By Jordan Cutler-Tietjen
About a month before my junior year concluded, I finally got my braces off. It had been 5 years. Babies who were born during this period had enough time to learn how to walk, how to read, how to count to twenty, and how to spell their names before the metal brackets vacated my mouth. My braces made it through growing pains, tantrums, and the terrible twos, but by the time they were toddler-aged, I was quite happy to have them ripped off and, presumably, sent to an orphanage.
But my respite was short-lived. Then came The Retainer, clear and plastic and impossible to take off during lunch without sending spit globules careening toward whomever was kind enough to sit next to me at the time. The Retainer also made a habit of forgetting its blue plastic container when I left the house, forcing me to forge a makeshift wrap from whatever gentle materials were available to me, for as I heard again and again, “orthodontic equipment isn’t cheap, Jordan; remember how much we spent on your braces?” Yes, Mom, five years worth, I remember.
Then came The Positioner. Tamest name, by far the worst. I’d heard friends recount horror stories about both previous appliances, but The Positioner had never before been mentioned in my company. In hindsight, I’ve wondered if it was some uniquely cruel treatment Dr. Kauen chose to exact on only me, in revenge for all the times I didn’t floss enough.
The Positioner is a reverse-mold of my mouth. It has spaces for my teeth, and to wear it, I clenched down and held fast. I had to do that for 72 hours straight, minus eating and brushing, clenching extra hard for twenty seconds every ten minutes, as per requested by dental overlord Kauen.
For the first time in my mouth appliance history, the worst part was not actually the pain. The pain was bad, don’t get me wrong, a sharp drill as you put it on that evolved into a dull ache an hour in.
The worst part was the silence. For three days, I could only speak during meals and in-between toothbrush strokes. No belting the latest Taylor Swift, no calls with friends, no discussions about 19th-century poets, no comebacks, no compliments, no witty retorts, no rambling, and no talking to myself. I thought I could handle three days like this. By the end, I felt closer to crazy than I probably ever have before.
Let me briefly pause here and acknowledge that this is the first-worldliest of first-world problems, and I’m extremely grateful for all the dental care I’ve received. But as you’ll soon see, this has all been an extended metaphor and my heartache is intentionally hyperbolic. Back to the script.
My sanity was initially sapped, I thought, because I could no longer communicate as I was used to. I love to talk, and not being able to made me feel useless and lost. But the problem went deeper than that. When I stopped talking, I stopped thinking.
I couldn’t do homework with The Positioner in. I thought less clearly. I got confused quicker. I distinctly felt my brainpower diminish. If I couldn’t communicate to the outside world, why bother being analytical, or thoughtful, or creative, or anything?
Similarly, when a community is deprived of the capability to speak its collective mind, it stops thinking, too. That’s why newspapers exist--that’s why The Spartan exists. We don’t want La Canada High School to suffer a fate like those encumbered by The Positioner. We want you to have a space to voice your concerns about school rules, about cliques, about Cuban relations, about Obamacare. We want you to have a space to sing the praises of your favorite movies, recommend songs, and taste-test new restaurants. We want you to have a space to learn about your classmates, feature clubs, and enrich the community. We want you to feel like your ideas have a purpose, a place to go, a destination meant for bigger and better things than the recesses of your skull. We want you to think.
Sometimes, that requires you to speak.
We speak our mind in the Opinion Section, publishing our take on current events, school controversies, and anything else we think might pique your interest.