The other day, I went to the same dentist that I’ve always gone to since childhood in the city I’m from, Toronto. I sat in the same chair, went through the same cleaning routine, and told the same straight-out lies about my flossing habits that I’ve always told. As with every other visit, the worst part, and the first part, is the scraping of plaque off my teeth. Every time I go, I’m perplexed by the fact that I take no action in all the months prior to each visit to floss, to brush more often, or to brush more strategically. As the tiny metallic hook scrapes against my gums and I can feel the inner veins of my mouth begin to throb, the importance of this question is amplified. I could avoid so much pain and so much hassle simply by taking the few simple steps it did to prevent myself from having any build-up whatsoever. And then it struck me: this is exactly what my first relationship felt like.
In any relationship, whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship, little quirks and issues are inevitably going to arise. And ultimately, it’s all about compromise. Whilst we arguably want to be the best we can be for one another, and while we want others to do the same, the harsh reality is that this seldom happens. Instead, we have bad days, we have flaws, and we both say and do things that are problematic – and that’s okay, to an extent. For me, I let issues build-up. Perhaps it was when I realised I was so much more into spending time with my friends than him, perhaps it was the fact that he ignored the fact that I said I didn’t feel as if I was either mentally and physically prepared to be in a relationship and asked me out instead, or perhaps it was the fact that he kissed me without having any conversation beforehand. Whatever the case, there were red flags. And instead of taking action, I simply let them build-up.
In reality, I was more into being in a relationship on a conceptual level; I liked the idea of saying I had a boyfriend, I liked the idea of being able to jam out to songs about love and relate to their euphoria-induced verses, and I liked the idea of having someone to validate me – my looks, my humour, my wit all included. For the slightest while, this all worked. Suddenly I felt as if I was achieving something. My first relationship – a milestone, a necessary step in becoming more mature as a person. But the effect eventually wore off. Like the plaque that was slowly building up on my teeth, I let it stain me and leave a mark. And just as I lied to my dentist about my haphazard flossing patterns, I lied compulsively about how happy I was to be in a relationship to my friends. I tried to maintain a full pristine smile knowing that the set of teeth I was trying to expose to the outside world was inherently and internally stained.
Rather than subjecting myself to the gum-scraping pain, I should’ve addressed the red flags and taken action as opposed to simply letting a plaque film of lies develop on the smile I wanted to show the world – to everyone I knew and cared about. Though not ideal, this brief relationship did eventually teach me a lot more about myself than any other experience could have. It brought attention to my self-destructive habits and reassured me that it is more than OK to focus on my own development as opposed to trying to loosely fit on the surface of someone else’s life. All in all, I’d rather drink on my own than have a mouth full of cavities.