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Health Care: From Headgear To The Present

Health care is all kinds of bonkers in the United States right now.  We’ve got a new program that extends insurance coverage to a lot of people.  It’s really complicated, y’all, and I can’t explain it without a white board and a judge.

Also?  I can’t talk about health care without having a flashback to the 1980s, when my personal health care regimen consisted in braces, shoe inserts, glasses, a bulk supply of Clearasil, and headgear.

Do you remember headgear?  I’m going to assume you don’t, because your therapist erased that part of your childhood for you.  Or because you were born after headgear was all but outlawed by the United Nations.  Or because your parents were hippies who thought your uneven jaws were groovy.

So I’ll describe it to you: Headgear was basically a bear trap installed in your mouth.  The bear trap attached to a horse’s bit that stuck out around your face.  The horse’s bit attached to a neck brace.  The entire apparatus violated human rights, but it was the 1980s.  As we’ve discussed, people were really into metal headdresses back then.

I really can’t stress this enough.

My headgear was even worse than Joan Cusack’s neck brace in the movie Sixteen Candles, but this clip really captures how hard it was for me to drink anything without a straw:

I got used to keeping a straw handy at all times.  Even now, I reflexively add straws to my beverages, including the one I just made.

I made this drink so I won’t get parched while I read a 193-page Supreme Court decision on health care this weekend [what I say I’ll be doing].  Or while I clean up puppy pee [what I’ll actually be doing].  Or while I hunt bear in the woods with an old headgear [what Scott has forbidden me from doing, but which has a high probability of success].

Watermelon & Lime Cooler

This is a loose guide to making a watermelon drink.  I’m not an expert in this area, but this little concoction was mighty tasty and the color was fun.


fresh watermelon


seltzer or club soda

tequila (optional)


Cut some chunks of watermelon and liquify them in a blender or food processor.  Pour the watermelon liquid through a fine mesh strainer so that only the juice (and the not the puree) passes through into a bowl.

Put some ice in a pitcher or glass.  Pour some of the watermelon juice in there.  Squeeze some lime.  Add some tequila (or not).  Stir.  Top it off with soda water.  Taste it.  It should be sweet enough as is, because of the sugar in the watermelon.  But if not, add some simple syrup (which is just sugar dissolved in water).

Add a straw and serve immediately.  (Fermented watermelon is icky.)  If you put the drink down for a little while and it separates (with the watermelon juice resting at the bottom), give it a little stir.


Our best-friend-who-we’ve-never-met, movita beaucoup, is a ballet instructor and a baker and a hilarious writer.  She’s collecting pictures of people dancing this weekend, so this is our contribution.  (You can make one too.)

Scott and Thunder have practiced this a million times, but this was my first time waltzing with Seymour.  It’s blurry because I worried he was about to pee on me.

Have a good weekend!

50 Comments Post a comment
  1. So you were the headgear kid. I was the rubber band kid. The one who got to shoot saliva on all her friends at lunchtime when I removed all the bands so I could eat. But they were at least awesome neon colored saliva covered bands… At least we have beautiful teeth to impress our dancing partners…

    July 14, 2012
    • Brooke, the rubber bands were my favorite part about braces, actually, and for some reason I *wanted* to have the rubber bands that connected from my top to bottom teeth in the back. But apparently I didn’t need those. So I just went ahead and kept color coding the bands what rubber bands I had in the front Did you do that? Orange and black for Halloween? Red, white and blue for the 4th of July?


      July 14, 2012
      • Mostly, I picked the neon colors… I was cool like that… Mine went all the way back and all the way to the front for a little while. I could barely get my tongue through. Yeah…. that was fun…

        July 14, 2012
  2. I remember headgear, Katherine, because I had to wear it. Boy did I feel ug-lee: glasses, headgear, limp, pre-adolescent curves. I went from wearing bright colors to only wearing black, brown, blue, green and purple (I have since recovered and got my hot pink on). And speaking of pink, remember the pink plastic retainers. My brother liked to slam down his end of the see-saw so hard that my retainer broke in my mouth. He’s dead now and I’m not so you can figure out who was justified. I would sip a watermelon beverage with you and toast to our survival of adolescence.

