So I have braces. I've always been missing one of my eye teeth and my other teeth shifted to fill in the gap, making my smile crooked. I was told that it was purely cosmetic and didn't affect my bite, so there was no reason to fix it unless I really wanted to. Surprisingly it was never much of an issue when I was growing up. It bothered me a little, but no one made fun of me and I got used to how I look. I thought it made me unique. I worried about fitting in for a lot of reasons, but my teeth weren't one of them.
In fact, I only remember one time EVER in my entire school career that anyone made fun of me, and it was one of my on-again off-again friends in high school. She was upset with me about something and gave me a piece of her mind, adding under her breath as she turned away, "And you have funny teeth."
I remember thinking, "That's it? That's all you've got?" I found it mildly amusing that she even brought it up.
It wasn't an issue when I was dating, either. My husband certainly didn't mind. But after my divorce I found it was a distinct factor in the 40-something dating pool. One man even brought it up specifically, as his coworker had apparently pointed out the discrepancy in my smile in a selfie I'd sent him. Now this guy was totally infatuated and kept telling me how much he was looking forward to meeting me, but suddenly dropped me like a hot potato. It was the first time that had been brought to my attention specifically as a REASON not to like me. I started wondering how many times it had been a reason before and I just hadn't paid attention. I started to wonder if that was why my photo was never featured on my company's website along with all the other company picnic and End of Year Bash photos, or why I wasn't asked to attend client meetings. A friend commented once, out of the blue, "I think your smile gives you character," meaning she was thinking about it.
I even had someone explain to me why men would hit on me as a "side item" to their main relationship: men notice women with quirky appearances. I couldn't for the life of me understand why I, the most boring, introverted, geeky writer in South Jersey, kept getting asked to sleep with guys who had other relationships. Really?
So I finally broke down and got the damn braces. Part of this is because I think my teeth have shifted more dramatically as I got older and it may end up affecting my bite. Part of it is also because I don't want my appearance to hold me be back professionally. (The men can go fuck themselves. I have my dog and my cat and my son. I don't need a walking penis upsetting my tranquility.)
But I feel really bothered about it all. People keep saying, "Aren't you excited?" I say...
In my new sort-of-buddhist-but-not-really introspective mode, I have to ask "Why?" Is my ego offended by people getting excited about "fixing" what's clearly "wrong" with me?
A little, I admit. I'm learning to observe these things about myself without judging or getting upset.
But the main reason I'm not excited is I feel like I failed somehow. I've given in to the peer pressure of 21st century physical perfectionism to the tune of about eight grand. When I was going through my divorce, my boss kept telling me how beautiful I am. Like, too much. Like, I know I'm fat and have crooked teeth so what are you getting at? Do you need to reassure me or are you trying to reassure yourself that I won't embarrass you? I decided it was both.
Part of me wants to rip the damn metal out of my mouth and scream, "No, I will not give in to materialism and superficial norms!"
The other part of me is afraid food will drip out of my maloccluded teeth onto my sagging chest when I'm eighty, so I keep them.
But is fear a reason to do anything? (Other than run from a bear, a mugger or an erupting volcano. In those cases fear is a great reason.) I should be proud and happy. I just feel more in debt. This, too, I shall meditate on. I need to find a way to be happy no matter what the circumstances. I need to keep reminding myself that I am NOT my teeth, or my weight, or my fears, or my accomplishments. I am. That is all. And that is all that is needed.