Braces: The foun­tain of youth for some adults

Pawtucket Times - - OPINION - By AMY FUSSELMAN Spe­cial To The Washington Post Fusselman is the au­thor of “Idio­phone.”

As a woman who is not yet dead, I have stud­ied the lat­est youth-en­hanc­ing prod­ucts and have even been to a der­ma­tol­o­gist – as well as a witch, a voodoo priest­ess and an ex­ter­mi­na­tor – to get this dread­ful thing called “ag­ing” out of my body. And I have an im­por­tant, med­i­cal-ish find­ing to share: The prob­lem with be­ing old – which is to say, over 25 if you are a woman and over 75 if you are a man – and try­ing to look younger is that old peo­ple have a skewed vi­sion of what youth ac­tu­ally looks like. Yes, young peo­ple have more col­la­gen in their faces than old peo­ple do, but just shoot­ing col­la­gen, Ga­torade or even pack­ing peanuts into your old-ass face isn’t go­ing to make you look any younger. What is go­ing to make you look younger is im­i­tat­ing the way real, live young peo­ple look, which, if you haven’t no­ticed lately, is: awk­ward, un­com­fort­able and pissed off. This is where the most un­sung, but ef­fec­tive, anti-ag­ing prod­uct comes into play: braces. Now, if you are like me, you never con­sid­ered get­ting braces as an old per­son, be­cause you al­ready had them when you were young. But this is ex­actly why you should be get­ting braces. Be­cause, let’s face it, if you had braces back when you were a teen, you can damn well see that your teeth aren’t straight any­more. Of course they’re not, be­cause braces don’t work.

I mean, braces do work, just not for as long as it takes to get old. They work long enough to get you through your hookup years, and then, in a pat­tern you may be familiar with, your teeth be­come like a close-knit co­hort who grad­u­ated from a fine, up­stand­ing uni­ver­sity be­fore go­ing their sep­a­rate ways to be­come a loose-knit crew of scrag­gly ne’er-do-wells.

But you don’t need braces just to get the old gang back to­gether – that is, to straighten up your couch-surf­ing, unin­sured, unemployed teeth. There’s also this: When you stand in front of the mir­ror and ap­ply anti-ag­ing crud to your body, the mes­sage you are send­ing to your very own self is: Poor me, I’m old. Given the un­pop­u­lar but nev­er­the­less true fact that no one re­ally cares what you look like be­cause they’re think­ing only about them­selves, the per­son you re­ally need to gussy up for ev­ery day is you. And there is no bet­ter way to tell your­self that you’re just get­ting started, and you have a lot of life left, than painstak­ingly stretch­ing teeny-tiny rub­ber bands across two or even three metal hooks in your mouth and spend­ing the day feel­ing like a mar­i­onette any­time you say any­thing, even if it’s just “LOL.”

But that’s not all. Un­like pri­vately ap­ply­ing sad, self-de­feat­ing face creams or un­der­go­ing creepy surg­eries that you re­cover from in your secret, old-per­son lair, braces force you to face the world with in­tegrity. Be­cause braces are ba­si­cally like get­ting a facelift and invit­ing ev­ery per­son you talk to into the op­er­at­ing room. Braces are the em­bod­i­ment of what anti-ag­ing creams pur­port to of­fer you, but don’t. Braces do not hide who they are; braces are not ashamed. Braces con­front the world with egg sand­wich un­der their wires and say: I am wor­thy of un­sightly scaf­fold­ing.

And sure, I know that there are now “in­vis­i­ble” braces. Believe me, I know all about those and how “in­vis­i­ble” they are. Lis­ten, the man­u­fac­tures of such braces should be aware that they are mar­ket­ing to ex­perts, be­cause no one knows in­vis­i­bil­ity like us over-25 hags. And this is why we can look at this pur­ported ad­vance­ment in or­thodon­tics and see right through it. Be­cause when you wear two clear plas­tic trays over your up­per and lower teeth, you are not mak­ing your teeth’s re­align­ment un­de­tectable so much as adorn­ing your­self with a speech im­ped­i­ment. And though your newly ac­quired lisp may in­deed be hard to see, it will also make you feel like a tod­dler, and that is not the stage of youth many of us are in­ter­ested in re­cap­tur­ing.

Leav­ing in­vis­i­bil­ity be­hind, then, we can surely agree that per­haps the great­est thing about braces is that they don’t just ap­ply pres­sure on your way­ward teeth: They ac­tu­ally pres­sure you to be a bet­ter per­son be­cause they make you look, and feel, like some­thing is wrong; some­thing is off. And from my very un­sci­en­tific ob­ser­va­tion of young peo­ple, this is how many of them feel right now. Why? Well, per­haps they are think­ing about - oh, I don’t know, the lat­est ac­tion ad­ven­ture movie. Or maybe they’re spend­ing even 10 sec­onds con­tem­plat­ing their fu­tures, and the fact that what was sup­posed to be a clear and cloud­less hori­zon now seems clut­tered with school shoot­ings, cli­mate change and col­lege loan debts.

Hav­ing braces, then, is like find­ing the foun­tain of youth be­cause it turns you into a young per­son on the in­side. Sure, you may feel mis­un­der­stood and looked down upon. You may feel as if you are fight­ing up­hill bat­tles.

But this is what it means to be young to­day.

Now, maybe in a few decades – if we’re still here, that is – be­ing young will have com­pletely changed, and it will feel more like get­ting a mas­sage all day long know­ing that racial and gen­der eq­uity are facts of life. I look for­ward to that! But un­til then, go ahead and get old and for­get ev­ery­thing. I mean, stay the same age for­ever and for­get retinol. All you need to re­mem­ber is: braces. THE TIMES — Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 13, 2018

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