    July 14, 2012
    • Oh you poor dear, with the see saw! Do you remember that particular sensation of putting your retainer in when you hadn’t worn it for a few nights? The way it would feel so tight and would lift off the roof of your mouth? That memory is so vivid to me–so is the sensation of pulling a hair band out of my ponytail after swim practice–how knotted it was, and the smell of chlorine. Do you remember the weird pink plastery bubble gummy stuff the orthodontist used to make the mold of your mouth before giving you the retainer?


      July 14, 2012
      • Yes, I remember that awful goo — ours was white and it tasted a little like rye bread and made me gag. Obviously, we are still working through our childhood traumas — I hadn’t thought of any of this in years.

        July 14, 2012
  3. You are lucky that your parents made you wear the headgear!!!!…mine were not hippy…at least my mother defines the very opposite of hippy….but my dad was always cool with all that is natural…as result, I have two outstanding buck teeth in my adult hood which my flat mate/best friend assures me is considered very attractive in Middle East, since no place on other place on earth thinks so…I somehow am not tempted to relocate…..Twinkle Thunder might be renamed Twinkle Toes and you could start a troupe ….”Twinkle Toes and the Amazing Seymour” 🙂

    July 14, 2012
    • Ah, you reminded me of a time when I was in Ethiopia and an Ethiopian friend happened to mention that gaps between teeth were considered beautiful there. Later, his daughter told me I had a big nose (can’t deny it) and he and his wife tried to convince me that in Ethiopia, big noses were considered beautiful. I was like “AHA! I already know that it’s gappy teeth that are pretty! Now you’re just making stuff up!”

      Anyway, I’m with your dad: all that is natural is fine enough, indeed.

      July 15, 2012
  4. Love the measurements for this recipe. Right up my alley. I didn’t have the headgear but my BFF did. She got off easy though and only had to wear it to bed. I had another friend whose mouth was too small and she had to have a device with a key that slowly spread her palette. Yikes!

    July 14, 2012
    • To be fair, I only had to wear my headgear after school and at night too. The thing about wearing it at night was that you had to sleep on your back because the bit part stuck out on the sides of your face. I HATED that. I am a side sleeper.

      The key turning thing sounds like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson story. Yikes indeed!

      July 15, 2012
  5. My sister had the lot: braces, retainer, headgear. And the rubber bands. Best part about it being the 80’s was that those little bands were perfect for holding the braid on a rat-tail.

    My family is strange: the horrid warped and crooked-toothed mold of her mouth BEFORE braces was in our living room, on a glass table next to the couch. I had to dust it…

    July 15, 2012
    • Oh my gosh you just *have* to write a short story that includes the detail of you dusting the mouth mold in the living room. What a hilarious image.

      July 15, 2012
      • The much better story is the tale of The Petrified Turd! It used to sit on the back of the toilet, the one company would have to use if we ever had any, complete with green ribbon tied in a bow around it. Until…

        July 15, 2012
  6. Hooray for being English and the straightness of a person’s teeth not being seen as important! (I still had three years of train tracks. But they were off before senior school started so all was well).

    July 15, 2012
    • Three cheers for that. My braces were off before high school–which was nice–but much to my chagrin, my new and improved teeth didn’t get any action in the kissing department until University. *Sigh.*

      July 15, 2012
  7. Thunder: Sooo inappropriate, Scott. You’re wrinkling my wrinkles.
    Seymour: Mom! Mom! Bring your face over here! What did ya have for lunch? Let me sniff! Mom! Mom! Ooo! Gotta piddle!

    July 15, 2012
    • Wrinkling my wrinkles! That’s great. She’s hilarious when she rolls over onto her back. All her face wrinkles kind of fall toward the floor, upside-down, and she looks even more squishy-faced than usual. I’ll try to get a picture of it soon. 🙂

      July 15, 2012
  8. Joe G. #

    You just brought back traumatic memories of my adolescent youth. thank you – LOL.

    July 15, 2012
    • Um, yeaaaaah. Sorry about that. Headgear makes me depressed. Next post will hopefully be about all the awesome things happening in the future. 🙂

      July 16, 2012
      • Joe G. #

        No worries : ) I laughed at your post. It’s great to know, I wasn’t the only one with painful reminders of awkwardness. Reading about it, I remember the sensation on the teeth and having to hook the metal pieces into the receiving end of my braces.

