Reminder: You’re Declining

Growing up, I hated the dentist. I still hate the dentist. I will probably always hate the dentist.

The dentist himself is a nice man. He’s a family friend. Church-goer. Somewhat pleasant, as much as a stoic Chinese patriarch (and one who’s really good at his high-paying job) can be. Has a son named Joseph, who — I forget — is either one or two years younger than me. Pretty sure it’s one, because I remember his mother chattering to me about college and the ones he wanted to go to less than two years ago.

Either way, S.C. is brisk and impatient, but he does his job well. Unfortunately, the part of his job that he sucks most at is breaking bad news.

Most of the time, it’s something along the lines of:

“Your teeth are weakening here, you’ll get another cavity within the year”

“Your gums are giving out, floss more in this area”

“You have another root canal”

“At this rate your teeth are probably going to be gone with 25 years”

I hate that kind of bad news. It’s out of my control. Have I done something truly wrong? No. I’ve taken as many precautionary measures as someone who’s been barely alive for two decades can.

What irks me beyond S.C.’s accusatory tone is the fact that really, I can’t do much more to help my teeth. I can’t go to the dentist more, can’t use stronger mouthwash, can’t use more anti-cavity fluoride toothpaste without apparently harming some other vital parts of my body.

No matter how much I avoid sweets, brush twice a night, or drink a shit-ton of water after consuming any sort of food whatsoever, my teeth’s decline is like cancer – nothing’s going to deter it, and nothing’s going to deter you from despairing either.

I got two, brownish-orange dots in the center of my front teeth when I was 5. I didn’t even drink apple juice that often, but that was apparently the cause.

I had six silver baby teeth before I was in the second grade. Pretty soon, I guess that will happen again. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.


Every time I drive through the streets of Columbia now, I have to squint to read the street signs.

I got glasses in the second grade. My mom scolded me for not eating more carrots. That’s obviously bullshit, but even now, as words blur in and out of focus when I walk down the street, I’m tempted to chow down on a few.

My vision is also on the decline. It’s been speeding up gradually since I was 8. Now I’m at almost -9.00 in one eye, -8.00 in the other. Not even my parents’ eyes are this bad, and they’ve got 30 years on me. Can’t blame genetics at this point… I may just be a freak of nature.

What if my eyes just give out one day, and I go from legally blind to just blind?


It’s funny, because there might be worse problems to have. I could be medically depressed, have an apparent disability or some kind of terrible heart condition.

I’m not any of those things. In fact, I’m living the dream otherwise — college is really, really, truly fantastic. I have everything I wanted, from a successful social life to a great career trajectory. I’m so much happier than I was when I was home. That’s why I’m not home sick.

But what if I’m sick? Then I freak out. The first time my immune system seemed to get the best of me was when I was 9. The second time was when I was 11.  My mom somehow did a good job of keeping me not sick; I barely catch a cold once a year.

So in college, whenever an ailment happens, I freak out and binge on vitamins and then go back to breathing normally as soon as I’m normal again.

Sometimes I long to go back to Shelterville, Oregon and feel like I can control my body’s decline. Freedom rocks until you realize you don’t know yourself, in some ways, as well as your mother does.


I’ve taken care of all my emotional needs. When it comes to physical, I occasionally try to regain some control. Exercising. Not eating out. Sleeping more. But I think it’s useless.

The one thing I can’t control in this contained space, the only area in which I guess I never truly learned discipline, is my health.

I should probably continue to try to deter it. But as with everything else that’s perfectly in its place, that’s retained order, I’m always waiting for something to happen and shake it all up.

Funny how my inner demons, the key to whether I live my life happy, or fearful, or just frustrated, would be two of my physical senses.



One Comment

  1. I had a smile reading the dentist part.

    My current dentist always smiles even after she fixed 7 of my cavities in one time. I was shocked she didn’t say anything! Maybe she wanted me to continue my bad teeth caring habit?

    Your dentist sounded more like a Chinese dentist. I’m used to Chinese dentist’s warning. So much that if the dentist didn’t warn me, I would think he didn’t do his job.

    See a dentist in China vs. in the US is sooooooo very different! Remind me that we should probably write about it


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