the Far Right today, with one simple action.

My single gay brother is legally adopting his biological offspring, the result of a single woman’s trip to a sperm bank some fifteen years ago. Continue reading

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Commencement Time, or what does a dinosaur have to do with the liberal arts?

It’s graduation time all over the US and in Abu Dhabi, NYUAD students are readying themselves for the same ritual.  And as students prepare to march across all manner of stages and listen to all manner of speeches, it seems appropriate to think about what we want our kids to study at school… that’s what I’m writing about in The National today.

 

photo credit: http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Forum:Cloning_dinosaurs

 

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Posted in Abu Dhabi, Education, NYUAD, The National, UAE | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments