Last time we spoke I told you I’d return to finish the tale of my smartphone situation. A long holiday with the family, some mid-level personal drama, and the problem, I suspect, of subconsciously not actually wanting to return to the topic kept me from it; I apologize for dragging my feet. But in the second half of my post, I planned to examine the existential despair that visited me upon activating my new iPhone and when you don’t feel like writing about existential despair, it’s my opinion that you ought to run with that as long as possible. You’ll be brooding soon enough; no need to rush things.
The short of it is this:
When fired up my new iPhone, Apple automatically populated the thing with contact information for dozens of people from the past six of my nine lives. I didn’t want that. I didn’t expect it. So that flood of fossilized information knocked me off my block, hard. There were old, old contacts in my new, new device, some so old as to be unrecognizable unless I concentrated very hard, and this gave me a headache and the existential despair I previously mentioned. Mona? Who the hell was Mo — oh dear God! Without Steve Jobs working his dark arts from beyond the grave, I’d have never thought of that person again as long as I lived, which would have been lovely. But no, Apple plopped her in my life without so much as a how-dee-do (on a Tuesday morning no less) and I was sucked into a downtown nightclub in 2010, going full idiot with Mona and her roided-out boyfriend whose name I blessedly do not remember because I didn’t put his name in my phone, Apple. I have myself to thank for that, I suppose.
There were a couple industry contacts that turned my stomach. If you don’t make a few adversaries over the course of 12 years in your field, you should probably take more risks. I have several adversaries. What I want is water under the bridge; what I don’t want are my adversaries’ phone numbers or every text message between us from the start of our relationship through to the bitter end, which Apple has graciously kept safe and sound in the cloud all these years, unbeknownst to my Android-using self.
But it was all there. And there were others.
Apple: Would you like to contact your ex-husband?
Me: What?! No!
Apple: Because we have his phone number and email add—
Me: Oh my god …
Apple: We saved it for you! See?
Me: I’d like you to get very far away from me now.
Apple: Wait! Where are you going? We also have the number for the cafe you used to work at! It closed three years ago but if you need the number, it’s right here!
All that mess notwithstanding, I gotta say: I love my phone. I’m glad I switched. And as humiliating as it is, I confess to waiting a whole extra week to receive my device because last month Apple announced the iPhone could now come a brand-new color — a very groovy alligator green — and … and … I wanted my phone in that new color, okay?? I did! I wanted the alligator green! And I don’t care who knows that I love my shiny, alligator green iPhone! I love the facial recognition function! I know Android phones have that too but I like the smiley face that pops up on my stupid iPhone when the robot inside of it gazes up at me, alright?? I love the tapback feature on iMessage! I love the way you can shoot lasers out of text messages! It’s amazing!
Me: Mary, you sheep! You worm! You don’t even like green!
Apple: But you did though! Like 10 years ago!
After using an Android phone for seven years, I recently made the switch to an iPhone. If you are familiar with this blog, this is newsworthy enough for a two-part post. If you’re not familiar with PaperGirl, it isn’t.
Midway through my thirties, fed up with a bunch of features in Apple’s operating system and because I was already in a bad mood, I flung my iPhone at the wall and hollered “I’m quittin’ you for good, iPhone! I’m your fool no more!” I probably just groaned and set the phone down on the couch. But when my phone plan said I could replace my device for eight-zillion dollars instead of nine-zillion dollars, I marched over to the nearest AT&T store and told the disinterested salesperson with great conviction and bravado that I was there to switch to an Android.
“Okay,” said the salesperson, “they’re back here.”
He led me to a shabbier area of the store, kind of near the bathrooms. I signed my soul over to AT&T for four more years or something and walked out with a Samsung Note 2 or whatever version was out in 2015. Did I know how to use the Android phone in my trembling hands? No, but it was exhilarating. I knew a couple Microsoft/Android people, but they had always played for that team. No Apple users in my life, as far as I knew, had ever quit the cult of Steve Jobs. My boxy device was fresh evidence that you can’t make me. Look, you’re not a rebel if you just rebel every once in awhile. The tree of rebellion must be perpetually refreshed. Refuse to comb your hair, quit your job, change the kind of cell phone you use — this stuff is critical if you want to be a rebel and stay a rebel. I did all three of those things that year just so I could sleep at night.
Insofar as they had an opinion about my cell phone, my family did not like the change I’d made.
