In my youth, it was unheard of to go to a doctor or dentist for no reason other than facing an extremity of life or near-death.
It was 1938. I remember riding in the car with my dad that day. He was taking me to see a dentist. I was filled with fear and foreboding. In the first place, our mother was always the one who arranged and took us on such missions on the bus. It was her job. Daddies did other stuff. Like fixing cars and taking the garbage out.
Secondly, no one in my family had ever been to the dentist that I knew of. Why had I been chosen?
I didn’t like anything about the sound of it. “What’s a ‘checkup’?”, I asked fearfully. “The dentist is just going to check up on your teeth”, Dad said. “He won’t be doing anything. He’s just going to look at your teeth.”
I tried to feel relieved, but kept asking questions. Something wasn’t adding up right. By the time we arrived at our destination and went into the office, I was a seven-year-old nervous wreck, but desperately clinging to my father’s assurance that what was about to happen – wouldn’t.
I don’t know what the dentist’s name was but I shall always remember him as “Dr. Sadistic: the Worst Dentist in The World Who Deserves To Go Straight To Hell When He Dies.” (It may have been he who later appeared as Dustin Hoffman’s dentist in the movie called “Marathon Man”. Whatta guy!)
With an assistant pinning me down in the seat of torture, the dentist proceeded to pull out my teeth one by one. Then he, or his accessory in crime, put seven of my baby teeth in a brown paper sack and presented it to me like a cat proudly delivering a dead rat.
No novocaine was used. I know there are those nut-cases who try to perpetrate the myth that it doesn’t hurt the child when she has her baby teeth extracted. These are the same sadists who used to tell you your baby boys didn’t need an anesthetic when they were circumcised because “infants don’t feel the pain”. Please allow me to meet them in person. I shall bring an axe.
Hysterical and nearly toothless, I was delivered back to the waiting room to the scoundrel who had failed me – my father. The man who tells big lies. Who submits his child to the care of monsters. The man who causes her to take home most of her teeth in a sack. The man whom I would never forgive.
I did, though. Forgive him, I mean. It took a very long time – at least till I could eat apples again – but it finally occurred to me that maybe my father really did think the dentist would just be “looking” at my teeth. Perhaps he couldn’t imagine that such alternative evil exists.
The moral of this story is that you must never lie to your children. (Except for extenuating circumstances, of course. Such as when you can’t think of a way to explain to a seven-year-old about impending tooth extractions.)
This blob has been brought to you as a public service. Help stamp out child abuse and baby teeth extractions.
(Editor’s note: I would like to tell you that the Tooth Fairy showed up and made it all better with a cash reward for my seven valuable teeth, but of course, she didn’t. During the Depression, we had never even heard of a Tooth Fairy, and if we had, everybody would have been getting their teeth pulled out as a way to finance groceries.)