Suck It

It's not uncommon in the U.S. to have braces. In fact, I've found that most of the people I know with reasonable teeth have donned some sort of headgear in their youth. I am no exception to this.

From the moment I was born, I found comfort in sucking on the pointer and middle finger of my left hand. This, coupled with mashing a filthy blanket I called shmata (Yiddish word for rag) into my closed eye, was pure bliss for me. Later, my shmata was butchered and cut into four smaller shmatas so that I could easily replace it when I lost it (which was frequently because I was a careless child). Finally, circa 1991, I lost my final shmata and consequently, my shit. My mom, being the best mother ever (and having a very low tolerance for whining, crying, and bullshit in general), immediately brought me to the nearest Toys "R" Us so that I could pick out the next thing to mush onto my face while sucking my fingers. My eyes lit up when I found a stuffed Siamese cat (we had a non-stuffed Siamese at the time but she was most unfriendly). I immediately started rubbing the tail under my nose and sucking on my two fingers and my mom knew that we had found the one.

Siamese Stuffy Number One lasted until I left him at my elementary school library about four years later and my poor mother had to soothe me that later night when I had a complete mental breakdown. Back to Toys "R" Us we went the next day and my saliva-soaked fingers were crossed that they still had the same Siamese cat stuffed animal for sale. No dice, but there was one tolerably similar. I decided to give this stuffy a proper name so that maybe I wouldn't lose him. Snowflake was born.

Nigel Thornberry: doppelganger of my youth.
Snowflake's tail wasn't sufficiently long enough for my finger-sucking affairs, so I migrated to using his forearm and rubbing it gently on my nose. The years went on and soon, it was 1997 and I was 10 years old. My dad knew that soon this finger-sucking thing wouldn't be socially acceptable and neither would my dopey, Nigel Thornberry-esque, buck teeth. He tried to sit me down and calmly explain why I should stop doing my favorite thing. I said no. When he commanded it "because he said so," I would steal away and suckle in secret. I felt like some sort of drool-covered fugitive and it made the experience even more pleasurable. My dad soon realized that I was fibbing about having quit my habit cold turkey and decided to bust out the WMDs: hot pepper-flavored, anti-finger-sucking nail polish. My father came in the night like some sort of ninja manicurist and painted all of my nails with the foul polish while I was unconscious. When I woke up, I was horrified by what I tasted but immediately knew what was going down. I decided to take one for the team (just Snowflake and me, I guess) and bite all of the nail polish off of my nails. Within 10 minutes, I was back in finger-sucking heaven.

My dad's efforts continued for the next year, but were unsuccessful. At 11 years old, I was now in 6th grade, and although I was playing it cool and rocking out the the Backstreet Boys during the day, by night I was sucking my fingers like a toddler. Some kids started making fun of me for my buck teeth and I distinctly remember one kid singing "fall into the Gap," except this time it wasn't about the retail store and was a diss aimed at my incisors. My father finally decided it was time for me to take a trip to the orthodontist and get fitted with braces. But how was he going to get me to stop sucking (my fingers!)?

Why is my middle finger shaped like a backwards 's?'
My orthodontist, Dr. Chan (located somewhere in the middle of New Jersey), took care of that for him with her giant book of deformed teeth AKA oral scare tactics. This book was filled with some of the gnarliest, snarliest teeth you've ever seen; they were black and decayed or protruding through closed mouths or growing out of foreheads or all of the above. One look through that book coupled with the phrase "this could be you if you don't stop sucking your fingers" was enough for me to quit for good. Two years, 21 changes in rubber band color theme, one clear, blue retainer with my name on it, and 43 gags from the taste of brace bracket cement later, I had straight teefs. I still have a permanent retainer wire fastened securely to the inside of my bottom front teeth and my pointer and middle finger on my left hand are eternally deformed and curve unnaturally (See Image 2). Other than the aforementioned physical maladies, all that remains of this ordeal is the emotional, tooth-related trauma I endured. Oh, and Snowflake still helps me fall asleep every night.


  1. Hmmm I had braces too, so I understand the tedious-ness of it all.

    Well at least we will always have perfect teeth for all the pain and time it took. :)

    The Cat Hag

  2. Yea, I'm definitely happy now that I went through all of that, even though it was pretty horrible at the time.


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