Judgment Lunch (Or How I Kept All My Teeth In the Front Of My Face)

Judgment Lunch


The tooth incident compromised my judgment. I panicked. I wanted guidance, or I wanted to win thousands of dollars on a scratch ticket. I’m not that lucky. I called my Irish Catholic grandmother, known as Nana. She is my dad’s mother. I called and explained the issue. She tsk’ed a lot. She said, “Well, this is why you need to work.” I had quit my retail job. My brain imploded. I explained that the job and the tooth were unrelated. The job wasn’t going to give me dental and I wasn’t going to make $2,600 there either. That is probably where I should have stopped, but she had hit a sore spot. A sore spot made up of me working since I was sixteen. A sore spot where deciding to quit my retail job and focus on graduate school was a constant struggle because I felt like everything was a lavish expense. I was living on loans. It is something people do. I still feel guilty about it. So, when Nana in her nana way brought up the idea that I was not working, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I was looking for some kind voice to say, “Dear, I’m sorry, let’s figure this out together.” She didn’t. She compared me to my parents. So, I explained to her if she wanted me to work at a job where I made $2,600 to account for this unforeseen dental issue I should start dealing drugs or go into prostitution.

Nana did not approve.


She told me to call back when I came to my senses. I was feeling impulsive and fantasized about how hard it would be for her to play “Who has the best grandchild?” with her friends if I had teeth missing in the front. I thought about getting it pulled simply out of spite. Can’t put my picture up now, can you?


I later got a call from another family member. “You need to call Nana and apologize because she is taking it out on everybody else. I know it’s hard. Just take the help.”


Help? I don’t know about you, but everything in my family comes with a price. Love, food, money. Supposedly, it doesn’t, but there is always an undercurrent I feel. A sensation that I must return on their investment. I should send them Power Points detailing my progress and accomplishments, itemized budgets and receipts of where there $100 went to. It isn’t that I’m ungrateful. I am lucky in a way. Members of my family helped pay for me to go to a much better school system. I received a much better education in an emotionally safe place when I was particularly vulnerable. I mean who isn’t in high school? But, there is a rule of reciprocation. They do these things out of the goodness of their hearts? Kind of. They paid for me to go to school, but no one every picked me up. I was the last kid in the parking lot, waiting. They paid for me to go to school, but I had to steal uniforms from the lost and found because my parents and I couldn’t afford them.


So, I guess that offers a little bit of background. I contacted a dentist a couple of hours away I had not seen since 2008. He, the dentist himself, called me back. I felt like it was my first bit of luck. I set up an appointment and discussed cost along with possible dental issues.


Now it was acceptable to call and make an apology, now that I had made progress. I apologized. “I’m sorry if what I said upset you.” Which is a backwards apology, but it was the best I could muster. We arranged lunch before my dentist appointment.


And here, good people, of the internet is JUDGMENT LUNCH

A no holds bar, UFC smack down, where and Irish Catholic grandmother is allotted a half-hour, while buying you a sandwich to rehash all of your shortcomings, disappointments, and failings spanning both physical and personal.

The one rule: You take it.

Mostly I imagine myself in the fetal position just letting the old woman kick me over and over again.

That is judgment lunch, and probably why I still have all the teeth in the front of my face.

Because after being reduced to a mental fetal position that will wreak havoc on your psyche for years to come, she paid for half of the procedures, drastically less than anticipated. We are at an estimated $525. I put the rest on my credit card.


At which point I spent 3 hours at the dentist office, getting x-rays, a cleaning, and a giant filling. Apparently, a filling never fell out! I had been wrong the whole time. It was actually a cavity that had gotten so bad, my tooth, the actual tooth chipped while I was at the retail job such a long time ago.


In closing, it was an adventure filled with some battles, but I suppose in the end I came out on top, at least with all my teeth, even if I can’t eat any solid food for a week.


Teeth are Important

Teeth are Important

I am master’s student, which means no funding, assistance, guidance, or love. I am older than undergrads, pay full tuition, but am offered the same insurance coverage. Undergraduates are ten years my junior, go home to do laundry at their parents’ house, and legally can be covered for many more years on their parents’ insurance. I no longer have this option. I elected the student health care, which did not include a dental option.

One day, at my awful retail job, while grinding my teeth to avoiding throwing up at the register because of what my life had come to, I heard a crack. I felt something crunchy, spit it into a Kleenex, and continued counting the hours until I could go home. I assumed a filling cracked and fell out.

