Pain Tolerance

“So, I’m in the chair. And first it’s this needle. And generally I am not afraid of needles, but it’s this giant fucking needle. And if you’ve ever been stabbed repeatedly in the roof of your mouth with a really big fucking needle, I cannot unrecommend it enough.”


I’m really fucking funny. And I’m telling this story like I tell all my stories, dramatically and ridiculously, emphasizing the shenanigans, timing the jokes so they land well.


“So, then comes the… I dunno, I guess they’re fucking pliers? And luckily my mouth is completely numb by this time so I can’t feel pain but it’s just… pressure. Really intense pressure. Because a bone is literally being pulled outta your head. By hand. While you’re awake. And because it’s me, naturally the roots are curved and it’s that much more difficult. Because it’s me.”


We laugh as I recall the kind dentist encouraging me through each step of the process like a kindergarten teacher on klonopin, the chipmunk cheeks the gauze gave me, the tiny plastic cocaine baggie with my now removed wisdom teeth sealed in it to take home. We laugh until we’re crying and taking big, gulping breaths.


I’m really fucking funny.


After the laughter dies down, my friend asks, “Seriously though. Why on earth would you do this to yourself? Staying awake to have your wisdom teeth removed is fucking crazy.”


And I realize that I’m out of jokes. I don’t have an answer. I could say that I am all alone, unmarried and insignificantly attached, far away from the kind of family and friends who would have happily accompanied and stayed with me for hours as required when you’ve been under anesthesia. I could tell her how lonely that kind of isolation feels, the kind of existential panic it triggered that I’d always believed I was immune to. I could tell her that I cried when I realized I didn’t have an easy answer for who to put down for an emergency contact. But I realize that none of that is the answer.


“I guess,” I answer, fumbling around for the words that feel right, “I… I think I just severely overestimated how much pain I could handle.”


And that’s really it. And it’s a thing I’ve been doing all my life. Courting pain because I have no better options, because it’s familiar, flippant about the damage it might do because I can handle it. The idea that I can shoulder pain disproportionately, and that I should because I can is probably the root of so much calamity in my life.


I don’t have a tidy close. That’s the post.

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