        July 16, 2012
        • YES. I remember that too. And using WAX so that the metal wouldn’t cut into the sides of my mouth. I mean, good GRIEF.

          July 18, 2012
  9. 1. My brother got braces. I got nothing. So I have crooked teeth. But I remember being terribly jealous of the kids in school with braces and headgear. Because I thought they were so cool. Also, I wanted a cast. But never got one. It was rough.
    2. 2.0 buys a lot of watermelon. Huge watermelons that take up all of the space in the refrigerator. However, he is often very thirsty. So I’m thinking this recipe might be a good way to pulverize some watermelon. And make room for cake in my fridge.
    3. Those dancing shots have basically made my Sunday NEXT LEVEL. And Scott is kinda making me think back to some high school dances in the 80’s. And I’m feeling uncomfortable all over again…

    July 15, 2012
    • Wow, so your brother got braces, but not you? I say this in the most loving way possible, but: That’s probably why your brother wound up with a beautiful french woman and you wound up with, you know, a cat farm. (I mean, now you have 2.0 so yay! It evens out.)

      Scott buys a lot of watermelon too. It takes up entire sections of the fridge. And I’ve started selling goat cheese at a farmer’s market, so often the watermelon has to duke it out with, like, 76 containers of goat cheese. Watermelon and cheese are basically the only things we can have in our fridge anymore. It’s too bad, because from what I read in fancy magazines, watermelon goes with FETA, not goat cheese.

      I’m getting a little worked up about this, so I’m going to go dance it out.

      July 16, 2012
  10. Yup, for some extremely dorky reason, I was excited to get braces (that excitement didn’t last long, but the braces did, and yes, I had the rubber bands…) AND I was excited to get eye glasses. Fortunately, no more braces, and straight teeth but I am still a Four Eyes! I dodged the headgear – feeling your teenage pain!

    A note on watermelon: big fan. I like to make a salad with red onion and mint and sometimes feta. But I just bought one this week that sorely disappointed (not fully ripe, too light and tasteless). That is the last time I buy a whole one – at least the with ones cut in half with the nasty celophane you can see inside!

    This drink looks divine! We were just at a restaurant in Mannyhatty last night that served a Watermelon juice (I noted this fact but didn’t note the ingredients…)

    July 15, 2012
    • Don’t you just love your glasses? I do. I took a friend of mine to get Lasik a few months ago (my friend Dave, actually, who I wrote about once.) It was NUTS. They let me watch the whole surgery from start to finish. He got perfect vision, and I got the desire never to get my eyes sliced open like that. Anyway, then I wouldn’t get to wear glasses anymore! My favorite accessory (even though I mostly wear contacts until evening.)

      You know, I bet the margin on watermelon juice is pretty huge. It doesn’t take much watermelon to make a big glass of juice, which I bet you could sell for lie $9 in Manhattan, no? 🙂

      July 16, 2012
  11. CAM #

    Such handsome couples!

    July 15, 2012
    • Yeah, Seymour and Thunder really take it up a notch!

      July 16, 2012
  12. There might be fame and fortune in the cards for y’all and your two-stepping canines. These photos had me thinking about the incomparable Acro-Cats, who travel the country (with their people)? -Nikki

    July 15, 2012
    • Wowee. I just watched an Acrocat show on youtube. I’d never heard of them before! We’re enrolling in dog classes this week, so now that you mention it, maybe at some point we’ll take this crazy show on the road!

      July 16, 2012
  13. Ahhh Oh So Cute – great photos – Happy Sunday:)

    July 15, 2012
    • Happy Monday (at this point) right back at you!

      July 16, 2012
  14. Camille (the other one up north) #

    Yup. I pitched an absolute fit and refused the headgear as a teenager. This meant I had the pleasure of four years of braces and a lower jaw re-section surgery awaiting me by my early 30s. That was a lot of fun. AND, the braces eliminated the split in my front teeth…the bastards.

    I adore your dancing photos. You do not have a large nose – Seymour has a large nose, but don’t tell him I said that. The photo of Scott and Thunder practically makes me swoon as it’s so lovely.

    July 15, 2012
    • Camille, you did the right thing in refusing that headgear, but Scott and I have been imagining wheat jaw re-section surgery is since you wrote this. It doesn’t sound good.

