Recently, my braces were removed. It’s kind of a big deal for me, finally at age 25 I have a smile I can be truly confident about. I’ve always been self conscious about my smile. I unfortunately inherited my dad’s gap and my mom’s crooked teeth. This combination led to a childhood filled with extreme self-awareness. I don’t think six year olds are supposed to be acutely aware of their flaws. Many of my school photos show a tight lipped smile that carefully conceals my wonky teeth. I dealt with a group of boys teasing me in sixth grade. “Gap tooth” and “Gap side” were two of the wonderfully uncreative names they shouted at me.
I was also called “gutter girl” but that was because I had to literally walk to school from the other side of the tracks through of stretch of road that did not have a sidewalk, just a gutter that led to a drainage ditch. Hence, gutter girl.
Anyway, in middle school one of the boys that teased me got braces and I pointed it out to him, “You made fun of me for having bad teeth but now YOU have braces.”
He responded with, “Yeah, but at least my parents are doing something about it.”
For years and years I covered my mouth when I laughed and kept my mouth shut as much as possible in photos. Being an extremely shy, self aware, self conscious child coupled with mean boys reminding me of my flaws is not a formula for a confident person. It wasn’t until high school, when I made the short flags team, that I had to learn how to smile and not be ashamed. A major part of being on the team was performing in front of the school at rallies and stands full of people at football and basketball games. The mean boys were lost in the crowd and I found a big group of people to hang out with who didn’t care, notice or mention anything about my appearance. All of my homecoming and prom pictures show a big, white happy smile.
About two years ago, after coming to terms with my smile, I decided to make the leap and get braces. It was not an easy decision. I felt like I was conforming to society’s view of beauty. I thought of beautiful successful women with similar dentition: Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Anna Paquin, Condoleezza Rice and Briggite Bardot. I thought, if I’m going to do this I better do it now. My goal was to get braces off by the time I finished college.
Here I am today with a straight, non-gapped smile. Though I can longer spray water through my front teeth in a cool fountain like way, and I can no longer whistle through it (yes, I totally miss doing those things!) I am now 100% happy with my “conformed” smile. I feel like now I have more polished appearance, I no longer look like a goofy kid.