Like many first dates, you start with high hopes and a sense of optimism that things will be great, or at least not horrible. My first appointment with my new dentist was no different. I was optimistic and feeling good, since he was the friend of a friend, and I knew him. I had dined with his wife and even commiserated with them over food allergies. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Like imaginary Brad would be late for our date, Dr. Carl was late for our appointment. He drove into the parking lot like he just evaded police and ran into the office saying, “be right there.” He told me to have a seat and handed me the usual stack of papers to fill out. This is the small talk date equivalent, where you can gauge how interested your partner is, being on the date in the first place. We sat down together and started OK. He looked over the paperwork and asked me some questions. “Oh, maybe he is interested and does care,” I told myself. I reclined in the chair and with no hesitation, he jumped into my mouth and started poking, prodding, and generally fumbling around, with little sense of order. Most of his dental moves were familiar, but he seemed lazy and haphazard. I even kept mental track to see if he would return to the teeth, he skipped during his first pass. It’s not like he didn’t know where everything was located, it’s just that he didn’t really care to spend too much time in any one place. Like Dr. Carl, Brad had somewhere else to be immediately after our date, so he made it clear in his actions and his words, that his mind was elsewhere, and I was merely the obstacle sitting between him and a plan to get drunk with his bros. This appointment was akin to a date where the hot guy makes out with you in the parking lot and tries to finger you, before you say goodbye, accompanied by a bad kiss that leaves you wiping your face of saliva and shame. Like the poor girl in that parking lot, I left feeling achy, uncomfortable, and a bit ashamed, that I needed anything more than a routine clean.
Similar to single young women with low self-esteem and a kind heart, I decided to give Dr. Carl another chance. I thought, “well, maybe he was in a hurry and it was just a cleaning. I’m sure the minor surgery will go much better and he will exercise more care.” It was the dating equivalent of “well, he’s going on vacation and he was distracted, but he made time to see me before he left, so that’s a good thing, right?” It’s these kinds of stories we tell ourselves to feel better, but we all know the truth. Brad wasn’t interested in much beyond what f*ckbois are after and Dr. Carl was just collecting his fee. I showed up for appointment #2 and as usual, he was late. I laid on the chair and from the start, it went sideways. It was the dental equivalent of this date:
BRAD: Hey, let’s do this shot! It’s fun — don’t worry, you will be fine. The bartender pours booze in your mouth while you lay on the bar and I take shots off your body
Me: (Assumptions are made & I concede)
Me: (Makes strange noises of rejection and wants to stop drinking)
BRAD: Just wait, I’m not done yet.
Me: (Louder noises of discontent and discomfort along with trying to “tap out”)
BRAD: I’m not done yet, hang on. You’re fine.
Me: (Freaking the f*ck out)
Me: My blood pressure is through the roof — I think I am having a reaction to whatever is in this shot.
BRAD: Nah, you are fine. TRUST ME. This is how it is for everyone and your reaction is exactly correct.
Me: I need to sit up. (Also, since when are symptoms of a heart attack and subsequent panic attack a “correct” response to anything?)
BRAD: No, lay back down and elevate your legs.
Me: NO, BRAD! I need to sit up or I am going to pass the f*ck out.
BRAD: (begrudgingly helps me sit up and I start to feel conscious again) Here is some water. You OK?
Me: OH, I’M JUST PEACHY, BRAD. HOW THE F*CK DO YOU THINK I AM?
In what felt like 6 hours getting my cavities filled, he pawed and splashed around my mouth. He was indelicate, rough, and dismissive when I told him something hurt or was uncomfortable. Like a bad lover, he did what he wanted and had his way with my teeth. He slopped resin everywhere and I could taste the bitter and acrid flavor run down my throat, not dissimilar to those insensitive lovers that make a mess and don’t even have the decency to hand you a towel, afterward.
I would move in discomfort and he would double down. I zigged, but he wouldn’t zag, and I ended up with chafed skin and a raw mouth. I tried to imagine this guy f*cking his wife and I pitied her because I imagined his dental prowess wasn’t a far cry from his midnight swerve. It wasn’t rhythmic and methodical, but rather clumsy and fast like he just had a bump of coke and wanted to get shit done, but his dick wasn’t cooperating. Somehow, I was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and I persevered. Sadly, I was disappointed again and this time, I left in more pain, with stuff on my face and in my hair. This walk of shame being worse than the last because this time, I had to pay an even bigger bill at the end of it. It was like going to French Laundry for dinner, f*cking in the bathroom, and then him stiffing me with the bill. I kept telling myself “this is why we don’t date Brads,” but what is the doctor equivalent, especially when he seemed a known quantity?
In true bad infomercial style, “but wait, there’s more!” You have to ask yourself at what point you stop going out with Brads or seeing bad doctors, but I’m not a quitter and like any woman with principles, I was going to finish what I started. I had to prove that I could do this. It was the female equivalent of “telling him how I really feel, so he can understand,” all the while knowing, he doesn’t care and having the last word doesn’t mean squat. This was my third appointment and by this time, I had already discovered the mangled mess Dr. Carl had left behind in my mouth. He managed to glue three of my teeth together so I could no longer floss, and he had the nerve to ask me if I was sure my contacts weren’t that tight. “Yeah Dr. Carl, my contacts are so tight, it’s like I have one giant freak tooth back there. Although, just like you should never confront a wild animal, never confront or underestimate a mediocre and incompetent man being held accountable for his poor performance, in real-time. Some risks aren’t worth taking, so I pushed my hands harder into my belly and soldiered on. This was the sexual equivalent of meeting for a third date to “tell him what kind of partner you are looking for,” and then hate f*cking, because well, one thing leads to another. This time, Dr. Carl managed to hit both sides of my mouth with the polisher, which was basically like trying to penetrate you without the basic decency of foreplay. It was amateur hour at the clinic, and it reminded me of getting blitzed at a frat party and falling onto some guy named Adam’s dick, for some bad walrus sex in someone else’s dirty bedsheets. Let’s just say, mistakes were made.
I was tempted to stop several times during the process, but I was watching a bad accident and couldn’t look away. I also weighed my choices of stopping mid-flight and having to do it all over again or finishing it up with Dr. Carl. I decided to keep going and I couldn’t help but wonder if his assistant or he even noticed the tension in my body that was clearly visible in my hands and feet. I guess just like a bad lover, the mediocre dentist and lover both think they are at the pinnacle of their craft. By the end of it, I was supposed to have a free whitening treatment, because friends, but he couldn’t even be bothered, so he sent me home with the at-home whitening kit instead. “Well Brad, at least you paid for the Uber home, even if you couldn’t be bothered to drive me yourself.”
I sat in my car, sniffled a bit, and nursed my swollen mouth. I sent a tearful text to my best friend, seeking solace and virtual hugs. As I drove home, I did a mental inventory and was thankful I’ve been fortunate enough to never have the sexual equivalent of my dental experience, but the parallels between bad medical care and bad lovers were strikingly and hilariously clear. I’m not ready to laugh about it yet, but I think the analogy is bang on. The vulnerability and trust to which we lay bare, is quite remarkable in either of those situations, and we merely hope the person on the other side cares enough, not to do harm. Here’s hoping, dear reader, that all your future dental visits are easy and as pain-free as possible and your sex is pleasurable, consensual, and knock your socks off hot! Stay safe out there and don’t forget your mask. It isn’t political, it’s respectful.