Therapist? No, Dentist!

Thumbing through The New York Times this afternoon, I came across a story about how hair salons are becoming the new "seats of power." Hair stylists have known for years the intricate, intimate facts of their clients' lives.  What else are you gonna do, sitting in that chair for an hour? I've heard that that's how many women finally wind up telling about domestic violence in their lives.

It made me think of my husband, a dentist, who also finds himself hearing stories about divorce, estranged children, fatal diseases, run-amok kids, and truly tragic stories, almost every day. I'll admit, it's hard to talk with those tools in your mouth, but somehow people still confide the most amazing things to him.

One of his toughest patients, a burly, brusque NYC transit worker, told him how his heart was breaking because his girlfriend's 5-year-old grandson was moving with his mom and dad to Florida and he would never get to see him.

Another, one he's had for over 20 years and become quite friendly with, recently confided he had multiple myeloma, often a quick and fatal disease.  This same man, one of the kindest, most decent you will ever meet, had already suffered heart problems and was limping from a knee injury. But he always had a smile, and something nice to say, Larry says, a big admission from my mostly unemotional husband, and though I know he'd never say it, when this man passes away, it will leave a big hole in his heart.

Then there's the woman who graduated at the top of her class in engineering in China (China!), whose daughter dropped out of med school in the U.S. to become a stock broker.  Larry still can't get over that.

I guess the confidences come because you're stranded in that chair for longer than you're usually with others in your regular life, and it's just the two of you, and even though his hands are in your mouth, or maybe because, you are physically very close to each other. That environment just seems to invite sharing.

Now that I think about it, I've become very friendly with my dental hygienist, who I've also known for years. We've watched each other's children grow up (we have sons the same age), weathered a divorce (hers), and rejoiced when her mother finally survived from a major infection after surgery.  She was there for me all through my cancer surgeries, too.

So who needs therapists when you can talk to your hair stylists and dentists?  My only regret is that, while treating teeth and hair, they don't get paid for treating souls, too.


  1. The doctors there are so well versed with their field and have mastered the children psychology of dental and doctor fears that from toddlers to teens, they know how to treat the ailing child at the same time keeping anxiety at the shore.

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