Jenny Block braces herself


Photo courtesy Chuck Holloman

I used to hate it when my mom would tell me to seek the silver lining — how losing one thing somehow gave me the chance to get something new; how not getting a job or a part in a play or a place at a university gave me the chance to get another job or another part or go to another school. It used to drive me nuts, partially because she was right. It wasn’t a matter of needing the bad in order to get to the good. It wasn’t a matter of being grateful for or appreciating the bad. Instead, it was a matter of mindset. It was a matter of shifting my thinking.

Rather than dwelling on the bad, I found myself seeking out the good.

It’s a lesson that has served me well in many parts of my life, but especially in my relationships. For example, I just got braces. Yup. Forty-six years old and thanks to not wearing my retainer enough, I am sitting in Dr. Rahimi’s chair once a month getting my wires tightened. That’s no fun. But what’s really putting the hurt on me right now is not being able to kiss my fiancé, Robin. She’s none too thrilled, either.

Sure, we can touch lips. But the kind of kissing that most healthy couples not only experience but also thrive on, is not on the menu these days. It’s been bumming me out. A lot. It feels like a piece of us is missing, a connector of sorts, the thing that gets us from A to B. The thing that gets us from “You’ve been on the road for a week” to “Now we’re back home together.” The thing that gets us from “We’re having an argument” to “We’re back on track.” The thing that gets us from “The movie is over” to “Wanna go to bed early?”

So, we had a choice: We could let it kill us or we could let it inspire us. And you better believe that we chose the latter.

The crazy part is that, as awful as it is, it is also kind of fun. We hold hands more. We look into each other’s eyes longer. We find new ways to flirt and transition. Most importantly, we adapt. Apart from communication, the ability to adapt has to be one of the most vital couple traits. It’s the difference not only between the couples who live or die, but also the couples who survive versus thrive.

The thing is, it’s not simply a skill. It’s a choice. Robin and I choose to be together each minute of each day through the subtle changes and the not so subtle ones. This gives us an ease to the way we live. We don’t have to worry that something will change in us that will make the other person love us less, other than running over a bag of puppies or stealing from the poor to give to the rich, of course.

It also gives us a strength that can only come from flexibility. Like a massive tree that sways in high winds versus a rigid pole that breaks in two, we choose to ride the waves. That certainly can mean simply tolerating what comes our way. But, when we can, we do our best to embrace the new even when we’re not necessarily thrilled about what caused the change. The best relationships are about conscious choices, about choosing one another, about choosing to be together, about choosing how to love and support and really enjoy each other.

I hate my braces. And I hate that I can’t kiss Robin for real for another four months. But I love that she always asks if I have my wax with me and that she doesn’t mind checking my teeth for that stray sprig of basil. I love that we are finding new ways to flirt and connect at a time when a zillion other things could be capturing our attention. And I love that I know how much she hates my braces and not only still loves me but loves me even more because she knows how crazy they drive me and yet knows how much committing to them is the right thing to do.

My mom was right. It is about silver linings. Life is all about silver livings. And love and relationships are most certainly all about silver linings. I’d love to make a joke here about the silver in my mouth. But my braces, thank goodness are clear. But then so is my love for Robin and my commitment to our being a couple, brackets and all.

Have a question about sex you want Jenny to address? Email it to [email protected].

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 21, 2017.