The other day when I drove past a donut shop, I was reminded of the summer after I graduated high school. I was convinced if I could get my hideous picket fence teeth fixed, I’d attain my two life goals: I’d pass for middle class, and I could become a movie star. Everyone knew movie stars didn’t have ugly choppers. And if I reasoned if I couldn’t have Brooke Shields’ long legs, I would at least have her straight teeth.
But getting braces was out of the question for a teenager from a working class family like mine. I wasn't raised by parents who played Bridge, drank martinis and owned stocks. Mine shot guns, drank Kool-Aid and stocked up on Spam.
So I did what any self-respecting, working class kid would do. I secured myself two jobs, and worked sixty hours a week to save for braces. I arrived by five a.m. at my first job of the day. My duties at Foster’s Donuts included laughing at the jokes told by geezers who slumped at my counter, comparing their golf scores. Make correct change for the red-faced, peeling surfers, still lizard-lidded with drowsiness when they carried their crullers off in paper bags.
Serving doughnuts was a slumber party compared to job number two, assistant manager in training at Jeans West. I hated wearing pants that made my butt look like a floating barge just to advertise the same brand I sold in the mall. The bookkeeping required at closing time had me clenching my jaw with dread by four, and had me in tears by the time I left. Don’t ask me what I’d been thinking, accepting a job that involved math.
And really, so what if my head throbbed for a week every time the orthodontist tightened my braces? Every time I sat in his chair he tortured me with pliers, I pushed through it by repeating the mantra my friend’s modeling teacher had taught her: Beauty knows no pain.
What was a little pain anyway? The bonus reward was that I would someday flaunt my pearlies at my rain-on-your-parade grandmother. Grandma regularly advised me that I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming famous. “Actress, my ass, you can’t even fry a damn egg right.”
My favorite donut geezer (the biggest tipper who still had some teeth) called me “doll,” and requested his second maple bar right at 7:00. He was so predictable, that I’d ready my chuckle as I handed it to him, and then waited for his follow up line. “Did I ever tell you your hair is redder than an eruptin’ volcano?”
I let the chuckle tumble out naturally, shaking my head and slapping my thigh. I was an actress after all.
Throughout the morning, I constantly calculated my tips and paycheck that week, figuring in the amount stashed under my mattress. I chose to see my struggle of getting up in the dark, wrestling with bookkeeping numbers, and being assaulted by the orthodontist’s pliers as suffering for my art. I knew someday that suffering would go into the movie based on my life.
The one where Brooke Shields would have to wear a red wig to play me.