Minus the trauma of the crack and crunch, I didn’t notice any pain for weeks. Then, while biting something, like bread, a sore ache adjusted to a shooting pain and became an unwelcome and permanent guest in my mouth

I researched low cost dentists. After the research, waiting on hold to for 10 minutes to be told they weren’t taking any new patients I decided to go to the mall. Obviously. According to my therapist, retail therapy is one of my coping skills and should be not be toyed with until I find another one to replace it. Few things replace the thrill of paying $6.97 for a pair of Gap pants.

However, I am not completely delusional. Good deals will not help my tooth. Also at the mall is a FREE dental consult office. When things say free, be suspicious.

I explain I broke a filling and have no insurance. I put my sad face on and wait with all of the other hopeless patients. Waiting rooms are sad and hopeless.

A young woman in a long yellow gown comes out and explains in limited English that I need to pay $40 for an x-ray of the tooth. OK.

At which point, the woman takes me to do the x-ray. Now there are two women speaking to one another. I believe it is Polish. I don’t understand Polish. I did understand it was the girl’s first day and they couldn’t decide is they got the right tooth in the x-ray. The right tooth, as the broken one. I don’t think I have more than one broken tooth on that side.

They confirm it is close enough.

The two women lead me to a sprawling backroom decorated with up to ten dental chairs separated by cubicle partitions. I can only assume it is the birthplace of many dental nightmares.

A dentist with a mask on pokes at my tooth and says, “We can pull or root canal.” He flips my chair up and hands me a card with the following on the back:


Pull $290

Root Canal $2600


I stare in horror at the card and ask if it is pulled, will it be noticeable? He says it depends. Depends, as in how aware the other person is. Depends on how serious they pay attention to teeth. You know? It depends. What the fuck?  He gets up to leave, and I ask about the rest of my teeth. I expect full service for this free consult and I am horrified about how many teeth I might lose and wonder at which point he would say yes, this is noticeable. He explains they need more x-rays to be certain, but with some coaxing, he agrees to look in my mouth again. Probably to stop my talking. He says to come back for either appointment. He never took his mask off.

I leave the office to sit on the mall bench outside the dental place. I am torn between crying/hyperventilating and simply going home to cut off all the legs of my jeans. To pull the tooth will be noticeable, not dependent on attention. My friend talks me off the dental ledge and convinces me a second opinion will be important.

Nonetheless, I start to plan my new toothless life. Well, luckily I just joined a gym. My body better be slammin’ to get passed a missing tooth. On that note, I walk to Victoria’s Secret. I find the brightest most padded push up bra there is. It is green, green, like red light, green light, green means go adorned with white delicate flowers.

I put this thing on and am met with the glory of my cleavage as it has never been.

I need to show someone this. I hit the light inside the dressing room for an associate. She knocks and I ask if it looks OK, or is it too tight? She smiles and says, “No, it looks really good on you!” I doubt it looks bad on anyone, but I’m sold.

Walking through the mall, I am caught by the gleam of a Sunglass Hut. Sunglasses? Well, yeah. I have high cheekbones and when I smile, I pick up the glasses, which looks funny. Then I remember I won’t be smiling anymore and I am re depressed. I hover around the sale glasses, but am then approached by the cutest, sweetest, saleswoman. She hands my pairs of Coach and Oakley. I enlist the tall, I assume wealthy European man for his opinion. He confirms the large Coach glasses, because they are more feminine. Great, feminine will hide missing teeth, if only for a short while.

I reach for another pair of Coach sunglasses that were designed for my face, but unfortunately not my life. They are polarized. I don’t quite understand what that means, but people always mention the water. They are $200, so by water I assume they mean yachts. I don’t spend a lot of time on yachts. Actually the time on spend on yachts is none, no time on yachts.

But, the day had already been such a letdown. I didn’t want to let the sales clerk down too. I was so desperate to replace my would be missing tooth, a symbolism of neglect and white trash with boobs and sunglasses, but really sex and wealth. Who needs braces and root canals when I have sex and consumerist vision to fill my smile in?


I bought the sunglasses like a dope.


I returned them a couple days later like a rational person.


Only after texting an upper body picture of myself wearing the bra and glasses to my friends titled, “Bitches be Crazy.”