How to get your teeth into Christmas
For a long time, I went to bed late. Even when not imbibing or carousing in the city’s late-licence fleshpots, I delayed the inevitable departure to Nod. Only ill health would see me crawl beneath the covers before 12 – and even then, it needed to be a corker of a malaise; dengue fever or ebola. That kind of thing. Then - again inevitably - my habits changed, a not unpleasant transition ensued: from studied insomnia to an acceptance of, well… getting old.
If only my teeth had been paying attention. Not for them the quiet and dignified realisation of the passage of time – and managed decline. Instead, in this my 50th year hauling this meat suit around, the chompers are revolting; actually, some might say they’ve always been revolting – I was never blessed in that department. Not as bad as the centrefold from the ‘Big Book of British Teeth’ admittedly. But not exactly the lost Ultrabrite advert either.
But back to recent oral carnage which has seen me on a bungee rope back and forth to my dentist. An excellent dentist I hasten to add, but I’m sure she’d rather see less of me - which in a way she is… because there are bits missing now. The first one to go was a molar at the back, like some unruly pupil at the rear of the class mugging off teacher and generally causing mayhem. She took one look and it was duly expelled. The poisonous wee f*cker.
Thinking this would ‘encourager les autres’, I imagined this lesson would pacify the rest of the sprouters. Oh, such naivety. Within 2 weeks I was back for round two. This time, a new recalcitrant towards the front left. I mean it had form to be fair; a root canal survivor with a chequered past. Sadly, a lethal crack has done for it, and it too has gone the way of the pliers. Or will do in December. I’m falling apart folks. And fast. How has it come to this?
Stupid question really. Smoking, medications, stress, and a highly dubious oral hygiene regime are why it’s come to this. But with the loss, comes a sense of time passing. Which will only be intensified as the annual Christian-coated pagan jamboree hoves into view. I would say the build-up has me gnashing my teeth, but I’ve been told I already do too much of that (hence the screed above). So I won’t go there. Instead, I’ll say that I find it a struggle.
Not because of the barrage of consumerism; I’m no stranger to the advertising world, so I can hardly hold forth on that. It is what it is. Much like the axiom that we ‘get the politicians’ we deserve, so too do we get the Christmases we deserve. And the Christmas adverts. The fact some pore over them and their meaning is testament to a society doomed to forever miss the bigger picture. We are birds flying into the same window over and over. Robins perhaps. As it’s Christmas.
My reason for the struggle is the bittersweet desperation of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ ™. Ostensibly a time for hope and looking to the future, it increasingly is a time for thinking on what we’ve lost. Teeth apart, it feels like we’re losing more and more, year on year. Traditions meant to provide certainty, togetherness, and joy seem, in the face of such an ongoing onslaught on all that is decent and true, mere baubles. A decorative insult.
That is hardly a trenchant observation; Dickens beat me to it a long time ago. But we should have come a long way since then. Instead, we see a world emergent where even the foodbanks are unable to function. Where politicians spouting hate speech are given air-time. Where once again, the poorest and most vulnerable will be asked to shoulder the burden of a system that is breaking down and unable (or unwilling) to be reformed.
“But that’s why festive cheer is important!”, I hear some cry. I have some sympathy for that perspective. It can be a balm. Or an anaesthetic. Something to soothe in the face of the doom loop that passes for news. I really want to treat it as such. To embrace it as a time of hope despite all of the horribleness – and take heart that, unlike some, I have the opportunity to have any kind of Christmas at all, instead of indulging myself with this grubby jeremiad.
Most likely though is a kind of bittersweet compromise whereby I extract the rotten reminders of decline so as to save the overall - and keep it intact for at least another year. Whatever that year may hold. A kind of Christmas dentistry you might say. Or would struggle to say if you’re wearing falsers and blitzed on eggnog. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But hey, at this rate, with two lost in two weeks, who knows what’ll happen.
Best get flossing. ■
Colin’s Xmas gifts sorted, an enamel pin collection from Book of Great British Smiles