Warranty unavailable for adulthood coverage

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I snapped in my retainers as I had so many nights before. In, fact, I didn’t give it much thought because taking care of the retainer business has become habit: something I just need to do. Doesn’t matter if I like it, or if my kids make fun of me when I talk to them with the retainers in my mouth. Shove them in, anyway. Retainers, not kids.

I’ve heard horror stories about people paying exorbitant sums of money to put their children in braces, only to have the kid lose or refuse to wear the retainers that followed. I’ve always assumed that was due not just to the irresponsible, infallible attitude that characterizes youth, but because the kids didn’t pay for the braces. As a teen, I babied the first bicycle I bought, treating it better than anything, including the other members of my family.

And when the braces I didn’t need as a teen ended up going on my teeth when I was 36, with the money coming directly from my paycheck (I used a pre-tax healthcare account to lessen the financial blow), I treated them as minor royalty. For three years, those puppies hounded my mouth, twisting, turning and ultimately straightening my teeth into a more correct bite and pleasing smile.

So there’s no way I’m not going to wear my retainers, which cost some ridiculous sum, like $350 per pair. I’ve never even come close to losing them or forgetting to wear them. They protect my teeth investment. To neglect them would be to squander all the time, effort and money I sacrificed. As long as I wear them, I can preserve the results of my hard work. Well, at least until something else different goes wrong with my teeth. But that’s a different column.

Truthfully, I wish life had more retainer opportunities and satisfaction guarantees. As a kid, I never thought much about warranties or guarantees because it was all about the adventure. As an adult, I want to be sure the guide I now require for the whitewater rafting trip is certified, licensed and insured and the lifejackets and rubber raft meet quality standards. And maybe the activity will be fun, too, if it doesn’t set me back too far financially.

I’ve had enough car accidents, chimney fires, surgeries, stitches and prescriptions to appreciate the value of insurance. But that’s for physical problems. Mental health treatment and medication provide care for the mind, but there’s little relief from the daily frustrations and indignities we all endure. To me, a balm for that would be more important than flood insurance.

After listening the other day to a group of teens talking, or rather fantasizing, about how glamorous adulthood would someday be, I found myself forming a rebuttal. Instead of the “Land of No Rules” they envisioned, they would discover in relatively short order there are some other principles in play, many of them but unpleasant variations on Murphy’s Law. Here’s what I came up with to describe the adulthood which I inhabit:

Adulthood means unwelcome interruptions to what you didn’t want to be doing in the first place.

Adulthood means unrelenting requirements past your commitment capacity.

Adulthood means unnecessary complications exceeding your highest experience level.

Adulthood means unprecedented sacrifice for others beyond what you would do for yourself.

Adulthood means unwarranted waiting that surpasses your reserves of patience.

Adulthood means unexpected expenses over what you already can’t afford; and

Adulthood means unappreciated efforts regardless of the results you achieve.

That doesn’t sound like something most people would like to sign up for, does it? But considering the alternative, you might as well lend it your John Hancock. No guarantee. And if there were one, it would probably just get coffee spilled on it or someone would misplace it or accidentally throw it out.

The real work of adulthood doesn’t come from your job, but from your relationships and surrounding circumstances. It’s not “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” as much as “Oh, the Way You’ll Grow” via experiences from which the nicest car and the best house cannot protect you. Enter adulthood, anyway. At your own risk.


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