A few years ago, I, along with some folks, went to Brazil for a Group Study Exchange Program. Part of the program was for us to visit organizations that match our respective professions, attend numerous meetings, participate in various activities, attend parties and churrasco (barbeque) gatherings, etc. It was a month-long gig all over the state of Parana (we did go to Rio de Janeiro after the official program, but that was a different story altogether), and I distinctly remember one gathering we attended at this city called Ponta Grossa.

It was a fun night. We mingled, we dined, we networked, we chatted the night away. In the middle of the evening, immediately after dinner, we (my group) had to deliver a speech of sorts. There were 6 of us, and for some reason, I always ended up speaking last in ALL our speaking engagements (my friends told me it’s because I’m the professor in the group, naturally adept at public speaking, that’s why I had to be last). So anyway, there I was in front, center of the stage, reading my prepared speech (in Portuguese, mind), lights blaring and all, and all I could think of was “I hope I don’t forget to say my name, and I hope I don’t mispronounce vocês.”

It was a simple enough speech. The crowd was most appreciative, especially since I decided to speak in their native tongue. But what happened next was the thing I will remember the most.

When I got off the stage, it was time for us to mingle yet again with the crowd. There was this guy who walked straight towards me and I thought he was going to give me an abraço e a beijo (a hug and a kiss on the cheek, very typical amongst Brazilians). No, he did not. What he did was he placed a hand on my arm and whispered in my ear, “you should have been a dentist. You have a great smile.”

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

I’m telling you, of all the compliments I have received in my entire life, that one takes the cake. It was not your usual compliment, you see. And it was so unexpected. Totally unexpected.

I grew up with a monstrous set of teeth. No, that is no hyperbole. I really had an awful set of chompers when I was growing up. During my teen years, my parents decided that they’ve had enough nightmares just looking at my mouth so they had me fitted for braces.

If you’ve had braces, you know that going through it is no cakewalk. I had to have 4 teeth restored, 4 teeth pulled out (to allow for the overcrowded teeth to adjust), metal brackets installed, 4 molar caps inserted, and of course, those elastics that put all the wires in place.

I had it for 3 years.  And then the retainers after that.

Oh what joy when my ortho removed the brackets. Finally, I could go back to eating chicharon (pork rind) and apples, and crispy pata and many other sinful dishes.

Most important of all, I could finally smile without being self-conscious about it.

Fast-forward twenty years into the future. . .

Braces redux.

What happened, you ask?  Well, let’s just say I wasn’t as fastidious with my retainers as I should’ve been, coupled with the fact that all 4 of my wisdom teeth grew out while I was wearing those braces (so basically, the 4 wisdom teeth simply replaced the old spots vacated by the 4 teeth that were pulled out), so here I am, going through the same thing all over again.

With one minor difference.

This time, I opted for the ceramic brackets.

It’s pricier than the metal brackets, but what the hey. I don’t think I can go through the  Metal Frankie phase for the second time. At least now, the ceramic brackets are barely noticeable it won’t be that shocking to anyone I know.

The only thing that saddens me about this whole braces redux is knowing how this will affect my appetite. Our faithful Journey of the Fates readers would know that after Harry Potter, movies, and travel, I blog about, talk about, celebrate most of all, my love affair with food. I do love to eat. All that is going to change now that I can’t even chew anything properly.

Well, let’s hope things don’t change that much. After all, it’s back to work for me starting next week. The challenge now is how to give back-to-back lectures without mispronouncing my name, my students’ names, or, heaven forbid, the name of the boy who lived.