Monday, March 24, 2014

Time to get Gummy?

Trying to time capsule as much as I can of this, my last pregnancy, my Beloved has been taking a lot more photos of me than is normal.
And I'm still fairly uncomfortable with it. I'm not used to looking directly at the camera.
And I have noticed that I'm not comfortable smiling, and particularly not comfortable showing any sign of teeth.

Rewind twenty odd years.

After school I catch the train and then the tram into the city. It's the end of a long, hot day and I'm still in my summer school uniform. I'm sweaty and ungainly and I just want to be home.
But it's time for my orthodontist appointment so I find the rooms on Victoria Parade and wait my turn in the blissful air-con.
I've recently had all four of my wisdom teeth taken out, as they were growing horizontally and banging into the teeth next to them. My face swelled up to nearly double it's size and there are now four holes in my gums where food keeps getting caught.
The orthodontist checks on their healing and says they're doing well. Then he looks at me.
"I've noticed that when you smile you cover your mouth because your smile is so gummy. I can fix that."
Puzzled, wondering if I really have been covering my mouth because my smile is gummy, I'm silent.
He whips out a book of 'before and after photos'. Girls before and after he fixed their smiles.
I've already had braces for eighteen months and a plate for eighteen months. I had four extra teeth that had to come out, geting the braces tightened every few months was painful, and it all cost a fortune. My dad refers to my teeth as a 'plane ticket home to scotland'. And they are. But at least my teeth are no longer higgledy-piggledy on top of each other and I'm no longer called a 'vampire guinea-pig', like I'd been in primary school. 
I ask the orthodontist what getting rid of my gummy smile would mean.
Nothing much - just cutting some of my cheekbones away and lifting my whole face up.
I blink.
And then I ask if there's any medical reason to get this done. It sounds a little extreme to do for aesthetic reasons. He wants to cut my bone - which sounds like major surgery and massively expensive - so I'm a little prettier?
He umms and aahs, but basically there's no medical reason why I should have my face ripped apart and redone.
It would just make my smile less gummy.
I say no thank you, and leave. But examining the mirror that night I see a vast expanse of gum, and how my whole top lip disappears when I smile. 

I didn't think I thought about it that much, just some idiot who obviously rated looks a lot more highly than I did. But I'm noticing now that I don't like smiling with my teeth showing. I don't want my gums caught on camera.
Because twenty years ago the professional, sort-of-medical man who'd spent four year mucking around with my teeth,  thought my gummy smile so terrible he thought I should undergo major surgery, at great expense and with great pain, and no small level of risk, because going under anaesthetics does always carry some risks.

I still don't want to smile with my mouth open. To me, my closed-mouth smiles appear guarded and smug. 
And that makes me mad. And it worries me. 
That happened in a time so much less looks focused - at least it seems so to me - and yet I've let that one incident affect me so much.
I worry for my kids. Especially now, when my second daughter is on her way. How will this society twist and distort my girls perceptions of themselves? Make them believe they're anything less than wonderful just the way they are. And boys are not exempt from our cultures focus on appearance.
I hope they never allow something so ridiculous to influence them. But it seems fairly hypocritical, seeing that I have.
Maybe it's time to bring out some gummy smiles.

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