December 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

In the eighties, my mom got her jaw wired shut. Not because she had broken anything: she did it because she wanted to lose weight. Her friend had had her jaw wired shut because of an accident and lost thirty pounds. The woman’s husband was an oral surgeon and when my parents had drinks with them one night, the woman sipping wine between her wired shut teeth, my mom convinced him to do it.

Braces were glued on her teeth, then wires were woven through them, like sewing. I remember her talking through clenched teeth. This must have been torture because she was a talker. She could make herself understood, but it took time and effort. The ideas came way faster than the words. She was some kind of fire, smoldering.

She did lose weight at first, though you would not believe what you can puree and suck through a straw. Really, you don’t want to know. It didn’t take long, however, until she realized milkshakes were meant to be sucked through straws. Sugar foils so many plans.

I don’t know how long she planned on keeping her mouth shut, but it didn’t last that long. She had so much to say, about everything; it must have been painful. I inherited this from her, this inability to stay quiet in the face of things we vehemently disagree with, this love of the sound of the human voice, especially our own.

I am not that surprised, though, that my dad didn’t protest this. He loved silence. I inherited this from him– my opposite forces. I love stretches of time where there is no need to think outside of myself, no need to respond.

My mom was outspoken. We were a loud, antagonistic family. If something needed to be said, by God, we said it. Even if it didn’t need to be said. I have pictures of my mom not long after the mouth-wiring incident. She is tiny, small shouldered, thin faced. Her blond hair is the biggest part of her in these pictures. I am sure she was ecstatic with the way she looked. It was the eighties, the heyday of anorexia. She had won. Now, she looks almost childlike. And all because her mouth was bound shut. I think I will keep my big mouth wide open.


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