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Return of the Cheeto Gang

I’m getting braces.

My world is crashing down on me. Life as I know it will change FOREVER next week. What was I thinking? How could I have agreed to this? Will I be forced to face the daily agony of being taunted and ridiculed, have I voluntarily submitted to being the butt of my peers’ petty jokes? Because we ARE still in junior high, right? My every nerd-move and physical trait is being observed by the “cheerleaders” and “jocks,” to be humiliatingly twisted and thrown in my face while they gather together as one indiscernible, Guess jean-clad, confidence-shattering mob. Right?

Oh. Maybe you had a different junior high experience. Mine sucked. S-U-C-K-E-D. Actually, to be fair, it wasn’t even the cheerleaders who ridiculed me in junior high (and I apologize for stereotyping any former cheerleaders out there who have since seen the light on treating the quiet, nerdy kids like pond scum – no hard feelings, eh?); I wasn’t even on their radar screen. Some catty group decided I was no longer worthy of joining their oh-so-cool after school gatherings consisting of Little Debbie snacks and convenience store slurpees; after that, my wardrobe, face, hair, or anything externally visible was fair game. One day after they had ostracized me (during which event they told me I could no longer be a part of their group because “my family was too perfect” – nice, especially considering the dysfunctional hellhole I was living in at the time), I was walking in the halls between classes when one of them saw me and yelled out, “hey, Cheeto!” and started giggling uncontrollably with her (formerly my) friend. I’m sure I looked confused, because I had no clue what image the word “Cheeto” actually was supposed to conjure up for me. Had I eaten Cheetos with lunch and did I still have that neon powder on my sleeve? Was it a clever play on words involving “Chester the Cheetah” from the commercials? If so, exactly what was said play? Was it some sly comment on my CHEST? Was it a sarcastic jab at my academic abilities, like, “you must think you’re some kind of intellectual CHEETAH”? How deeply should I have analyzed this clearly genius inside joke? As it turns out, I didn’t have to analyze it at all; the lovely (and witty! Oh so witty!) girls saw my confusion and said, “your eye shadow, DUH! It looks ORANGE!! Like the Cheeto cheese!!” And with that, they cackled off to class. This went on for months.

I’m pretty sure they both wait tables for a living now. Not by choice. They were going to be married to rich men who would obviously shower them with such swank gifts as the highest quality eye shadow ever created. Karma’s a bitch.

For those of you wondering why I launched into a depressing discussion of the WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE and also asking yourself what IN THE NAME OF GOD any of this has to do with getting braces as an adult, well, I’ll tell you: I thought I was just fine with the whole braces thing (except for the $5400 price tag, which will forever haunt my dreams) until I literally woke up in the middle of the night feeling ill and imagining people at my new job not taking me seriously. Or not being able to focus on anything coming out of my mouth because of these shiny metal objects reflecting the canned fluorescent lighting with Every. Single. Syllable.

In my adult brain, I know this is crazy. Plenty of adults have braces; I see adults with braces all the time and I don’t think twice about it. Besides, it’s only a year. It’ll go by in a snap. But I had braces once before, you see, during that time in my life when everything associated with my physical presence was suspect – will this attract too much attention? Am I going to be ridiculed over this? And that little Junior High Humiliation Victim part of me hasn’t died yet. I’m going to beat her to a bloody pulp, though, because if I don’t get these braces, a portion of my gums will have most likely completely receded by the time I’m 50. I’m pretty sure I’m going to live past 50, and I think I’ll still want gums, teeth, and also a jawbone at that time.

So all I can say is this: The first person at my new job who makes a witty comment to me about the braces is going to have a bloody, gnarled stump in place of what used to be their arm. Cheeto Gang, you’d better warn them about that whole karmic retribution thing.

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