Now, hang on, fellas. Put those engagement rings away. I'm taken.
But seriously, though, I'm working with half a face today. I just got done with a trip to the dentist in which I received some delightful fillings and a brand spanking new set of retainers. It took three shots of novocain to numb one side of my sensitive little mouth, and now the whole left side of my face is taking a bit of a break from life. It's cool though because it's made my smile really cute and it's made eating thai food for lunch downright hilarious.
Now, here's a fun, disgusting fact about me: before this week, I hadn't been to the dentist in over four years. I know, I know, shut up. That's a long ass time. I get it. And I'm not even someone who gets squeamish about the whole dentist thing. In fact, I welcome it. I actually enjoy the feeling of having my teeth drilled and scraped. My previous dental providers have even remarked that I'm an exceptionally good patient, and by the way, yes, I would like that engraved on my tombstone, thank you.
So why didn't I go to the dentist for four years? Well, for a couple of years there, I didn't have dental insurance, so I get a free pass for that time, obviously. But after that, I just kind of forgot. I was having so much fun getting married and moving to New York City and working that I stopped paying much mind to these little rocks sticking out of my gums.
But all of that changed recently when I realized something alarming regarding my teeth. Before we get into that, though, let's back up a minute. Lots of minutes, actually, all the way back to my childhood.
This creature, my friends, is Seven-Year-Old Christy. I actually took this picture when I was competing in a beauty pageant, but I have to confess that I've since added the trippy space background whenever I was learning how to use Photoshop for the first time. While there is a lot to look at here (my tremendously thick eyebrows, my impossibly short bangs, the fact that I'm wearing a shower curtain maybe? etc.), what I'd like for you to focus on is my teeth. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I count three in total.
And while it's pretty normal for a seven-year-old to have some teeth missing, the truth is I looked like this for a majority of my childhood. I was born with a couple fewer teeth than most (for example, I only have one wisdom tooth, WHAT?), and up until I got my braces I had a big ol' gap between my two front teeth. In fact, the only reason I got braces in the first place was to correct my gap-toothed smile.
By the time I got my braces off, all of my teeth were together at last, and as far as I knew that was the end of my precocious grin. That being said, you can imagine my surprise when eleven years after my braces had been removed, in the year 2015, I looked in the mirror and realized that my gap was BACK.
WHAT IN THE LIVING HELL?! How did this happen?!
When I noticed this seemingly sudden change in my dental structure, I immediately went into an obsessive investigative frenzy. I basically became the Nancy Drew of my own dental mystery. I scoured photos of myself from the last year. For reference, this is what my teeth looked like in March.
|I probably should have asked you beforehand if you wanted to be this close to my mouth. Sorry.|
Look! My two front teeth were practically inseparable! SO WHAT HAPPENED?! WHY HAS MY CHILDHOOD GAP RETURNED?
This is the question I brought to my dentist on Tuesday. His initial response was, "What gap?" And when I gestured to what I considered to be the Grand Canyon-sized hole in my mouth, he squinted his eyes, got very close to me, and said, "Oh, that. I guess I can sort of see it."
For all of his dentistry know-how, he had no theories as to why my teeth had made such a sudden shift, but he was clearly far more perplexed by my obsession with it. Still, he was patient. He told me my options: I could either pay a million-kagillion-flablillion dollars to get Invisalign (those clear, retainery-braces things) or I could just, like, live with it. He gave me a couple of days to think about it.
I walked out of there with stooped shoulders and sad Charlie Brown music playing in my head. However, as I lamented the situation with my husband later that day, he told me it was not a big deal. In fact, according to him, I looked exactly the same as I always had. "Really?" I made him promise. "Really." This made me feel better, and when I consulted some friends, they said they never would have noticed had I not brought it to their attention.
And the thing is, actually, I'm pretty sure they're not lying. I recently read this article from NY Magazine that's been on my mind a lot lately called "You Are Probably Pretty Self-Centered, But So Is Everyone Else." In it, the author, Melissa Dahl, talks about people who are always preoccupied with what other people must be thinking about them. And the good news she offers is that people probably aren't paying much attention to you because they are far too busy paying attention to themselves.
That might seem like a bleak view of humanity, but it comes with a scientific backing. The article sites an interview with behavioral scientist, Nicholas Epsy, whose work centers around the egocentric nature of human beings. That's right, according to SCIENCE, we are all self-centered. Every single one of us.
In fact, we are so self-focused, says Epsy, that we actually reach the level of "expert." Especially when it comes to our physical appearance, we know our own features so well that we can look at a picture and see when a hair is out of place or an eye is a millimeter too squinty or we have a sudden gap in our front teeth that no one but the Lord could have predicted.
So this means two things for us as humans living in the world together: 1) We can chill out on accusing people of being self-centered (even people who post four pictures of themselves in a blog post) because, welp, we're all guilty of it. And 2) It means that our self-centeredness also means that the things we freak out about and obsess over are likely only noticeable in our own minds. We are the experts of all the weird stuff happening on our face or feet or brains. And everyone else is just too preoccupied getting their doctorate in Self to notice what you've got going on.
That being said, here I sit, with a gap in my teeth. When I went back to the dentist today, I told him I'd hold off on Invisalign, but he still had to fill two cavities, so there's that. I'm sitting at a coffee shop with only half my face in functioning order. I'm trying to sip some cold brew out of a straw, but it's coming out in dribbles on my chin that I am catching in the palms of my hands.
And you know what? No one around me seems to notice.
Got any weird hang-ups about yourself (that probably nobody but you notices)? Shout em out in the comments section so that I can shower you with compliments instead!
Oh, also, shout out to all my gap-toothed beauties out there. I hope I haven't disparaged us as a group by wanting to rid myself of this gap. It's just a childhood insecurity, so don't mind me. Plus, I hear we're super fashionable now! Now every girl I see with a gap in her teeth, I'm like -- YO is that a model?