Love and Braces

Three years ago I got braces. My dentist suggested it, my boyfriend supported it. Wasn't everybody doing it? Excited to be chicly metal-mouthed, I came home to show them off, along with the list of what I couldn't eat (hard-crusted bread, popcorn, taffy), how to eat the rest (knife and fork for everything), and how often I would need to brush my teeth (almost constantly, after anything went into my mouth). My boyfriend looked at my hardware and panicked—"What about oral sex?"

I scanned the "dos and don'ts" from the orthodontist. Among the drawings of awkwardly smiling adolescents resisting cotton candy, there was no mention of cocksucking, no description of how to get those nagging pubic hairs out of the wires lining my mouth. Running my tongue across the metal, I flinched instinctively at the prospect of an ill-timed roll of the neck or shift of the bedsprings. And my boyfriend loved oral sex!

I'm high-yellow, Midwestern-born, thirtysomething black; he's first-generation American, English-ancestry white, a dozen years older than me. He's a little bit NPR; I'm a little bit Hot 97. We both love sex and get it on with freakish regularity, exploring each other's bodies and getting off. After seven years together, we could imagine no conceivable limit to the ways we might express physical love with each other. But here was a challenge to test the boundaries of our relationship.

We rolled into bed and started our dance of arousal—nuzzling necks, laughing at our heated intimacy, running hands over skin, beards, dreadlocks, ass cheeks. A kiss grew, and our tongues explored the new fixtures, searching for rough spots, darting around the filaments, tasting clammy firmness. We shifted a bit to force the moment of truth. He shivered in anticipation, and I jittered nervously, unable to shake images of a huge scrotal gash caused by a fold of skin irretrievably caught in a tiny clamp.

Happily, that didn't happen. The braces hindered nothing we had done before; their presence added a thrill to some of my more ambitious techniques. Last month I went from braces to a removable retainer—hello, tooth enamel!—and my boyfriend confessed he actually missed the peril of my metalmouth. Well, next year I can always get my tongue pierced.

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