When I was 10, my dad yanked out my tooth. It was loose, but was one of those stubborn ones that just wouldn’t come out, no matter how much I wiggled it. He had me lie on the living room floor, facing my open bedroom door, while he tied one end of a string around my tooth and the other around the doorknob. Then he slammed the door shut as hard as he could. My tooth ripped from its roots and flew out of my mouth, hitting a wall, never to be seen again.
We assumed it fell behind the sofa, but could never find it. Even after inching it away from the wall and peeking behind, picking it up and scooting it across the room, and finally selling it moving out of the house. Dad was proud. I was traumatized.
He was obsessed with teeth and had serious regrets about not being a dentist. He would make toothpaste out of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, claiming it would whiten, brighten and clean better than Crest. And, he’d stand in front of his bathroom mirror – wearing nothing but pajama bottoms – flossing his teeth, every morning and night, until he’d flung out every piece of debris that may have potentially rotted his teeth. He even went as far as to buy actual dental instruments.
I’m not sure where along the way he manifested this obsession. Dad always had nice, straight teeth. But, maybe this happens a lot. Along with so-called perfect things we’re given, comes a fear of losing them. So we latch on tightly and nurture them, and in some instances, fixate on them.
My tooth is the first thing I remember losing in life; maybe because it was both a little traumatic and a little funny. Some might argue it was taken from me, but whatever, either way it’s gone. I never did develop a tooth obsession like my dad, but I did pick up a few of my own.
Three years later, after the tooth incident, I was really into those Best Friend Forever necklaces that Claire’s sold. Two or three necklaces came in a package, letters divvied up on each pendant, spelling out the words, “Best Friends” when pieced together, like a puzzle. That particular year, I had two best friends, so we bought the necklaces made for three.
You never really hear about good things coming in threes. Conversely, there’s that saying that terrible things happen in threes. You know, you sprain your ankle, your dog runs away and then you…wait. Because there has to be one more horrendous event coming your way. So, you wait to get fired from your job. You wait to get served divorce papers. You wait to get a call from your doctor, diagnosing you with an incurable disease. You wait to get mugged in the parking lot of Target. And, when you get tired of waiting, you create something.
Now pairs on the other hand. Amazing things happen in pairs. Like, peanut butter and chocolate, a hammer and nail, cookies and milk, shoes and socks, wine and cheese and so on. But, it seems the only thing that happens in threes, is trouble. (Exception to the rule: Three’s Company.) And, that’s what happened with H, K and me. Someone always ended up feeling left out. And by someone, I mean me.
My parents were busy and heavily involved in their own shit, teeth and otherwise, so I didn’t know the first thing about making and maintaining friends. Everything I learned, I learned from Sweet Valley Twins, Laverne & Shirley, Nancy Drew, The Munsters and The Brady Bunch.
And, because I was surrounded by so much chaos and commotion at home, I shrouded myself in a world of fantasy in an effort to escape, in an effort to belong – to something, somewhere. I wanted to be a part of something more than just a Nick-at-Nite marathon of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I wanted to belong to something more tangible than The V.C. Andrews Fan Club. I wanted to open myself up to more than a box of Twinkies and Capri-Sun.
I wanted to be loved and admired and one way to get that, I thought, was to run my own little “Unicorn Club,” just like Jessica Wakefield. So I maneuvered it so the BFF pendant with the letters “es ie” dangled around my neck, making me the middle piece of our friendship, the glue holding the three of us together. Without me, there would be no “us.”
If K and H did something without me, it felt like cheating, so I rarely allowed it. One Saturday morning, while I was at Hy-Vee getting groceries with my mom, I ran into H. While we were chatting, she let it slip that she and K were going rollerblading later that afternoon. I panicked. Why wasn’t I invited? Would they talk about me behind my back? Was this some sort of a ploy to kick me out of the group? So naturally I replied, “Oh yeah, sure I can make it,” as if I’d just been invited, and then hurried away before I could be ‘uninvited.’
And then, one day, I did get invited – to H’s house. This was over 20 years ago, so I don’t remember our exact conversation. But, I do remember that she didn’t exactly invite me into her house. H’s slight body blocked the doorway, hands on hips. So, I got into a defensive stance as well, folding my arms across my chest. This pissed H off because, she said, I had no right to be mad. She was mad first and, you know how teenage girls are; only one can be mad at a time. In short, I was kicked out of my first and only threesome.
Then, the door slammed in my face. And, even though there was no piece of string tied to the end of it, it felt like I’d just had another tooth ripped from my mouth. Only this time it wasn’t the least bit funny. This time it really, really hurt.