Before that I was FINE: I had a completely buggered tooth fixed in Oxford by an extremely gloomy Scottish man without flinching. I had two of my wisdom teeth removed by a monosyllabic Chinese dentist above the Curzon Soho in about ten no-fuss minutes to the accompaniment of Cantonese soap opera. I had the third one removed by a man on Fleet Street who droned on distractingly for ages about all the things that might go wrong, then when none of them did, sent me back to my office, stoic, with a face full of bleeding drool (my boss didn't actually notice until someone came into the room, did a double take and went "CHRIST! What the hell's wrong with your trainee??" True story). I had infections, broken teeth, the works and I took my punishment and its bitter Corsodyl chaser without flinching.
But since the E1 Enormous Needle Incident, I am dental jelly. I am a dental wreck. This is conceptually problematic for me, because in my own head, I like to think of myself as being fairly nails when it comes to medical stuff. On top of that, even if I wasn't, I have seen my friends and family go through such biblically nasty medical stuff in recent years, I should have been shamed into being robust at a teeny tiny, ridiculous whizzy drill. I mean, my brother had sections of his SKULL drilled off. Even major root canal surgery is piddlingly ridiculous when you think about that. Even so, I had to accept the craven, pathetic truth: I was scared, properly, pathetically scared.
'The fear is worse than the reality' I would tell myself, bracingly. But then an unhelpful part of me would add 'except when it's NOT AT ALL' and go off on a lurid tangent thinking about all the hideous dental eventualities a check up might discover, and another six months would go by without me going near a man with a face mask and rubber gloves. Basically, my approach to dental issues in the last four years has been to ignore my mouth as far as humanly possible, self-medicating with Nurofen and clove oil (does clove oil do anything? I am dubious, it sounds like a sop to the peasants before the blacksmith removes all their teeth to me) as required. But since both my children are now getting complex orthodontic shit done to their tiny mouths, I thought I really ought to (hmmm why are expressions of bravery related to masculinity? 'Man up'. 'Grown a pair', etc. Patriarchy? Get out of my paragraph) .. woman up. Then I read Bim's essay about her unbelievably hideous gum surgery in a semi-swoon and I thought about how whatever ghastly happenings might be festering in my mouth, they would only be getting worse then longer I left them.
So I went, and it really wasn't so bad, once I had stopped whimpering with the medieval peasant belief that the x-ray (witchcraft!) would reveal that every single one of my teeth was wobbling in a soup of putrefaction. As it turned out, this was not even the case,though I probably would have deserved it to be so. So. I have Conquered My (Pathetic) Fear, and albeit I have to go back next week for a modest amount of ouchy stuff (and after that the dentist has vowed to refer me to his colleague in the "uh oh, your jaw is a bit fucked by all that tooth-grinding, here have some really expensive orthodontic work" department), I feel that euphoric surge of superhuman possibility you get when you do something you have been putting off a really, really long time. On top of that, I recently went to the "Commune" (dusty administrative edifice, built on layers of outsider despair and foolscap forms) and completed an 8 month overdue piece of admin and the combined effect is that I feel PURE. Still bleeding from 8000 places in my hideous receding gums, I whirled round the house in a frenzy of virtuous enthusiasm. Maybe I could pay off my HSBC credit card! (no, I couldn't) Write my thank you letters from 1989! Work out where the fuck my tax bill from 2010 has gone! CLEAN THINGS. I am in that mental space where you vow that you will NEVER allow this to happen again, and when you write six monthly oral hygiene checks into your diary with the zeal of the new convert. In a couple of months, all of this - the miasma of disproportionate, looming guilt and anxiety, and the wave of relief and realisation that I am in fact an idiot - will have receded and I will skulk back into my old ways. "I'll just clean them with this twig". "I flossed last month". "They don't feel bad". Until then it is a glorious (if, admittedly, expensive) world of virtue and possibility.
Tell me I am not alone in this, swithering from hyper, administrative euphoria to grubby, can't be arsed torpor within days. Or tell me I am, if you must.