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Channeling your inner teenager

Oh my God. I am in my 50s and I, of my own volition, have braces on my teeth. Yikes. I have suddenly become as insecure as I was when I was 12. I no longer smile like I did just a short while ago. Stupid, I know. But now I feel like I look like Ben Stiller in "There’s Something About Mary," except that I only have them on my bottom teeth (or I might not have done it). Wow. I was not ready for this. The pain of shifting teeth I can deal with. But braces? Really? OK, I realize I should be bigger than this. Braver than this. After all, it is just for a short while. And this, too, shall pass.

But I had not realized how it would impact my already somewhat shifting sense of self-esteem that, hmmm, starts to wobble when we hit our 50s and which probably (I can only guess) noticeably implodes somewhere beyond.

My solution? To follow the sage advice of a girlfriend who told me, “Oh, geez, Susanne, just say WTF.” (And if you don’t know what that means, then you really do need to brush up on your shorthand.) Well, she may have had a vodka or two when she offered up her words of wisdom, but she was right. I was out dancing the other evening and the man I was dancing with said, “You can smile, you know.” I was taken aback and realized that, even though I was having a really great time, I was gracing him with a kind of half-assed, closed-mouthed, early-very shy-Princess-Di kind of smile.

I took his words to heart and decided after that dance to just go for it and to henceforth dazzle, nay, blind everyone with my metallic countenance. The orthodontist assures me that it will only be a matter of months before my pearly whites will again be in full view and, in all vanity, I must admit that I sincerely hope that he’s not prevaricating. But, one way or the other, from here on out, I will be who I am with, or without, braces. I will use this as a challenge to be myself. But, still, it is interesting to see the effect it does have on one.

And that makes me think, that we must be who we are, really — with, or without, the vagaries of time. And what will those be? Crow’s feet or circles under the eyes? How about a bit of cellulite here and there, or maybe some muscle tone that, nowadays, is more lax than taut?

Oh, really, who cares? Those lucky enough to have someone by their side who loves them just as they are, and who they are busy growing old with, and who can say, in all earnestness, “Oh, Darling, I love your wrinkles and your love handles,” well, cherish that. And those not so lucky can just say, as my wise friend does, “WTF” … and go out dancing.

And, yes, smile. Broadly. Full tilt. Because, why not? The music we dance to knows none of such things and the beat goes on. We can sway to the rhythm, the braces will come off, and then we can ask ourselves the only question that really matters: did we dance in the meantime? And if we can answer, “Yes, I have danced,” then we can throw our head back and smile.

And all is good, for we have lived.

Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at www.dailytidings.com/mocha-musings. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at susannewebsite@olypen.com.