is for dentists.
I dread going to the dentist.
I find myself thinking the exact same things every time I'm sitting in a dentist's chair, usually in the exact same order:
I feel twitchy just thinking about going to the dentist.
The smell and the creaking and the pain would be enough on their own, but I also manage to be at my most awkward when sitting in a dentist's chair. I don't know where to look when another person's eyes are inches away from mine. I hate making small-talk at the best of times, let alone when my mouth is filled with metal and fat latex-covered fingers. I become hyper-aware of just how loudly I breathe.
One time I spent what felt like hours with a dental assistant's breast cupped in my hand as she leaned over me and tried to find a vein in my uncooperative arm.
What exactly is the appropriate etiquette in that situation? Do you pull your arm away mid-needle-poke? Do you make a joke about not wanting to pay for extra services? Do you politely say "Excuse me, but I think that I'm holding your breast"?
In the end, I chose the rather less straightforward "stare at the ceiling and pretend I'm somewhere else" approach. But from that point on, I worried that any dentist's appointment might end up with me grabbing someone's appendage - as though I didn't already have enough to worry about.
The last time I went to the dentist, I found myself in a room with a young man who cheerfully announced that he was the dentist.
Did I say man? I meant to say boy.
Please note: despite the look on my face, I wasn't bothered by the fact that he was young. I was mostly just bothered by the fact that he was a dentist.
Does thinking that someone looks too young to be a dentist mean that I'm not young anymore?
After lulling me into a false sense of almost-but-not-quite-security with his pudgy baby face, he picked up his instruments of death.
When he'd finished using pointy things to make holes in my mouth, the dentist stepped out for a moment and returned with my x-rays. Now, I generally find x-rays pretty cool. But the things that he was saying were so boring.
When people talk about boring things - like flossing, or directions, or why I should take better care of my bank card - I tend to zone out.
I glanced at his ring finger.
It was only when his voice trailed off that I realized that I hadn't glanced at his ring finger.
Glancing would involve looking quickly and then looking away.
No, I was staring at his ring finger, a stupid little half-smile on my face as I imagined him and his girlfriend in their dentist-smelly apartment.
My stomach flip-flopping and my toes curling up with embarrassment, I slowly looked up to find him blushing and fidgeting, a look of dismay on his baby-young face.
He shifted from one foot to the other and avoided eye contact, obviously horrified that his patient had been gazing so purposefully at his ringless finger.
What was the proper etiquette in this situation? What should I say?
"No, you've misunderstood. I don't find you attractive at all. You remind me of a pudgy toddler."
"You have very...ummm...clean fingernails."
"I'm a hand doctor. I'm researching hands. I'll have my assistant call you about the bone deformity that I noticed on your upper right index."
There was no right thing to say. It was like the boob-in-the-hand, all over again.
In the end, I just cleared my throat, said thank you, got up and walked out of the office.
Oh well. At least I didn't find myself clinging to any of his appendages.
* Please note: for the sake of the story, I decided to make my dentist stab my gums with pointy things and then helpfully point out that I was bleeding. In reality, that's actually the dental hygienist's job. Artistic license, along with the fact that I didn't have time to make another clay person. The rest of the story is true, though.
Want more? Luckily for you, there are 3 whole letters before D in the alphabet!
A Clay Baboons Alphablog: 26 Things That Annoy Me, Confuse Me, Creep Me Out, or Otherwise Make My Life More Difficult.
Click on a letter to read more.