The problem had to do with text messages. As many of you know, texts within the Apple iOS are sent and received via the iMessage app. The Android operating system, not surprisingly, prefers not to use iMessage. Phones that run on the Android call their messaging app “Messages” or “Here Are Your Texts”, and the two different messaging apps don’t work well across devices. Many times, texts that came in from my family — iPhone users all — had to be downloaded (downloaded!) on my Samsung device before I could read them, and some never arrived at all. I’d start a thread not knowing that a family text conversation on a given subject had been going on, sometimes for weeks, via iMessage. It appeared I didn’t care enough to participate in their group text party, but a lot of the time I just didn’t know one was happening. I was terrible with text messaging already, so the disjointedness created further text tension.
There were other drawbacks. I loved my phone’s stylus, mainly because I could draw faces in my notes app, but wasn’t possible to “like” an iMessage text or tap one with a little heart. I never figured out how to send a .gif and none of my advanced Android emojis would show up on an iPhone, so for seven years, no one in my life got to feel the love that I wished to communicate to them through an animated bunny hugging an animated bear. And I know it’s silly, but I felt a tiny bit sheepish when I pulled my Samsung out of my purse or got caught drawing faces in my notes app because Android phones are kind of like chinos from Sam’s Club: they cover the lower half of your body, and that’s all you can really say about them. They’re not elegant or sleek like iPhones. Being an Android person in a group of iPhone users feels a little like being the kid in the lunchroom taking off-brand cheese slices out of a sandwich bag while everyone else is unwrapping Kraft singles. iPhones and Kraft singles have a certain glossiness to them. You might be a rebel with a Samsung phone, but you are not glossy.
But I love that off-brand cheese kid! She never combs her hair! She’s awesome! And so, for the next seven years, I stuck to my guns and lived my life as a mostly proud Apple apostate. I figured out how to make texting work better and my family accepted they had to communicate with a weirdo — which was nothing new, let’s be honest — and life went on apace.
Then, about a month ago, there was a family emergency and I finally got the message.
*Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I am sucked into a vortex of nostalgia and pain, thanks to iCloud. Other stuff happens too.
Eric and I were onboard with masks early in the pandemic.
In fact, before face masks became widely available, I constructed a whole pile of janky ones out of vacuum cleaner bags and twist ties. I even made a YouTube video about it but took it down after a few days because I occasionally practice good judgement. Those runty little masks were made in a panic and looked like it. Sure, they were kinda punk rock and would have been better than nothing, but they were not fit to broadcast on the internet. Soon after I unpublished my video, tutorials on how to properly construct fabric facemasks from a pattern — the audacity — flooded the YouTubes, so I was extra relieved that I had yanked my video. In many areas of my life, my enthusiasm greatly outpaces my attention to detail. I’m aware.
Anyway, Eric and I committed to wearing boring, normal, well-constructed masks. We loathed them as much as anyone. But it all changed on that fateful day two summers ago when my veneer popped off my left tooth.
I was munching caramel corn, watching the Avengers avenge and bit down on what I thought was a kernel with lots of carmel on it, just a particularly crunchy piece. But after a moment, I sensed something strange … Was that cool air on my left front tooth? No, that wouldn’t make sense. I ate another piece of popcorn.
When the cool air feeling didn’t go away, I ran my tongue over my front teeth. Huh. My left tooth felt … rougher than the right one. It didn’t hurt or anything, but something was off. I put my finger on it. Oh dear. Oh no, no, no. Definitely rough. Could it be … oh dear God!
Like a bottle rocket had gone off on my side of the couch, I shot over to the mirror in our entryway. I stuck my nose up to the glass. I bared my teeth. The right front tooth looked normal, but the left tooth looked very, very wrong.
Instead of a tooth I could be proud of, I was looking at a shrunken little monkey’s paw tooth. Right there in the front of my face, on the left, yellowish and slightly filed down, was my permanent incisor with the accursed fluoride mark, same as it ever was, exposed after years of concealment. The veneer had broken off my left front tooth — and I had eaten it.
“Eric!” I screamed, “My veneer! My veneer came off! My veneer!!! It’s happening!!!”
Eric dashed over. He took me by the shoulders and turned me so I was facing him. “Hey, hey, it’s okay,” he said. “Are you hurt? Let me see.”
“Hm-mmn!” I shook my head and pressed my lips together. My head was bowed so low my chin was touching my chest. Have you ever wailed with your mouth shut? It’s kind of hard to do, but it is possible.
