You see that I’m ferocious, you see that I am weak
You see that I am silly, and pretentious and a freak
But I don’t feel so strange for you… (RM)
~ Rescue Me, Madonna
It’s 7am and I’ll never make sense of myself. Yesterday I was so consumed by world-wide horrors and so hyper-vigilant about protecting the kids from news of natural disasters and daily war stories and international pandemics that I was certain that I could finally let my own pettiness fly by and be the greatest role model for my four young boys and just focus, thanks to all that, on the things that really matter.
RM’s already dressed for the corporate swing-swang and just about to head out the door as I’m standing behind the kitchen bench in my underwear coaxing Archie and Lewis through breakfast while making their school lunches. I’m also singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and dance-flexing my left and right pecs – independently of each other because I’m ambipectrous – to distract Tyson and Maki from their current battle to the death duel over ownership of the god-awful fart gun.
And while all that’s going on, even with my eye on the clock, and aware that I must be driving RM into a barely containable lust-frenzy with my combo of domestic Dad slash male stripper slash Master Chef slash Hugh-Jackman-the-family-man, I am unable to distract myself from the gaps in my front teeth. My tongue is running in and out of them like a footballer practicing agility through a line of cones.
‘Is there any professional service, or any product, that can straighten an adult’s teeth?’ I say, as RM flares her nostrils at me like a rapey wildebeest. ‘Without resorting to braces?’
For some reason RM’s eyes widen under a frown of surprise and her smile reminds me of the time when, after a week long bout of gastro, I raised my t-shirt to reveal the lowest skinfold I’d ever managed over my granite-like visible abs.
‘Why?’ she asks.
‘For the past six months…’ I say, pausing to watch two year old Maki smack Tyson in the stomach and then Twerk like a genius. ‘I’ve just been so conscious of the gaps in between my central and lateral incisors. The skewed angle of my canines is also a constant focus. In fact, there’s a gap between every one of my teeth from the left premolar to the right premolar. ‘
‘Have you been Googling the names of teeth?’
‘Some people find well-spaced teeth attractive,’ RM says, bless her sexy little corporate socks.
‘I don’t think that’s really true,’ I say, calling to Tyson just before he rages out on Maki so that I can make them both laugh again at the dexterity of my dancing flexi-pecs.
‘It’s true,’ RM says. ‘Men who don’t worry about their flaws have a certain confidence that women find…’
Another pause in conversation occurs as I imagine myself posting daily photos of my open mouth to a new specialty website called confident-RDs-sexy-gaps.com but two years pass by and I shut the whole thing down because I realise 1) I am not confident and 2) I am competing against other already popular specialty websites like monobrow-for-the-straight-girl.com, hairy-moles-close-to-nostrils.blogspot and comb-overs-and-cunnilingus.tumblr and what I’m finally grateful for, after all this, is that the rise and fall of my business idea, which in reality would cover twenty-six months, happens inside my head in just four seconds.
‘Why don’t you just get braces,’ RM says. ‘You’ll only need them for six months.’
‘Six months!’ I say. ‘Outside my head… that’s an eternity!’
When I glance up at Archie and Lewis I see they’re chewing slowly with their heads tilted to the side and eyeballing me like genetically modified cattle who are about to chance upon enough intelligence to take over the world, and because there’s a real chance they may need braces one day, I say, ‘Six months isn’t really very long, boys. In fact even eighteen months, the amount of time you’ll both probably have to wear braces for, isn’t very long either… even when you take into account it’ll be during a time in your life when you’re most desperate for acceptance and influenced by peers and creating pathways in your brain related to self-esteem and self-worth which are… unalterable…’
‘No one will even remember you had them,’ RM says, regarding me like I’m the last delicious M&M in a bowl on a table surrounded by twenty women.
‘Yeah,’ Archie says. ‘You could just write funny stories about them.’
‘Haha!’ Lewis shouts. ‘Daddy’s getting braces.’
‘Yes!’ RM laughs, clapping her hands together and walking around the bench to wrap her arms around me, to cup my underwear-clad buttocks in her long thin fingers; which have always reminded me of French Fries. ‘That would be hilarious. You’d be so self-conscious every single time you saw someone and had to talk or smile. It would be so cute.’
‘God, this is abuse.’
‘Look at my boobies, Dad!’ Tyson yells, holding his pyjama top up and bulging his tummy in and out.
‘And my boobies Dad!’ Maki says, searching madly for a way to lift his onesie over his head before throwing himself to the floor and screaming in frustration.
‘Do you think I might be going through a mid-life crisis?’ I say. ‘There’s my teeth, you know, but in the rare moments when I’m not fingering them obsessively I see other things, scary things, like bushier eyebrows… looser neck skin… droopier balls….’
‘Balls are always droopy,’ RM says, drawing even more love out of my probably hardening arteries.
‘Haha,’ Lewis says. ‘Mummy said balls.’
RM gives me a whole body cuddle and curls into me in such a way that I feel grateful and valued and turned-on at the same time that she reminds me of a giant slater beetle.
When I look to the clock it says hurry up the kids have to get to school on time in a harassing fashion and then Your time is running out RD in a haunting fashion, but I somehow manage to ignore it for another moment of enjoying one of my great passions – being mostly naked while held by a professionally dressed woman who reeks of power and rescue.
‘Just get braces,’ RM says. ‘It’ll be good role-modelling for the boys.’
‘Won’t it be better role-modelling for the boys if I don’t get braces?’ I ask, and when we look towards them – Tyson and Maki rubbing their tummies together and squealing, Archie and Lewis smiling with their eyes aimed at us like whaling spears – yesterday encroaches upon me again with its natural disasters and war stories and international pandemics and then RM’s kissing me on the lips and walking down the hall and I’m back running my tongue over my teeth and making sandwiches with the feeling that there’s just no way to know if a mouth full of gaps is better than six months of braces because this is all so strange, insane, hilarious, hysterical, frightening.
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