True story: I used to participate in videos at my church. These would either be skits pertaining to the morning message or general weekly announcements to which I tried to add some humor because let’s face it, announcements where someone just stands and talks are, well, announcements.
One time the camera did a close up of my face there on the big screen and as it zoomed in on my teeth an unmistakable neighing horse imitation emitted from the pew behind me. I received the message loud and clear. My teeth looked like Mr. Ed, the horse. Like that was a newsflash to me? Seriously, when a pilot could land a 747 between your top two front teeth, you will be the first to be very self conscious of close up shots of your mouth on a big screen. Sure, I laughed because I’ve spent my whole life trying to make fun of myself so others didn’t feel the need to do so, but being called out as Mr. Ed in the house of the Lord (even though it was meant as a joke) stung a little. Not gonna lie.
Travel back to when my husband and I were dating. Remember when you were dating? You were hyperaware of every little flaw or idiosyncrasy which might turn off your potential mate. Trust me, I am the picture of a flawed human, and I knew there were many physical and personality characteristics which Chad Jagger might not appreciate, but when he asked, “Why didn’t you get braces when you were younger?” I knew, he too, was a bit concerned about my teeth.
I’ve asked my mother why braces were never an option for me as a child. It’s hard to ask your mom that question when she and your father have done such a wonderful job of taking care of all of your needs and many of your wants as a young person. She told me the dentist never said anything about me needing braces, we didn’t have dental insurance, and she thought my teeth looked fine.
Isn’t that a typical mom response? “Honey, your horse teeth look just beautiful!”
Fast forward to February of 2018 when I was eating a sandwich, heard and felt an enormous pop, and realized I wouldn’t be eating a sandwich again for a long time. Having dealt with TMJ as a teenager, I waited the obligatory six weeks for an appointment with an oral surgeon only to be told that my jaws are full of arthritis.
Insert here, Dear Reader, all the jokes about my jaws working on overload for a lifetime. Ha ha ha! Insert here, Dear Reader, all the jokes about me being super old. Yadayadayada.
I was sent to my dentist (not the one I saw as a child) who kindly made me a splint. I thought the gap in my two front teeth was actually growing wider with the splint, but at least my jaw was feeling better. I lamented, “If I have to wear a splint all the time I wish it was fixing my teeth!”
And that’s when my husband became a super-genius and suggested we look into online braces.
Leave it to my husband to find the cheapest way possible for any medical procedure.
When your daughter is paralyzed, you really don’t feel there’s any excess money for something basically cosmetic, but in a move which showed how much my husband truly wanted to see my teeth fixed, he told me to order the online braces. Yes, at age forty-seven, I was finally going to “close the gap!”
My braces arrived in May and I immediately understood why invisible aligners are not used on many children. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and if I hadn’t endured people calling me a horse in church, I would have pried those braces out of my mouth and thrown them in the trash the day I received them! But I really didn’t want to be made fun of anymore, at least for my teeth, so I persevered. In due time, grew used to the invisible aligners. (After I took a complete forty-eight hours to learn how not to drool while wearing my new “braces.”)
And so here we are five months later and I am on the home stretch. To say my teeth look better is an understatement. I’ll admit, when I see myself smile and see how straight my teeth are I am thrilled. And while my husband has never been known as “compliment guy,” he is very complimentary of my new teeth.
We can pretend all we want, can’t we? We can say we don’t care what other people say or think about us and for the most part, I feel that’s true about me. But man, just thinking about my old, ugly teeth takes me right back to being totally insecure in middle school or any of the other number of times uncomplimentary comments were made about my teeth.
Anytime uncomplimentary comments were made about me.
And the craziest thing is I do feel more confident in my new smile, but yet a little disgusted at myself that something so temporal could be so important to me. Every time I look in the mirror it shows an aging, confident, fake-blonde, flat-chested, shattered-but-trying-to-still-laugh, middle-aged woman. And sometimes when I look in the mirror I see an uncertain, stressed-out, flat-chested, junior high kid just trying to make it through 7th grade. Perhaps that’s what the mirror will always show. . .the past and the present wrestling one another, making each of us who we are today — whether our teeth are straight or not.
Maybe you can relate.
Until next Wednesday, Lord willing.