I hate going to the dentist.
Today, I braced myself
I prepared myself for every
racist, demeaning, horrific thing
they could say
to my mouth
I recalled all the things that have reached my ears in my dental experiences in this far away land...
"Do you speak Indian? Indian (the made-up language) has some harsh sounds that don't produce enough saliva and that can damage your teeth."
"Oh, in 3rd world countries, they don't brush their teeth."
"South Asians have dense teeth, but your teeth are so fragile. Are you vegan? Indians don't drink milk too much."
(Shouting) "This is a piece of floss. You put it LIKE THIS between your teeth."
"If you don't brush everyday from this brush from Walmart, you will die of a heart attack."
I was ready.
Armed with my recently earned identity as an American (so what if my teeth are 100% Indian?)
and my newly acquired skill of snarling through a mouth full of instruments and bloody ponds,
I was ready.
Or at least I thought.
"You really did listen to me last time! That new toothbrush from Walmart has worked so well!" (I didn't buy that toothbrush).
The hygienist convinced herself that my teeth were to her satisfaction
and I was saved from a heart attack
I nodded amply confused and mildly terrified if I could ever trust a dentist.
I had done nothing different in the last 6 months compared to the last 26 years.
Exit: dental hygienist.
Enter: my dentist.
The last time, he wrote the wrong tooth number down and I paid for an unnecessary x-ray
I wondered what unnecessary expenditure he would make me incur this time.
Another patient needed him.
Exit: my dentist.
Enter: new dentist.
"Hi." Curt and grumpy -- I was prepared.
"How're you doing today?"
Realizing it's not my dentist, "Who are you?" Stop being rude, Suparna. He's the one with the sharp tools.
Some introduction I couldn't focus on because I was very perplexed by his smile. I had never seen someone about to poke me with pokey things in my mouth while blinding me with a silly spot light smile. Why was he so happy?
After I was forced to accept his dentistness, I sat back and refused those silly goggles for that silly light.
Braced for racist comment number 1,
I open my mouth and prepare for open-mouthed snarl.
"Are you Indian or Pakistani?"
I would've spat out if it wasn't for the saliva-sucker he shoved in my mouth.
Even South Asians perform perfunctory (and often incorrect) boxing-eachother-in-boxes motions,
his question was far too nuanced to produce a snarl.
"Indian, huh? Ok, I would love to know because I'm always curious about this - what's your favorite Indian restaurant?"
"I thought you might say that, so I'm going to poke you now! Heh heh!"
I throw a confused yet appropriately bemused look towards him.
A funny, unracist, smiling dentist??
What has the world come to.
I left with a clean bill and no heart attack prophecies,
an appointment to get my cavity filled,
a broken bias.