Jaws of Life


In addition to seeing the new shrink yesterday, I went to the dentist. For the first time, my jaw felt really unstable when I opened it for the cleaning, and ached throughout–at one point I felt it start to slip, like it was going to slip out of place, but I caught it. I asked the dentist if I could switch to a 9-month recall instead of a 6-month recall to cut down on the mouth-opening.

Today it hurts to open my mouth all the way and both sides of my jaw, at the joints, are painful to the touch and aching. The right side makes a sound that is *exactly* like rotten elastic if I yawn or open it too wide. I have just finished icing each side for 15 minutes and am repeating a mantra, “No more chewing gum for me. No more chewing gum for me.”

I’ve heard of people whose jaws dislocate, and through what they say is blinding pain they are able to get them back in place themselves (can I have a hearty No, Thank You?). I’ve heard of people who have to have their food cut into tiny pieces for them so they can carefully chew it. Sometimes their wrists are bad too, so someone cuts their meat up for them. None of this bodes well, or contributes to a positive outlook.

Because I have this vivid imagination and thought process, as the hygienist was cleaning my teeth and my jaw was aching I was thinking, “But, what about blow jobs? Can I no longer give the man a blow job? What if my jaw dislocated during a blow job?” Dig further, and the question is the much bigger one: How do I maintain an intimate and sexual relationship with my partner if I am becoming less and less -abled? I have no interest in giving up my physical experience with my partner, but what happens as things turn into this sort of, “Oh, no, I can’t lay that way, no, wait, let me turn, no, shit, that hurts my hip….well, okay, just I can’t do this for very long.”

That’s lonely and isolating and gives rise to a lot of negative feelings on my part about my value as a person and my attractiveness and my “chances of dying alone”-ness. You probably don’t remember it, but in Terms of Endearment  there’s a scene between Debra Winger and the man she is thinking about cheating with, John Lithgow (seriously? but I digress). She asks him about his wife, do they have sex together? And he says no, “she has back problems.” And Debra, she says something like have they tried other positions and mimes I think, woman on top as an example. He says, profoundly sadly, “No. She won’t do anything like that.” So they have a little affair. Then she dies, which is what she deserves for screwing around with some poor woman’s husband while she laid at home on a heating pad.

Even then, and I was what, 13 or 14 or so when that movie came out; even then, I thought how much it must suck to be that wife, even as I thought what the system wants me to think, which was that she should have tried harder to keep her man! But how sad for her, was he only married for the sex? One of my deepest fears about all of this is that I’ll die alone. Sometimes I tell my husband, “Just divorce me now! Set me up in a little house and go on and get a healthy wife!”

This hurts his feelings because I’m being an asshole and doubting him but what I’m also doing is naming this tremendous fear I have, that we will not be partners and lovers and friends and the power dynamic will shift until I am just the pathetic patient. Just the sad, sick wife. That sort of outlook just makes me feel breathless and sad.

Fortunately, Debra Winger’s pretty old so she’s no longer a threat to wives whose backs hurt, but there’s probably more where she came from. And heaven knows, my back hurts.


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