The Beast Within

My son was to have a tooth pulled yesterday. We scheduled it on a day when I was off because his mom doesn't do well with the dentist scene. We showed up and the assistant told us that it would be about a twenty minute wait - they were running behind. We looked at each other and said, "O.k. We'll wait." Well, we did - for almost forty-five. Will went through every kids magazine in the racks, I read (literally) an issue of National Geographic Traveler, and we listened as some dad seated next to us read the entire text of "Beauty and the Beast" (complete with voices and sound effects) to his daughter who was also WAITING to see the dentist. I'm all for "story" but by the time the beast became a man, I was about ready to send that dad to the Magic Kingdom for some one on one with the lost boys.

I could feel my son's anxiety growing exponentially after about thirty minutes. He was trying to be brave; he really was. The assistant finally came and escorted us into the room of extraction. I experienced her as really chatty, almost too chatty, almost like the tea cup from Beauty and the Beast. The dentist was going to use gas for the major sedative and so the assistant got the mask ready to put on Will. Well, I could see real quick that the mask was the straw that broke the waiting camel's back - he went ballistic on her. It was a new-fangled mask with two tiny tubes through which the gas was vented; the kicker was that the two tiny tubes were inserted into the two tiny nostrils of my anxious son. He began to cry and I moved in to try and comfort him, but the truth is that he was finished, through, stick-a-fork-in-me done. The assistant began a chatty assault on Will, trying to tap into his male sense of pride, but the spell was cast and my son had become a beast. My responses to her moved from initial pity to downright anger as she just kept yappin' - you know that nervous, chatty crap that people do when they realize their impotence in the moment? Well, the spell began to meander over to ole' dad. I began to feel like David Banner and instead of a Disney-esque beast, I sensed my eyes turning green and I swear my jeans were getting tight around my thighs (If I've lost you there, I referring to the Incredible Hulk). I wanted to grab my son out of the chair, fling my now-ripped-to-shreds-t-shirt at the dental ASSistant, run back through the waiting room, growl at Disney dad and tell him to grow a pair, and violently burst through the adobe fire exit. I could've run through side-streets with Will on my shoulders, cursing at Escalades and knocking down every political campaign sign I could. We would then have somehow made it home, where I would have put him on the front steps and retreated to the backyard where the reverse transformation would've taken place. And my family would've discovered me, shirtless, clinging to the fence, wondering what had happened.

But that's the fairy tale. The reality is we dried our tears - we tamed males, made an appointment to try again, and politely left through the front door. We got in the van and...well, how do you try and soothe a weepy beast? I allowed myself to become the beauty. If you've read Bly, I went copper instead of being iron. "It's o.k, bud. That would've freaked me out, too. We'll try again. It'll be o.k. I love you." Slowly, ever so slowly, on the drive home, the beast began to turn back into a boy - laughing, farting, and glad to be with dad. He stepped back into boy-dom and he's good, on the exterior. But there seemed to be some residual shame to that experience. And an overall feeling of femininity. I wonder...what if my son would have seen his dad go beastly? Conjure up the ole iron John and let him roar, if just for a few seconds, at how shitty the whole episode had been handled. Not start whacking off heads with the broadsword, but just raise it and let it glisten in the noonday sun. Chances are the "tea cup" would have runneth over and we'd have been asked to leave, toothache and all. Mr. Disney would've wet his pants and scooped up Tinkerbell and got the hell out of Dodge. But maybe my son and I could have felt strong together. And maybe the spell of the tooth would have lost it's power for a moment - maybe for good. Or maybe I would've scared the scooby-doo out of my son; revealed to him a dark side he's probably never seen before, but loves to see in comic book heroes. As it was, we left limpish, trying to reassure each other that next time would be different - that we'll be stronger, braver, wilder. I hope we can. I hope I can. After all, who wants to live happily ever after? I just want to live full-blooded and awake, right here, right now. But we gotta' get that tooth out...

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