From the Dentist’s Chair

I can sense his dissatisfaction. He plucks the crown off again, mutters something, and goes back to filing it. I’m staring up at a light through oversized plastic glasses and my nails are digging into my palm. Is he muttering because it’s not going well? Should I be worried?

Maybe he’s a perfectionist, and all the plucking and muttering is a good sign. Maybe. What if he reaches a point of “it’ll do” even though really it won’t? What will I do if it doesn’t look good but the dentist wants me to say it looks good?

This isn’t the hairdresser or a coffee shop. It’s not like pretending the eggs Benedict was amazing when really the muffins were chewy and the bacon impossible to find. This is serious. A crown is for life. Or in this case, ten years.

I bet my husband would have no problem telling the dentist if he wasn’t happy. Actually, I know it for a fact. Coincidentally, he’s also having a crown replaced – we’re like tooth-twins, it’s kismet. Last week I asked him how his most recent appointment went, and he said the new crown wasn’t a perfect match so they were sending it back to the lab. “Well that’s good,” I said. “At least they’re not trying to fob you off –   it’s reassuring  that they suggested sending it back.”

“No, it was me who insisted,” said my husband. “They thought it was fine, but I wasn’t happy. So I asked them to send it back.”

He’s right. Speak up. Don’t settle. If the muffins are chewy or the crown isn’t right, send it back. That’s the approach I need to take. Channel the husband.

I dig my nails into my palm a little harder. I’m not afraid of the sharp dental instrument coming toward my mouth – I’m afraid of the awkward post-procedure reveal when I realise I hate my new tooth.

Office Mum
Practicing a closed-mouth smile, just in case

I wonder why my husband and I are so different when it comes to any kind of honest feedback conversation. At work, it wasn’t an issue for me at all. I didn’t seek confrontation and usually tried to find diplomatic means to fix problems, but if something needed to be tackled directly, I did it. So why do I find it so hard in the non-work world?

A few weeks ago, an electrician we’ve been chasing for months finally came back to fix a residual problem from his last visit. I was there when he called. Later that day, my husband asked how it went.

“Did you ask him where he’s been all these months and why he didn’t come back sooner?” In a million years, the last thing I’d do is challenge someone who has just arrived in my house to fix something. I’m sure I’d probably tell someone else they should do it, or that they’re within their rights to do it, but when it comes to standing face to face in my own hallway with a man who has come to make the broken electric thingy work again, I just smile and thank him for the great job.

It’s for this reason that I make the big house decisions (colour, style, design) but leave the cost negotiation with my husband. And yes, I get that this is feeding a gender stereotype, but the alternative is that we pay way over the odds for everything. My feminist principles are hindered by my dwindling finances.

My husband haggles, I don’t. That’s it. He still shakes his head when he reminds me of the time I bargained upwards in a Bangkok market, as the seller desperately tried to engage me in the standard practice of haggling downwards. So yeah, I think my husband is happy with this particular division of labour too.

And again, at work, I could bargain, haggle, cajole, convince. I just can’t do it in real life. Which is a pity, because real life can be quite important at times too. Especially when we’re talking about a front tooth.

To all of you who are good at this kind of everyday confrontation, I admire you, I envy you, I kind of want to be you. And if things go wrong with the tooth reveal, will you come and talk to the dentist for me?


Some other bits from recent weeks:

Does having children make us unhappy? A recent study says it does. But I think perhaps it’s the wrong way to look at it: Does having kids make you unhappy – for

Do women need to act like men to succeed at work? Three women respond, plus really great tips from a career coach on how to navigate this at work: Do women need to act like men – for the Irish Examiner

The lovely Lady Nicci asked me to join her new interview series, all about (fiction) writing, so I told her about my book that’s on the shelf. Not a real shelf unfortunately – the metaphorical one where you put things you don’t have time for just now: How I Write

Tis the season for colds and flus – here’s a list of the most common childhood winter ailments, how to try to keep them at bay, how to recognise them, and how to treat: 7 ways to keep your baby healthy through the Irish winter – for Mothers & Babies with the Independent.

M&B Winter Ailments

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7 thoughts on “From the Dentist’s Chair”

  1. I love this, we are the opposite here. My husband squirms if I complain at a restaurant, in fact he tries to stop me before I even do. I haggle, I don’t say “it was grand”. I do have a dental phobia though. Get assertive, or tell us the name of your dentist and someone will anonymously send him this link:)
    Sinead @bumbles of rice recently posted…Bedtime Stalling.My Profile

  2. Ha – the anonymous link sending is nearly as good as someone coming with me 🙂
    Perhaps now that I’ve observed this inability to be upfront, I’ll make it a project to work on it. If I could do it at work, there’s no reason why I can’t do it in real life. Though there’s probably a reason – I just haven’t worked it out…

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