I’m told it’s common, affecting 2-3% of the population, which doesn’t sound common, but intriguing still: Geographic Tongue.
I picked my hygienist because she seems genuinely passionate about oral health. When I ask for more information she gets excited talking about it, like there’s whole new galaxies of possibilities and stories to be told, right here in my mouth.
They’ve made it so comfortable in the dentist’s office now it’s a kind of meditation as I sit here with my mouth out and my hands folded on my lap. The radio is a bit staticky but it kind of suits the sound of the instruments hissing and buzzing in and out, pretty soon you can just disappear.
I used to have the other hygienist Randy, who handled me with a kind of gruff Let’s Get Through This Together machismo, like neither you nor I really want to be here buddy but it’s going to be OK, we’ll get you out of here.
I didn’t pay attention to which hygienist I had or which worked on what days, until I got the girl who gets excited talking about dentistry, the pockets between your gums and tissue line, subtleties of flossing, myth-busting.
She said the Geographic Tongue is not unusual, just a pattern of spots that appear inexplicably and migrate around, then disappear and come back again at random.
So naturally I looked it up online and you guessed it: Wikipedia has a full spread on people with Geographic Tongue, representing all kinds of cases with mouths and tongues hanging out like tattooed, uncooked meat. It gets its name from the shapes of the spots that resemble islands or land masses, may look like a map if you use your imagination.
The thing is, once you start looking too closely at your tongue (or any part of your body), it’s easy to start thinking it doesn’t look right, you could have anything.
Now unemployed, I can make a routine cleaning to the dentist office the centerpiece of my day and feel like I’ve still done something at the end of it, especially after blogging about it.
I got there early enough to thumb through a magazine with stories about traveling in 2015: Where Will You Go?
I flipped to the writer’s bio, wondering how much she made for the article and if I could see myself doing that, most interested in how far out she ran with the language, how far she could go on her own vs. how far they’d let her.
And when I got the referral for the oral surgeon to confirm if it really was Geographic Tongue or something else, surely more ominous, I critiqued the copy on the referral flyer that does its best to quickly assure you, your mouth is in good hands with us, nothing to worry about.
So perhaps the hardest thing about being unemployed is also the pitfall of being unemployed: learning how to enjoy it. And what a pity, to leave my job because I wasn’t enjoying it only to not enjoy unemployment either, thereby proving I haven’t learned a thing.
Hell-bent on savoring it, I took the dog back to the foothills, still convinced we’re starting to understand each other more through non-verbal cues, that she’s sending me signals by the way she looks at me, the possibility either I’m starting to read her mind or vice versa.
The days take on a flowy quality, where I can take my time deciding what to wear and it still doesn’t matter. And yet I want the satisfaction of figuring it all out, this life junction, to know what’s next and still have the patience and confidence to dangle myself in the wind, waiting. That there is something now to treasure, which is always true if we just saw it that way.
I thought it funny I’ve got the map in my mouth, it might know where to go, but when I checked it just now, it’s gone. The spots move like herds with some vague sense of where they’re going, unaware they’re making patterns other people are putting names to.