September 22nd, 2010Uncategorized
Recently I was taken aback when a random woman apologized to me. “I hope you don’t mind my missing teeth,” she said. Actually, she wasn’t that random. The Texan mother of a gal I hired from Craigslist to paint our trim, she had come to take pictures of her daughter painting and decided to snap a few of the kids. “I lost my teeth somewhere and I need new ones, but I’m saving up,” she reassured me.
“No problem at all,” I replied. “It could happen to anyone.” Once my stepmom lost her teeth in the lake and everyone spent a good two hours looking for her keys as she moaned, “I lost my keeth! My goddamn keeth aren’t here!”
When did I start to look like the type of person who needs an apology for a few missing teeth? Missing teeth are a pivotal element of the Jerome dynasty. Not only are they usually missing in my family, but once they’re out of the skull, we do unseemly things with them: threaten, harass, smoke. If it can be done with a tooth, a Jerome has done it.
But of course I couldn’t explain all this to her. I was just coming in from work, dressed in my best, and here she was in floppy, torn dungarees, naked as a jaybird without her teeth.
Perhaps I am exempt from the family curse that dictates, “No Jerome shall walk among them unnoticed.” Maybe I blend in as a regular person; the kind of person who deserves—no, demands an apology when faced with a toothless mouth.
My work trousers get the credit for the unwarranted self-consciousness. Had she arrived at any other time, I most assuredly would have been in my going-nowhere clothes, hair all greasy. She would have taken one look at me and gotten the impression that I’d cut her for a chimichanga.