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In which I brace up to a new way of life

What Katie did next with Katie Byrne

It is something of a trend for magazines and blogs to compile lists of things you should have experienced and acquired by the age of 30. No doubt you've read a few of the 30th commandments, like the idea that you should have "one old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you've come".

Elsewhere, there are career-based dictums, such as the suggestion that you should have "landed a nice raise and proceeded to buy something you would never get otherwise".

Some are unreasonably dictatorial: According to one website, you should have given up texting (only in emergencies); utterances of the word 'cool' and clubbing – "No, it's not your paranoia. Everyone really is staring and laughing".

Some are penned with tongue in cheek, like the blog suggesting that women of a certain age should know that "inner beauty beats outer beauty but thanks to Juvederm you don't have to choose".

Fundamentally, at the age of 30 every woman should know that lists of this nature are compiled under deadline, by women who work about 65 hours a week and are too busy to make their bed in the morning, let alone find the time to 'invest' in Egyptian cotton bedsheets.

Occasionally, these lists are nurtured by the creative process: that is to say that the intern and the graphic designer may make a suggestion.


In short, they are borne out of aspiration rather than experience and while the quasi principle is to inspire women, they in fact make us feel woefully inadequate and ultimately uninformed.

It's easier to live life by one dictum: do whatever makes you feel good, as long as you don't hurt anyone else's feelings.

Oh, and maybe think twice about getting braces at the age of 30.

Yes, I got braces this week. Adult braces. In recent years my teeth have decided to do their own thing and for fear of becoming known as 'auld Snaggletooth' by the time I hit 40, I decided to take measures.

The obvious question is why didn't I do this in my teens. "Aren't you a bit long in the tooth?" Presumably there's a list called '13 things to do by 13' somewhere and 'get braces' is number two.

Well, three days in, I can safely say that I'm glad I didn't get braces in my teens. I don't know that I could have coped.

I don't know how any teenager copes with these barbaric contraptions when they are already faced with the punishment of puberty.

It's the Western World equivalent of those bizarre, tribal initiation ceremonies that mark the rite-of-passage into adolescence.

I would have been more sympathetic to my schoolmates' cause had I known what they were going through.

Life with a full metal bracket is not easy. The pain! Nobody told me about the pain.

An orthodontist writing online describes it thus: "Think about when you haven't made it to the gym recently, and then you go exercise. The next day your muscles will feel sore".

This should in fact read: "Imagine you went to the gym and a dumbbell fell 10 foot onto your face and then all your teeth felt like they were going to fall out of their sockets".

"You're going to get blisters on the inside of your gums," the dentist said breezily once the braces had been fitted.

Sure enough, my entire mouth is inflamed and I look like a blow-up doll.

She also gave me a handy list of the foods I need to avoid: anything harder than a pretzel, nuts, popcorn...

As well as anything that could stain the teeth (or the braces themselves as, in my case, they are white): curry sauce, tomato ketchup, tea, coffee...

But I don't like to dwell on the negative. Best to focus on what I can eat: mashed potatoes, Yops and Kinder Pingui bars (you can find them in the refrigerated section of the supermarket).

A small pharmacopeia of over-the-counter painkillers completes my daily meal plan.

But even with the pain relief, the process of eating is so laborious that I just give up and reach for the fourth Yop of the day.

I'd rather have my meals through a straw than have to dash off to brush and floss every time I eat so much as a morsel, or worry that there is a piece of basil stuck in my brace before a business meeting.


It strikes me that having a brace is not unlike getting a gastric band fitted. I wonder if people get them fitted primarily for the purpose of weight loss.

I know some people have them fitted to augment their facial structure – it's called a 'bracelift'. Really – look it up.

Either way, a brace does a lot more than straighten your teeth (and deflate your ego).

By wearing a brace, you inadvertently tackle every possible vice you could have.

Smoking is out due to the aforementioned staining. Thanks to tannins, so too is Guinness and red wine.

Those with a caffeine addiction will have to say goodbye to coffee and tea. Those with a sweet tooth are told to avoid sticky and sugary foods.

And if the opposite sex is your vice, well, you may have to forego interactions with them too. I think. It's early days.

At the age of 30 you start to acknowledge all the vices that you always said you would deal with some other time.

Who would have thought that getting braces – the hallmarks of teenhood – could pave the way to maturity?