B.C’s B’DOS: Brace yourself
LAST WEEK, my daughter went to the orthodontist who’s been doing what a Trinidadian car repair shop might call a “straighten-and-paint” job on her teeth.
A few more months and a few more cheques, and she’ll have the smile that in her adulthood will set her apart from those who in their childhood didn’t have parents with the readiness (and the ready cash) to do what could be done to avoid dents in her teeth and future earning capacity.
Of all the medical activity that could be classed as discretionary, orthodontics is the least susceptible to the charge of vanity. Caribbean men know that a gap-tooth in the right female is as rude-sexy as a woman can get with clothes on.
But you need the right female: for every Madonna flicking her tongue through the gap in her teeth to completely unseat David Letterman on The Late Show, there are several hundred sufferers who will never look good eating a banana and will not eat corn on the cob past the age of 30.
Nothing reveals a disadvantaged upbringing faster or more thoroughly than what could properly be called, in this context, poor teeth.
But it goes wider and deeper than that.
Her appointment ended at 7:54 a.m., giving her six minutes to dash the 1.5 kilometres to school. Sitting in the car park, I watched her come through the doctor’s front door like a bat out of hell, or at least a Jamaican out of the 100-metre starting blocks.
I’d told her she had to walk from the orthodontist’s to school, but I’d relented. One, it looked like rain, and two, her heavy book bag could have curved her spine to a far greater degree than the braces could have straightened her teeth. Bent on getting to school on time, I had to toot the horn to get her to look my way.
With virtually no traffic on the road – the threatening rain, again, perhaps, that makes everyone with any sense in Barbados want to stay in bed longer – we barely made it. She darted inside as the security guard readied himself to close the gates, and I drove off, thinking about teeth and time.
One minute and three blocks away, I saw half a dozen children, her fellow students – one or two seniors, most juniors like her. They were on foot. I sat in the traffic that had materialized in the three minutes since I’d first passed and watched them.
They were now undoubtedly late.
But they weren’t even strolling; it was like they were taking baby steps to school. You could hardly call what they were doing “walking”. It was more like liming with a barely perceptible tendency towards movement. The last thing on their minds was getting to school on time.
And I thought of my daughter, so intent on rushing to school, she did not even see me out of the corner of her eye. And I realized the difference between her and them would continue all their school lives. And into their adult lives.
And into their own children’s lives.
And I wondered about what we in these islands really have to brace ourselves for, in the future.
B.C. Pires is on pause.