Retainer Jail


I do this thing, when I’m having a hard time sitting down and focusing on a work project: I put in my retainer. I call it “retainer jail.”

See, I basically hate wearing my retainer, because it’s uncomfortable and I can’t eat when it’s in, and I sound like a six year old who needs some pretty intensive speech therapy. But I’m supposed to wear it about 12 hours a day. I generally average about two.

If I’m way behind on projects, I put my retainer in early in the morning, and I tell myself that I can take it out as soon as I finish one writing assignment. It’s a surprisingly efficient way to meet deadlines. And for keeping teeth (somewhat) straight.

Step back in time now, and let me tell you a little story that I promise will be related to my present day:

When I was about 8 or 9 (honestly, I have no clue how old I was), my older brother had to wear a retainer. For some reason he was spared the trauma of braces, but he had this retainer….and he kept losing it. One memorable day he left it in on a table in a Cracker Barrel in South Carolina, wrapped in a napkin next to his plate. Luckily for my brother, because his life was in serious danger from my parents, the waiter found it and when my parents called they were able to have it mailed back to us. Side note: it’s possible I have made most of this story up. Something sort of like this must have happened, though, because it’s registering as a memory. But you know, feel free to edit if you were actually there.

Anyway, I think the entire thing sort of put my parents off of orthodontics for life because no one ever suggested that I get braces or wear a retainer. I was in my 30s when I started asking John if he thought my teeth were crooked (don’t ask how I was just now noticing this fact; maybe they weren’t really crooked until I had kids, who knows), and he admitted that if I wanted to get braces he would support it.

Two years later I was the proud owner of my rainbow retainer. A possession I both loved (because rainbows!!) and hated (because pain and a Cindy Brady lisp when I wear it).

Then two weeks ago, I wrapped my rainbow retainer in a napkin and put it somewhere on a surface in my house. Don’t ask me which surface. And now it’s been missing and my front tooth is slowly rebelling, moving back to its previous favorite position and mocking me every time I look in the mirror. That tooth says in a menacing whisper, “You wasted $5,000 on your braces. I’m going back to my old ways. You should consider being a haggard witch for Halloween because you will soon have a snaggle tooth.”

As you can see, that tooth is a real bitch.

Which is why this morning, when I should be putting myself in retainer jail to get some writing finished to meet these 10,000 deadlines I’m facing, instead I will be at the orthodontist, getting fitted for a new retainer. Like any irresponsible teenager I keep insisting that it wasn’t my fault that I lost it. But I think I’ve learned my lesson because the adults in the house are making me pay for it with my own spending money. And “retainer jail” has taken on a whole new meaning now that I have to literally bail myself out.



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