Lunching with Snaggly and His Wayward Cousin

Dear Will:

As I see it, my mother had better options. She could have passed along her cheerfully unselfish disposition, for example, or the perpetual sparkle in her eye. Or maybe she could have simply given me her ability to bake the best cinnamon rolls you’ve ever tasted. (Mmmm, cinnamon rolls.) These are traits I could use. But no. Instead she passed along the bald-guy gene that has distinguished (?) our family for generations. And then, as a signature design flourish, she threw in her snaggletooth for good measure.

For those of you who like to play hygienist in your off-hours, I refer specifically to my right central incisor, which, like the runt of the litter, finds itself behind my other teeth trying to push and shove its way into line. The problem is, there just isn’t room for li’l Snaggly, so mostly he just pushes and shoves, creating the kind of premolar disorder that has financed the boats of many an orthodontist and the college educations of his children. Jostled thus for decades, the adjacent lateral incisor now finds itself leaning out of formation as if looking up the road to see when the parade is going to arrive.

Oh, and the parade does come—at least three times a day typically. Oatmeal Squares and bananas. Potato chips and PBJs. Countless morsels of steak and green beans, with occasional chocolate chip cookies snuck in between. (Mmmm, chocolate chip cookies.) They all come parading past my tangled toothage to be processed for swallowing, much to the delight of cuspids and bicuspids alike.

Ah, but for li’l Snaggly and his increasingly wayward cousin. Say you’re sitting at In-N-Out, scrolling through email with your left hand while fisting down a burger with your right. You’re chewing happily because you were smart enough to ask Amanda to add grilled onions and pickle to your Double-Double. The molars are really going to town now while the fangs upfront are mostly just pumping up and down as if on the most disgusting merry-go-round ever. You’re in blissful reverie until you discover that Snaggly’s cousin has taken it upon himself to hook your lower lip and add it to your midday mélange.

Now no one would ever accuse me of being a vegetarian, but I’ve always felt that adding my own flesh to a meal is taking meat-eating to an inappropriate extreme. And having chomped down on myself, over and over, in the very same spot, for 30 or 40 years, I’m a bit of an expert on the subject. In fact, I’ve now built up so much scar tissue in that one area of my mouth that I’m pretty sure that when I walk I’m starting to list slightly to the right.

Which is not a declaration of my politics but an acknowledgment of the fact that who I am—in all my bald-headed, snaggletoothed glory—is at least in part a consequence of genetic inheritance. And while my future as a male supermodel may be somewhat in jeopardy, I look at my own children and conclude that my parents passed along plenty that was worth sharing. And that I married well. Especially the marriage part.

So here’s hoping that Luke and Bryn and Seth have inherited their mother’s thick, glorious mane and her impressively bright intellect; her effortless empathy and passion for justice; her internal drive and (of course) her impeccable teeth. Also, if one of them could please master the art of their grandmother’s cinnamon rolls—sooner rather than later—I would really appreciate it.


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