Eric smiled, but not in a mean way; I was clearly going through something. But once he confirmed that I wasn’t in pain, and heard me mumble through my closed mouth that I had a monkey’s paw tooth and was dying, he could see the humor in the situation.
“Let me see,” he said, chuckling. “It’s probably not as bad as you think. It’s okay. Show me.”
With the doleful look of a dog who has been caught getting into the garbage, I raised my head. I pulled back my upper lip and braced myself to see my husband look at me in horror. But he only hugged me and began to laugh quietly.
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It turns out that the teeth I have under my veneers aren’t withered, decaying brown stumps. They’re slightly smaller than they were when they came in, but not by much. They’re yellowish, but not because they’re unhealthy; they’re fine. But the fluoride marks are still prominent, and I stand by this. The veneers are warranted. I made an appointment at the dentist to get them replaced — I was sure the right one was about to go as well — but when I learned they couldn’t get me in right away, my despair returned. Eric still loved me but how could I go outside and talk to people?? How could I face them, disfigured and diminished as I was?
Then I remembered: face masks. No one but the dentist would see my monkey’s paw tooth because no one would be seeing my teeth at all. In fact, no one but Eric had seen my teeth in months.
After years of fear at the prospect of a veneer breaking off, it happened, but it happened during a global pandemic. I hadn’t counted on that one, but there it was. The pandemic is bad, don’t misunderstand me. But last summer, I was able to literally cover my mouth with a face mask to hide my dental shame and that was a gift.
Thanks, Covid-19. (I guess.)
I don’t remember how old I was when my permanent teeth came in, but I watched in horror as they did.
Aside from the trauma of losing all the damn teeth out of my head — can we all appreciate how bizarre that is? — my two front teeth arrived with weird marks on them. I remember being told these harmless whitish marks were calcium deposits, but that’s not correct. I’ll have to confirm it with my dentist, but I believe my teeth were discolored by the fluoride in the water I drank as a kid. My two sisters drank the same water and both of them have a couple tiny spots on one or two bottom teeth, but they didn’t get big ones on their incisors like I did. Do not assume that I was being dramatic when I wailed about my emerging situation. Once they had fully emerged, classmates whispered about my weird teeth and little kids were not shy in asking what was wrong with them/me. I was embarrassed and ashamed.
If my mother hadn’t appreciated how hard it was for me and saved up enough money to get me veneers when I was a freshman in high school, things would have been very different for our family. Rather than a vivacious, standard-issue teenager, I’d have spent four years covering my face with long, dyed-black hair. I’d have listened to Morrissey and Kate Bush exclusively, and I’d have smoked a pack of clove cigarettes every day and hated absolutely everyone except my poet boyfriend who I was in love with, okay, and who loved me for me, Mom, despite the cursed teeth that are obviously your fault and I will never, ever, ever smile again! You can’t make me! I hate this family!
In other words, I would have been the coolest goth chick in the known universe. But I still would have hated my teeth.
The veneers I got in high school lasted about 10 years. At some point in my twenties, my dentist in Chicago recommended we replace them and he did not have to tell me twice. From the moment the first set was cemented down, I have lived in fear that one or both of my veneers will pop off my teeth while I’m eating an apple (or something.) And when — not if — they do, I’ll surely find my teeth have rotted away underneath, and I’ll have to get them yanked out entirely and replaced with implants that have to be screwed into my gums and this will be painful and horrible. I will die with two metal stubs where my front two teeth should be because I will not be able to afford having them fixed, for in this nightmare scenario I have somehow become poor and destitute. Children will run screaming from me when I attempt to smile at them and when I try to speak, the only thing that comes out is a creepy whistle sound. I’ll be a scary, toothless, metal-stubbed mute washerwoman, shuffling along the alleyways of Chicago, hiding my toothless shame. This dental anxiety is and will always be in the back of my mind.
Eric and I were on the couch watching a movie when it happened. Not the washerwoman part: the busted veneer part.
It was summertime, and we were having a snack. We weren’t eating apples. We were eating caramel popcorn and you can just stop right there. I know as well as anyone with dental work that caramel popcorn is and will always be forbidden.
Well, I’m a rebel. A caramel-corn-loving, doomed, dentally malformed rebel who lives in fear. And that terrible day in July, this rebel was forced to face that fear. And it sucked.
