I went to the dentist today. This was a new dentist for me, because my former dentist retired. She (my former dentist) is about my same age, and I thought it was genius of her to retire while she still had lots of life and energy and, probably, therapy time in her flex-spending account to use up, and what a bold and smart move to just step out while you’ve still got the testicles to do so. And then imagine my dismay when, sitting in the chair in the new dentist’s office (who happens to be married to the former dentist, which I also think is genius because, come on, if the two of them met in dentist school and got married, guess who probably did the lion’s share of household chores and raising children and keeping things spicy in the sack and paying the bills and hiring the contractors and hiring the marriage counselor and hiring the child psychologist? She did, that’s who. Probably. So it’s about time she got to sit back and have her weekly mani-pedis and watch soap operas and say, “Take THAT, Motherfucker!” I do not think this is personal projection in any way, shape, or form.), the dental hygienist (a mousy girl who actually waved as a greeting to me from two feet away, instead of shaking my hand like a grown-up–waved at me just like the preschoolers at my child care centers do) began telling me the “real” reason my former dentist had retired. It was due to [OH MY GOD, HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF HIPAA, OR CONFIDENTIALITY, OR COMMON DECENCY, YOU NINCOMPOOP, WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS?!]. From that point on, I kept my mouth shut. So to speak. I did not answer truthfully when she asked me the small-talk questions while she prepared her instruments of torture, and so she thinks I am a parole officer with the Michigan Department of Corrections and we are just going to leave it at that.
There are TVs in each of the patient cubicles at this new dentist office. I don’t really care for TV in general, but I didn’t think it would be a problem, I just thought it was odd because I’m accustomed to some ridiculous radio station playing over the speaker system, as though we all want to listen to advertisements for Sundance auto sales and classic rock while we have our oral cavities excavated by timid wavers who may not actually know what to do in the event that they pierce your uvula asking you to answer some inane question about the recession of your gums. The Dr. Phil show was on the TV. I didn’t know that the Dr. Phil show was still a thing. I find it hard to believe that prurient voyeurism disguised as public education on mental health treatment is still rating high enough to play in afternoon broadcast dayparts. But there it was.
Dr. Phil had a young couple on the show to “explore” whether and how he ghosted her after they went on a few dates. The TV’s volume was, thankfully, low, but I found myself tracking the show despite it. They plumbed the communication methods and contents that the two of them shared during their brief interlude, going so far as to display their text messages in multi-media for all to see.
Okay, y’all know where I’m headed here. Communication between men and women is–and always has been–doomed. We just don’t speak the same language, people! It’s like communicating with your dog. You speak to the dog in lilting tones, you provide food, you throw the disgusting saliva-coated ball for him to fetch, you scratch him in all the right places. The dog wags his tail, grins as he pants at you, brings back whatever you throw, sits down with you on the couch and puts his head (or whole body, depending on his size) in your lap. The human portion of this relationship perceives that the dog portion is happy and loving and grateful and generally satisfied; the human portion feels pretty good about things, all in all. The dog portion of this relationship perceives that the human portion is controlling and vindictive and miserly and generally uncomfortable with the concept of trust; the dog feels trapped and secretly wishes for aliens to come and whisk away the human, thereby freeing the dog from having to follow through on its genetic instinct to sink its jaws into the neck of the human with such strength and precision that the carotid artery will expel all six pints of the human’s blood before she has time to grab her smart-phone and dial 911–which would be futile because that damn phone is always about to exhaust its battery, even after you’ve changed all your settings so that nothing runs in the background. Who makes these phones? Men do. Who do the dogs represent? Men. It’s a pretty basic setup, and us girls are always gonna come out looking like the bad guy. Girl. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, ASSHOLE.
So this gal tries to explain to Dr. Phil and this fella how she’s simply trying to get clarity on what happened after these great dates they had. He’s not texting her like he used to, he’s not calling, he’s saying that “something’s come up,” and she’s all, “Do you have a girlfriend?” and he’s all, I’m not even responding to that because it’s a sign that she’s controlling and insecure. (He never does reveal whether he has a girlfriend, and Dr. Phil never presses him on it. It’s a pretty basic defensive tactic, Your Honor.) So then she is compelled (sisters, we have GOT to get a handle on this, we CANNOT keep going out there with our freshmen offensive team; we are NOT Michigan State’s football team. We’ve got to chill out and let the senior defensive team block and punish for a while, to wear down their offense) to seek evidence that he has a girlfriend or is possibly gay. At this point, and without the backing of Dr. Phil, we might as well turn in our jerseys and hitch a ride to Ann Arbor, because Michigan seems ready to go on some dates. This beautiful girl was trying to keep her composure while Dr. Phil and Mr. Douche-Nugget smirked knowingly. They even Skyped in some former boyfriend to testify on behalf of the Nugget that this girl asked too many questions. Some heroic fella in the audience actually piped up on her behalf, appealing to a more evolved sense of presence and empathy that might bring the couple to a point of consensus for the sake of humanity. I’m pretty sure that guy got his ass kicked out in the parking lot after the show.
I tried not to pay attention. My options were few, given that the mousy waving hygienist was inches from my face and I like to keep my eyes closed during dental cleanings so as not to form an accidental emotional bond from the sheer proximity of our optical nerves. I’ve been studying meditation and mindfulness lately, and for a second I considered focusing on my breath to remove the bluster and bother of Dr. Phil’s pageantry. But then I started hearing Donald Trump’s voice as he was doing some press conference and it completely destroyed my efforts toward inner peace and worldly compassion. At that point I shifted my thinking to the consolation of knowing I was wearing my skinny jeans for the first time since February–demonstrating that I still have the capacity for shallowness and vanity. This can be a pretty comforting thought when you’ve begun to consider that even dogs don’t want to sleep in your bed unless they have leeway to kill you.
When the exam was over, I took my complimentary toothbrush and dental floss (you shouldn’t neglect your gums) up to the front desk to check out. Miss Waver never even checked my bite splint to make sure I wasn’t night-clenching in a way that was going to give me a stroke or perhaps prostate cancer. I stared at the dilapidated plastic case containing the bite splint as the receptionist processed my appointment. “Can I get a new case for this?” I asked, determined that the visit wouldn’t be a total emotional loss. The receptionist went to the back room and returned with a shiny, new, purple-swirl case for me. I took it as a sign that things would work out for that girl on the Dr. Phil show; that she would move on and find some fella who would stay in touch with her of his own volition, while the Douche-Nugget would get fat and bald by the age of thirty, when the women he meets will be conveniently unavailable to invest in his personal stock. At that point, he will have to get a dog.