Paper clip retainers

In junior high, you were the “cool kid” if you had braces. I remember all the popular, well-off kids were able to get braces. Which made me green with envy. I wanted braces so bad.

I watched friend after friend get braces and then get those really cute wire retainers they sported at school.

So, one day, my fellow wire-less friends had an idea that involved paper clips. Hey, it wasn’t braces but surely it would make us fit in, right? We took small paper clips, bent them in a half circle and conformed them to our teeth. Voila. We had retainers!

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on

I gleefully put one in my mouth, tasting the metallic wire as it hugged my teeth.

“This must be what they taste like!” I said.

My other friends smiled, their teeth gleaming with paper clip circles.

But, the retainers didn’t go over as well as we hoped.

“You never had braces, how do you have retainers?” I remember one particularly snotty classmate say one day.

“I skipped to the retainer part,” I replied, hoping that explanation would work.

“Right,” she said, rolling her eyes and touching her bangs to make sure her 80s 10-foot-tall tower of hair was still in the right place. “You didn’t get a retainer.”

“Yes, I did!” I exclaimed.

And maybe I would have been fine-ish if I hadn’t, in my frustration pull the paper clips out of my mouth and shove them at her.

“Ew!” she said, a combination of laughing and disgust. “You used paper clips! You’re so gross.”

And that’s how our paper clip experiment failed and how the bullies had even more ammo against us.

I finally did get my braces — in my 40s. But imagine my disappointment when it came time for my retainers they gave me PLASTIC retainers. Not the wires I had always wanted since I was in junior high.

Seems the joke is still on me.

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