      You should see my nose in mid-summer. I get more and more freckles when I’ve been in the sun, and sometimes by August the ones on my nose MELD TOGETHER into one enormous freckle. It’s amazing!

      July 16, 2012
  15. Watermelon and lime … sounds great! Plus tequila (or vodka) and it sounds like great fun! Love your dancing pics, they look so very romantic. You and Scott should try it together sometime (just sayin’). No braces for me as a child, oh no. My mother thought the secret to straightening my teeth would be to pull one or two out and the rest would magically fall into place (she so did not go to dental school). Anyway, I did not let her anywhere near my teeth. And today they are still (charmingly?) crooked but not so much that anyone would point at me.

    July 15, 2012
    • I SHOULD try dancing with Scott sometime, but he always reaches for Thunder first! I think he likes the fact that they don’t bonk heads and she doesn’t try to lead or complain about the volume of the music. 🙂

      July 16, 2012
  16. Thunder looks like she’s an exceptionally good dancer…and I do believe she’s putting the moves on your man. You better watch out.

    Man, I could eat (or drink!) a whole watermelon every day in the summer…so so refreshing! Especially with the addition of lime you have there. Mmmm mmm 🙂

    July 15, 2012
    • Yeah, while I had the lime out I just squeezed some on a piece of watermelon and wow it was good. Really, really good!

      You are right: Thunder puts the moves on Scott all the time. Of course, she also burps in his face more often than I do, so hopefully I’m ok for now.

      July 16, 2012
  17. I had a retainer style brace, but at least no permanent ones or rubber bands. But I do still have crooked teeth. What the hell, guys? I also had, and have, glasses but they’re cool now so that’s OK. Sports at school was pretty hellish though, i had to take them off so, of course, I couldn’t see a thing. Playing sports blind is not good. I blame my disdain for all sport on this exact childhood trauma.

    July 16, 2012
    • Your glasses are rad–I’m glad you’ve come around to that. The only sport I like is iceskating. And ice dancing. Basically any sport set to music is okay with me, especially when it involves spandex.

      July 16, 2012
  18. It’s not possible the tequila could be optional (unless that’s because vodka is the other option). Perhaps you could have tried another dance with Seymour that made you less nervous, like a polka, or a salsa.

    July 16, 2012
    • Scott apparently doesn’t get nervous when dancing because he took a lot of swing dance classes WITH OTHER GIRLS in college. Note that I went to the same college that he did, and we overlapped for 3 years, and we vaguely knew each other. . . but nothin’. Just dance classes with other girls. Unbelievable. THAT is why I get nervous when dancing around him.

      July 16, 2012
  19. I had the rubber bands, a retainer and train tracks. The tracks were the most traumatic though, but mercifully I didn’t have the headgear. A friend of mine did though & she had to wear it to school- the bus drivers used to ask if she’d been in a car accident!

    July 17, 2012
    • Oh dear! Yikes. I wonder what your friend is doing now. I’m going to assume she models lipstick or something, for magazine ads, and it was all worth it.

      July 18, 2012
      • Well, even though she’s not modelling lipstick or toothpaste, she does have a very lovely smile- and even rows of teeth. 🙂 And it was either the weird cage headgear or have her jaw broken and reset! Which frankly seems barbaric to me.

        July 19, 2012
  20. kristen Rizzo #

    anyone know about headgear issues if a kid has autism or sensory integration issues? How are those kids supposed to deal with headgear?

    July 18, 2012
    • Gosh, Kristen, I’m not sure. Is headgear still used anymore? I haven’t kept up with it, but I was under the impression that orthodontists had new ways of correcting overbites and underbites that are more surgical, and involve less clunky apparatus. Maybe that’s not accurate, but I hope it is. Perhaps someone has dealt with this more recently and will chime in–my experience dates from the 80s. I hope there are more resources available now to help fit orthodontic work into a child’s life without interrupting their routine as much.

      July 18, 2012
  21. That was funny… Joan Cusack popped in my mind before I even scrolled to her. She will forever be remembered in that role!!!
    We finally made it to almost 80 degrees today in the San Juan Islands… time for a watermelon cooler 🙂

    July 19, 2012
  22. As the mother of die hard thumb suckers, I know some sort of facial maxillary construction devices are in my near future. I’ll keep your experience in mind (and whether or not they have cleaned up their room) when deciding which route to go!

    July 26, 2012

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