“Bob has the expensive teeth of a much younger man.” – Melanie Finn, The Gloaming, 2016, p. 7
Expensive teeth are a status symbol. Finn describes this Bob, a white man on safari, as not taking great care of his health and not wanting to tip. Bob has a bit part in Finn’s book, but the hard, chiseled economy of this sentence made me laugh out loud.
I had braces to give me nearly eerily perfect teeth when I was a pre-teen in the early ‘90s. It was the fashion. It went along with the piano lessons. I wanted to be an actress.
That’s not exactly what I mean. I was already acting (on stages, in front of a thousand or so people with regularity). I wanted to really be an actress. Always. In larger and more important contexts. Not community theater, not family-friendly productions with a certain sort of values, but deeper, odder, out in the dangerous wilds of big cities type theater.
I never did a screen test. I read sides in small rooms to audition for parts so many times, but I never met a Hollywood or even a Minneapolis producer or casting director. I never met a casting couch. Of course I’m grateful for this, but…
…I did meet the 31-year-old man. I was in at least three, but probably not more than five shows with him over a two year span. The summer I was an 11-year-old girl he was 31-years old. I was busy trying to understand:
a) exactly what I was feeling,
b) was he my boyfriend and
c) how could I play with my friends more?</p>
About then an adult actress my mother’s age confronted me and informed me:
a) it was sluttish to go off alone with the 31-year-old man,
b) that I had to not spend any time with him, and
c) that if I continued to do so she would have to tell my mother, who wouldn’t be able to survive such news.
This is when I discovered it’s incredibly difficult to avoid that nice 31-year-old man who is backstage with you every night. The actress never did tell my mother that I knew of. However, I was late for rehearsal one night: My mother noticed I hadn’t brushed my teeth and tried to scrape the plaque off my teeth with her fingernail. I protested. She said, “Well, why wouldn’t you like to look nice for the 31-year-old man?”
Harvey Weinstein has had not quite expensive enough lawsuit settlements. I have therapy (it is and was expensive) and teeth, still the expensive forcibly straightened variety. The kind who’ve shown me pain lingers deeper than anything done to a body.