The things we do for vanity are pretty funny (and lots of the time, painful).  By nature I am not a very vain person. Sure, I wash my face and brush my teeth and get my nails done. I buy lots of makeup and perfume and I like to think I don’t wear too many unflattering clothes…most of the time.

     The one thing I have avoided doing for quite some time is teeth whitening. Maybe it’s because I never thought I’d need it or I didn’t want to be so vain as to become one of those people obsessed with how white her teeth are. Americans are known for their straight, bright and white smiles.  When you Google “American smile,” this is the first thing that comes up (complete with a woman with a lovely 80s hairdo). But after years of coffee drinking and chocolate eating, my teeth have done what comes naturally to them and have slightly yellowed. When I visited my new dentist in February of this year, one of the first things she did was to see if my insurance would cover the ZOOM! teeth whitening system she promotes.

     She made sure to tell me how much better my teeth would look when they were whitened; to the point where it made me wonder if I had been frightening people with my au naturel look. I also have a real chatterbox, female dentist from Long Island, complete with stereotypical exaggerated Long Island accent. I enjoy how gregarious she is but sometimes my appointments run long because she’s gabbing at me and not concentrating on the actual dental work part. She means well, though. I know that if I were around that accent 24/7, I would definitely pick it up and start saying “Oh my GAWD.” Perhaps that’s what she said internally when she saw my teeth. Who’s to say?

     My insurance covered the whitening system and soon I was fitted with trays and sent off with my little syringes of teeth bleach. I had several warnings to heed before I could embark on the journey to achieving my American smile, however. Even more than the side effect of raging sensitivity to hot and cold that comes with using this system (and I can attest that if teeth could scream, mine would sound like they were on a torture rack) are the words that have stuck with me for six months: “You can’t have dark things while you’re bleaching your teeth since the pores are opened up. So no coffee, chocolate, ketchup – you know, things like that.” Of course, I immediately latched onto the fact that I can’t have coffee and chocolate. In the olden days, before I had a real dependency on coffee (B.C., I guess), I would not have had a problem with this. But with my very early, corporate schedule, I have come to depend on the rich, onyx liquid to keep me sane and provide a delicious distraction in the mornings.

     Six months later, I still hadn’t done anything with the teeth whitening system. I have an appointment on Wednesday to get my teeth cleaned and I can only imagine what she’d say if I go in and they’re not whitened yet. Between that and a wedding I’m going to at the end of the month, I decided on Sunday night to just get it over with and try it out. Part of it’s vanity (I do have some pride in my appearance), but mostly it’s to avoid having to explain to my dentist why I never did it. Six months is a long time to avoid doing something. But the fear of having my teeth be extremely sensitive to hot and cold the rest of my life coupled with not being able to imbibe on the Black Magic and okay, throw in some laziness (I mean, three extra minutes in the bathroom dealing with this in the morning? God…) and it was enough to keep me from doing it. And you know what, I just don’t need to hear how yellow my teeth are come Wednesday morning. So I’m gritting my teeth (excuse the poor pun) and bearing it.

     It is now Monday at 3:30pm. Without my morning brew of one cup decaf mixed with one cup regular French Roast in my giant Starbucks mug (complete with half ‘n half and Splenda), I was starving by lunchtime, since my little bowl of granola cereal only lasted so long without the accompanying fullness of the coffee. I’m longingly staring at people brewing their cup o’ joe and trying to avoid the kitchen. I don’t need the wake-up aspect of coffee as much as I want the flavor. I can already tell I’ll be worser off as the week goes on. Luckily I’m doing my teeth bleaching in two stages: two nights in a row, then teeth cleaning at the dentist come Wednesday and assess from there. Let’s hope I get the Long Island Dentist’s approval so I can stop this self-induced torture and get back to having bean juice flow through my veins.

     I hope I make it to Friday.  More to come.

  <~~me at my desk without coffee


  1. Wow, in a choice between coffee and whiter teeth, I know which I’d choose. I’m currently limiting myself to one of the big mugs you got me per day, and even that is not nearly enough. Good luck with the cold turkey. I know I wouldn’t last.

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