I once dated a guy with false teeth, well, dentures, I should say. Saying false teeth makes him sound like George Washington. He wasn’t old, well, a bit older than me and I was in my early thirties.
I’d suspected that his teeth weren’t real because they were too perfect, perfect to the point of being completely incongruous with the rest of him which was a few shades short of perfection, a little paunchy, somewhat balding, with serious acne scars. He was also a constant smoker. Sounds like a real dream boat so far, doesn’t he?
Still, he had many wonderful qualities, a list too long to enumerate in such a short blog.
Though I suspected his teeth had been store-bought, I never said a word. There had to have been a great story about his teeth, maybe an extraordinary hockey mishap. He skated and had thick legs so I’d have believed a hockey story and probably admired him for it. But there was never a story.
One day I was driving near his house and decided to surprise him. He came to the door with a surprised look on his face, held up one finger and murmured, “Hold on a minute,” then disappeared down a dark hallway, leaving me standing on his porch looking at his blurry image through the screen door.
In a few minutes, he came back, a nice smile on his face. He was now glad to see me where before my appearance seemed to have been very unsettling.
We sat on the couch, he lit a cigarette. He was the only person I knew who smoked practically constantly all day long.
Then I saw it. What is that, I thought, what is that on his lip? It was small little curl of what looked like gray toothpaste. He went to put his teeth in. That’s what happened, that’s why he left me on the porch. He had to find his teeth and glue them in. Wow, I thought, just wow. I’m dating a man who uses Poligrip.
More to the point, I think to myself, now having lit a cigarette and leaning back on the couch, I’m dating a man who had to find his teeth and glue them in who never says a word about having dentures. It was if he had answered the door bald and then retreated to his bedroom to find his toupee and anchor it to his head expecting no one to be the wiser.
Oh! You thought I was bald. No, here’s my hair.
So I reflected on this today because I am engaged in a new project with very important folks and they don’t know about my hearing disability. This has happened before. It’s like I am my former boyfriend coming to the door to find me on the front porch. In that moment, he had to decide whether he should fess up about the false teeth or scurry off to find his Poligrip.
Faking it is a reflex as irresistible as dodging a ball aimed at your head. Nod, pretend, cope, gradually get the drift, try to be smart, look professional. Don’t admit. Don’t own. Believe your teeth are real.
When I walked into the meeting, everyone was there. And they were talking. Now is the time to decide.
And I thought to myself, what you have to offer these folks is more than your hearing. Your hearing ability or disability isn’t why they called you. Be who you are. Don’t leave people waiting on the front porch.
Open the door. And that’s what I did.