*Tune in next time for Part Two of the story, in which I discover what my front tooth looks like after 20+ years of being concealed and how the pandemic was kind of okay for a few days.
I haven’t always resented makeup. And I don’t always resent it now. In fact, today I have a stress-induced blemish that is taking over my entire face, so my concealer is my best, best friend.
But — concealer notwithstanding — makeup is making me mad these days.
In the small village where I grew up, Montross Pharmacy sits on the west side of the town square. If you google “Montross Pharmacy”, you’ll find it’s described as a “pharmacy/gift shop/soda fountain”, which tells you a lot about Montross Pharmacy and a lot about the village where I grew up. You can get diaper cream, antibiotics, and Dr. Scholl’s products in the pharmacy department. And in high school, my friends and I would dangle our legs off the high-top chairs at the counter after school to wolf grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries (me), or patty melts and onion rings (Annie) and get green rivers to go.
It was in the gift shop at the front of the store where I got my first look at makeup. I’m sure Mom had some at home, but I don’t think I ever got into it. I was a tomboy for a long time because I did absolutely everything my older sister did. Hannah is now very, very good at makeup and seems to enjoy it immensely, but that didn’t happen until she was in college.
For me, it was middle school. As puberty had its evil way with me, I became extremely interested in the compacts of blusher (I swear they called it blusher back then) hanging on the back wall and the spinny racks stocked with strange- and wonderful-smelling lipsticks that were full of chemicals that I’d guess aren’t allowed in lipsticks anymore. There were mascara tubes — I had no idea what mascara was about and was therefore extremely wary of it for some time — and round boxes of loose powder with pounce puffs inside.
If you wear makeup today, you probably have products by Tarte, or bareMinerals, or Stila, or various items from the roughly nine zillion other options available from makeup specialty stores like Ulta and Sephora. None of that existed when I discovered makeup. Fancy city ladies may have gotten their cosmetics at department stores, but us country folk went to Montross Pharmacy for our makeup. And L’Oreal, Maybelline, and CoverGirl are still drugstore staples, God bless ’em, but when I discovered makeup, it was all about O.G.s like Wet n’ Wild, Coty, and Bonne Bell.
Can I get some love in the back for Bonne Bell. Also can I get at least a smattering of applause for Love’s Baby Soft. Thank you.
Eventually, I was able to buy a few cosmetic products with my allowance and got permission from Mom to wear it. I’ve been wearing makeup ever since. I am a pale-complected woman. Blusher helps those around me know I’m actually a living creature, and it makes me feel pretty. Blush is my favorite makeup product, with mascara a close second. It’s rare that I go out of the house without mascara. It opens up my eyes and … I don’t know, I just like mascara.
But like, these days? These days, so many females wear so much makeup. We all know how it happend. It’s the specialty stores, it’s the proliferation of cameras in our phones, it’s social media, it’s makeup tutorials on YouTube. The rise of the selfie gave rise to a makeup industry that, when I was a budding consumer, was valued at … okay, I’ve just spent 20 minutes trying to find the valuation of the U.S. cosmetics market in the 1990s but I’m getting nowhere and I need to get to the office. I can tell you that today, the U.S. cosmetics market will reach a value of 25 billion by 2026. It’s staggering, this change.
And lately, I’ve really resented “having to wear makeup”. Of course I don’t “have” to wear it. But I do a livestream show 2-3 times a week* and I don’t feel comfortable slapping on some moisturizer and leaving it at that if I have an audience. Makeup does give me a measure of confidence and after 30 years of wearing the stuff in the daylight hours — and sometimes after dark, if ya know what I mean — I feel weird without it.
But it takes time to apply it. I could be doing other things while I put on dumb makeup. And it’s expensive. And boys don’t have to spend time putting on makeup and boys don’t have to spend their hard-earned money on it and basically, I am having a very feminist moment with makeup and it’s not equitable and it’s not fair and I hate it.
And now I have to go because you know why? I have a video call in 20 minutes and I have to go put on some makeup. That’s literally why I’m ending this post right now with a weak closing paragraph. Not cool, society. Not cool.
*I’ll tell you more about this in the coming days, but until then, you should for sure tune in to Quilt Nerd. It’s live, free, it’s on Tuesdays @ 7pm CST and Saturdays @ 8pm CST, and I do other shows in between, sometimes. Go to twitch.tv/yomaryfons and get yourself a Twitch login and join me. It’s really fun and I’d love to see you.