All growing up I've been encouraged by my parents and other adults to endure temporary misery for what they said would be a better future.
My mother made me gag down chalk-flavored medicine as a kid, so that I would recover from my illnesses. Or she took me to be stabbed with cruel torture tools to vaccinate me for protection from disease.
My most recently acquired persecutor is something everyone says will be rewarding in the future, but I'm not so sure I believe them. The week before school started my teeth were put into braces -- and the bondage began.
From the start, it looked like my teeth and I would have a bumpy ride ahead. Originally I was only supposed to have braces on a few of my back teeth, but then my mom and the orthodontic assistant changed plans on me. To my dismay, they embellished my mouth with a full set of braces. I hated the way my mouth had changed from teeth to a grid of ugly metal and colored bands. Moreover, I hated the way it felt.
At first, my teeth felt strange and irritated but there wasn't any pain. However, that soon changed and it felt like I was the ultimate loser of a boxing match during which my face had suffered a plethora of uppercuts, left hooks and right hooks. The slightest twitch of any muscle just reminded me of how badly my mouth felt. All of my teeth could have fallen out right then and I would not have been surprised. This pain lasted for an entire week until gradually fading away but during that week I experienced another joy of braces: Eating had turned into a nightmare.
My first meal after acquiring my new accessories was spaghetti. Not soon after starting to eat, my mouth was populated entirely of whole spaghetti noodles, intricately threaded throughout the network of wires. As I teased my stomach with the thought and taste of food, I realized the somewhat impossible task of eating. Dinner that night and breakfast the next morning were almost nonexistent as a result of my inability to chew.
As I struggled to consume smashed banana and scrambled eggs, I realized that an elderly person with no teeth could gum the food I was trying to eat better than I could chew it. I lived off of muffins and soup until my mouth started to return to normal. I have never been so grateful in my life for the ability to use my teeth to chew!
Another trial has been taking care of my teeth. I've never been a lover of getting ready for bed and braces sealed the deal. The first night of flossing took more than an hour of agonizing effort. I wanted to cry as I tried to shove my hands into my small mouth to thread the floss under the wire. For the first couple of days, I wondered what the point of straightening my teeth was if they were just going to fall out because I couldn't take care of them. Eventually, I improved and even though it still takes a long time to brush and floss, I'm confident that I might make it through wearing braces with all of my teeth intact.
Every time I get my braces adjusted and my head throbs with pain, I wonder if it is really worth straightening my teeth. Everyone tells me to think of how pretty they'll look when it is all said and done. But it feels very overrated since I didn't really have a problem with how they looked in the first place.
I also wonder if maybe braces are more to teach you self-discipline than they are to fix your teeth. You can't eat almost any candy and if you don't floss and brush religiously you can say goodbye to any remnant of the white teeth you used to have.
Even though now I mostly see the discomfort and inconvenience of braces, maybe it'll be worth it when I see my straight lineup of pearly whites in a couple of years. Right now it's just a matter of wearing my rubber bands!
Michelle Thurgood is a junior at Syracuse High School who enjoys doing gymnastics and laughing. E-mail her at email@example.com.