Column by J1 Reporter Mia Butler
Up until 8th grade, I was Spongebob’s biggest competition. With my smile so big and my tooth gap so wide, I’m sure he would’ve felt threatened.
This comparison I am making now never even crossed my mind when I was younger. I was well aware I had a tooth gap. I mean let’s be real, it’s impossible to miss the Grand Canyon in your mouth. However, just because I was aware does not mean I was insecure…until the devil’s metal came along: braces.
November 2016 I stride into the orthodontist, feeling excited! Woo! As a lover of change, I was feeling confident with my current set of teeth but excited for this new era. To me, this change meant “maturing” not “changing myself” to submit to beauty standards, but I suppose that’s where the orthodontist saw otherwise.
Hours go by and the silver cubes and sparking wire are set and stone, officially officialized by my choice of band: hot pink, of course.
She takes one look at me and goes “In just a few years you will look so much better!”. Better? How could I possibly look better? My 7th-grade self thought. Those words stuck with me till this day. So, to my orthodontist, I hope I look how you wished.
Those “few years” passed and the removal came. This day was my big pearly white debut… to me at least…I guess my dentist thought they weren’t so “pearly white.”
She looks at my pictures and without hesitation goes, “We’ll go upfront to schedule your whitening appointment.”
Who is we? Because I sure was not going up there to artificialize my mouth once more. In reality though, my mom called some weeks later. Beauty standards got the best of me.
They scorch my teeth with the whitening lights and damage my confidence, but the pain ends and she says I “am all fixed.” Few! Thank God for her unsolicited relief.
So my mouth and confidence were butchered to satisfy my dental specialist. What more could be “fixed” about me?
Sophomore year I got acne—duh, I’m 16, it’s a teenager’s facial fate. However, again, I let society’s judgment win and my mom scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist.
I walk into his office where he is waiting to make money off my insecurities. He instructs me to take off my mask, and when I tell you this “face reveal” was as if he just saw a caveman, I mean it. Mortified by the, hmm approximately 4 zits on my chin, he plays Superman and says, “oh yeah, we can fix that right away.”
It’s like I am just a broken doll for specialists to take their hammers and nails to. They think they can just bop me, patch me up, and I will be fixed.
Sadly, their tools worked and I’m “fixed”… on the outside, temporarily. On the inside though? In my view of myself? In my confidence? They broke me, permanently.
I returned a year later to the same dermatologist because my 4 zits popped up again. He insists we just do Accutane and just “knock this out.” Knock out the four, small DOTS on my face he means. God forbid my skin is not glass. I politely decline his suggestion after he tells me the list of potential side effects:
- serve dry skin
- Vision loss
- Chapped lips
- Irregular periods
- Hair loss
- Body aches
The list didn’t even have to go on, I knew I was not permitting myself the prescription. He insisted, I denied. He insisted, I denied. Like a broken record, he kept telling me to use it and like a stubborn 16-year-old girl who would prefer her period and vision, I denied.
I understand his job is to help (fix) me, but it feels more like I signed up for a “critique Mia” session instead.
Maybe all those years of school did not teach him, the dentist, or the orthodontist how to respond to young patients, especially their most influential clients: girls.
When I look in the mirror and see the slightest texture on my chin, I remember his words and I am eaten by insecurities.
The same goes for my teeth. If they are not their typical synthetic color or happened to rotate .0001 centimeters because I forgot my retainer one night, I am suddenly back in that dentist chair wearing my grade school uniform, listening to a random woman observe my flaws. After all those years and appointments I still get acne, sorry Mr. Dermatologist, and my teeth are not anything special. Thank you specialists for killing my confidence. But hey! At least I am fixed!