At twelve, I begged my parents for braces like the ones all my friends had–I was quite the conformist in middle school, but weren’t we all?–though there was no real reason I needed them. My smile was a little gapped, but I didn’t have any medical need to alter it. Still, though, I begged and pleaded with my mother and father, insisting that when I grew up, everybody who had braces would be beautiful and rule the world (or something equally nonsensical) and I would be as alone and disconnected as my two front teeth.
After much deliberation, they finally agreed and I was thrilled to get my new metal jewelry on. But as anybody who’s had the dreaded contraptions on their teeth can understand, that thrill quickly died as soon as I felt how painful it was to have wires pull my teeth apart, ligature and hooks encourage my anxiety-induced lisp and metal brackets scrape the inside of my mouth. And those cute rubber bands I thought I’d be able to match with all my outfits? They looked ridiculous. A word of advice: rubber matches nothing, guys. In every photo from this time period, I strongly resemble Jaws from James Bond.
Two years down the road, just prior to high school beginning, the braces were scheduled to come off and my brand new, sparkly smile was about to be revealed. My excitement was uncontrollable as I felt them pry the steel from my mouth and sand off all the remaining glue. They gave me a mirror, made me count down from 5 and told me open my eyes. At this point, despite my preteen blemishes and poor makeup choices, I expected that I would look quite similarly to Julia Roberts. I opened my eyes and…
It was just a smile. My normal, pre-braces smile, but a teensy bit different. In fact, I liked it less than than before, but I didn’t understand why. I feigned a deep happiness (I would never, ever tell my parents that their generous investment hadn’t emotionally worked out as planned) with the results and went home.
Years later, I’ve finally realized why I was somewhat disappointed that day: suddenly, upon having a “perfect, normal” smile, I felt less charming. Sure, they were white and straight, just like every model in every magazine I’d seen and all the actors I loved, but they were the same smile anybody could achieve if they simply had the right tools, and that made mine less “me.”
With porcelain veneers as well as braces, miracles can happen when it comes to fixing the results of accidents, chips, illness, etc. But more and more people each year are spending thousands of dollars on getting uniform, long, squared, white teeth regardless of whether they need them for function. Millions of dollars each year are spent on giving countless people the exact same smile.
But things are changing now: just as the beauty industry has begun to more readily accept non-size 2s and freckles and various races (finally) without it being a huge to-do, smile ideals are also evolving. With the rise of supermodels like Lindsey Wixson and Lara Stone, gaps are finally becoming “acceptable.” In the same way that Cindy Crawford would’ve undoubtedly not had such recognition without her trademark mole, many new models’ beauty stems from their unique, interesting deviation from the norm.
So if you’re feeling shamed by those almost eerily straight, white smiles that you see on cosmetic dentistry billboards and in those “Get perfect teeth TODAY!” ads on your sidebars, just think about your smile as being the most individual thing about your face. It expresses your happiness, excitement, love…it’s entirely, 100% “you,” and that is something to celebrate–never belittle. Next time somebody flashes a photo of you, just whip out that gorgeous, genuine grin!
Lovelies, what do you love about your smile?