So, Are You "Fully Dressed?" This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I suppose it would be possible to brand me a "happy" and "optimistic" person. You know what I mean, the kind who makes your stomach turn when you're having a bad day. Now, that is not to say that I don't have my share of the blues, but I find it more uplifting to look at the brighter side of life. And hey, while looking at the optimistic side of situations, it is hard not to smile.

I guess the first time I really became conscious about smiling was when I was in the first grade. My best friend and I went to see the musical "Annie" with her grandmother. I will never forget how grown-up we felt because we weren't going to a matinee, we were going to an evening show! Just imagine: two little six-year-olds sitting in over-stuffed theater chairs wearing our fanciest party dresses. We were feeling pretty spiffy with those white frilly socks and patent leather shoes when what should happen? Just before intermission, these little professionally trained orphans who were dancing around on stage, informed us with a song that: "You're never full dressed without a smile!"

Well, our six-year-old world came crashing down around us. Here we had been thinking that we were the best-dressed women in the audience, and now my friend and I had to face the fact that we were not fully dressed. We had just been informed, since we weren't smiling, it was like sitting around in our underwear. Talk about embarrassing.

As the curtain fell, my friend and I looked at each other in utter astonishment. What were we going to do? We didn't want all the adults to think that we had not dressed properly to see a musical. So, after a short, nervous conversation, we came to the conclusion that we would sit through the whole second act smiling. What can I say? Our jaws were a little stiff by the end, but we felt confident that we were "completely dressed." Ever since then, whenever I see my friend, we jokingly share a big goofy smile - to remind ourselves of that silly night ten years ago.

But truthfully, there is a little more to the big smile that I have. Another reason why I flash my not-so-pearly- whites a lot is that they really are a pot of gold. Not in the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" sense. After all, I don't have leprechauns dancing around in my mouth, but more of an investment representing seven years of orthodontia.

In second grade, after the whole smiling episode at "Annie," I met my orthodontist, Dr. Levy. Let me tell you, he was a nice guy! I was allowed to hold a little mirror in my hand, so I could see what he was doing in my mouth. But instead, I used it to create a moving spot on the ceiling, nearly blinding one of the technicians.

During the first visit, Dr. Levy just poked around in my mouth, it wasn't so bad. By the fourth and fifth visit, the "space bar" appliance that now inhabited the roof of my mouth was actually kind of neat. It made a clicking sound when I pushed my tongue against it. Months passed. The space bar was replaced with lip bumpers, which were in turn replaced by, TA-DA, braces!

This was when the fun stopped and the real movement of my teeth began. Let me tell you that the novelty of the color bands on the braces wore off before I had gotten to the car. From then on, after visiting the orthodontist, I became friendly with Tylenol, the reliever of immense pain. Somehow even the horseshoe-shaped paraffin wax for the times when my braces rubbed against my inside of my cheeks lost its special magical powers. These metallic bands around the outside of my teeth, tied together with a wire that could put a substantial ache in the jaws of death, had taken over my mouth..

I suppose it was after the first three long years of braces when I decided to pose the ultimate question to my orthodontist. There was no hope in sight that I would be getting the braces off anytime soon, so instead I did the next best thing. I had the feeling that it was the first time Dr. Levy was asked, "If one of your patients were to die before getting their braces off, would you remove the braces and straighten their teeth for the burial?" I hoped I would have a long life, but just in case straightening my teeth took longer than a lifetime, I wanted to know. He told me that none of his patients had died before their teeth were straightened, but he would be happy to straighten mine if that were the case.

After seven years of wires, orthodontic rubber bands, and wax, the day finally arrived to get my braces removed. My parents were relieved, and I think the orthodontist was too. Dr. Levy, saint that he is, had finally been able to straighten my crooked smile. It was not an easy task, but he had done it, and without pulling any teeth!

As my mom was scheduling an appointment to pick up my new retainers, Dr. Levy said, "Okay, Annette. This is it. No more braces. I just have one last set of instructions. Don't forget to brush at least twice a day, and don't forget to smile at least twice a day, too."

So, what can I say? Years later, I still smile when I am happy, and even when I am not. Not just because my face is not dressed without a smile, but because the dentist

ordered it. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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