Will Self

Each month, Esquire com­mis­sions an un­spar­ing in­spec­tion of Will Self ’s body. This month: teeth

Esquire (UK) - - Contents -

The award-winning writer’s monthly anatom­i­cal sur­vey brushes up on teeth

where to start with the teeth? I mean to say, while they aren’t with us (usu­ally) from the very be­gin­ning, they have a nasty way of out­last­ing us at the end. Yes, yes, I know they’re made of den­tine not bone, but they do none­the­less seem like the bits of the skull that have thrust their way through our skin. And — not to piss on your mis­er­able, fleshy pa­rade or any­thing — as a man grows older, his gums be­gin to re­cede, al­most as if his skull were emerg­ing into the full white light of his own bod­ily dis­so­lu­tion.

So, I’d bet­ter be­gin with my mother’s teeth, which were an ab­so­lute puzzle to me as a child. From time to time, and with­out warn­ing, she’d push out the bot­tom row of her teeth. That’s right: she’d push them out so that they dis­tended her lower lip, as if she were wear­ing some sort of tribal lip plug. We chil­dren would re­coil, shocked, so shocked, we dared not ask her what the fuck was go­ing on; we had to piece it to­gether over the years — spot­ting some­thing lurk­ing in a glass on her bed­side ta­ble, and tubes of some­thing called Ster­adent in the bath­room cabi­net — un­til we were old enough to re­alise that, gulp, she wore dentures. When I was much older, mother told me her teeth had all been taken out when she was in her twen­ties, and that this was not un­usual for the For­ties, when a den­tist would of­ten say to a pa­tient: “Lis­ten, your teeth are dread­ful, and it’s go­ing to be an­other half-cen­tury be­fore there’s gen­uinely ef­fec­tive and pain­less den­tistry. So, why don’t I just ether you up to the gills and whip ’em all out?”

Frankly, I wished they’d whipped out my fa­ther’s teeth as well. Jesus! They re­ally were ap­palling: lit­tle green­ish-brown nuggets of de­cay set at crazy an­gles in his crum­bling gums. He would’ve qual­i­fied many times over for that vol­ume beloved of The Simp­sons, The Big Book

of Bri­tish Smiles; yet I never re­mem­ber him com­plain­ing of pain, or dif­fi­culty chomp­ing and, of course, I never re­mem­ber him go­ing to the den­tist. Mum took us to the den­tist, which must have been like an Ortho­dox Jew vis­it­ing a pork butcher so far as she was con­cerned. Our

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