Friday, September 18, 2015

No One Is Paying As Much Attention To You As You Are

Right now, as I write this, my face looks like this:


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. 

Really? Really. 

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? 

19 comments:

  1. I haaaaaaate hate my front teeth! They aren't in line and I hate them. Any time I complain about them to people or dentists (dentists aren't people, apparently) they look at me like I'm crazy.

    But I'm not. My front teeth are crooked and horrible.

    Love this post!

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    1. Well, obviously, I went and stalked your blog and I have NO clue what you are talking about because you are STUNNING :)

      But I get it: it's so easy to fixate on the flaws you perceive in yourself. I'm with you on that.

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  2. I'm laughing and laughing and laughing. I wanted my gap GONE for so many years, so I GET YA. Now I'm so thrilled to have it. INSTANT SQUIRT GUN, ANYONE?

    also...I go to the dentist quite often (teeth SHENANIGANS) and once tried to eat oatmeal at Starbucks with a woman sitting across the table from me RIGHT AFTER I got a root canal...and all the oatmeal rolled right out of my mouth like an avalanche.

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    1. Jamie! Instant squirt gun! This is the best bit of comfort I have ever received. And truly, your gap is a thing of beauty. Learning to love mine too!

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  3. I too didn't have insurance for a while & then once I did have it slacked as well - so I feel you! I've now been going quite regularly & just had to have 4!! cavities filled, 1 was actually drilled out & re-filled, but boy my teeth we're sensitive for months & I'm barely getting back to being fine. I also had braces when I was younger and noticed my two front teeth have been separating a bit, but not enough to freak out yet! Hopefully these little gaps stop moving & nobody notices but us :)

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    1. Definitely no one notices but you! But still, that sounds like a painful process you went through. My teeth sensitivity didn't last that long, thank goodness. Hope you're feeling better!

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  4. Ha! Minus one substandard military dental visit, I also had not been to the dentist for four years until this week! No cavities for me, but I did get a very stern lecture on flossing. Thanks for the pep talk. It's something we could all stand to remember a little more often!

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  5. I hate going to the dentist and i HATE the gap in my front teeth. But it's something Brandon thinks I completely overreact about. When I become rich and famous, my first stop will be getting implants and never worrying about it again ;)

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  6. My braces came off two years ago, so I'm always worried that my teeth will shift back. Not enough to wear my retainer regularly though. I have a little gap at the side, but considering how bad my teeth were before I can live with it. :)

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    1. Exactly! A little gap never hurt anyone :)

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  7. I'm probably going to the dentist next week, and I'm really, really hoping for no cavities or news of that sort. You're so right that we pay WAY more attention to ourselves than anyone else does. My husband never had braces and has a tooth gap that he's a little self-conscious about--he uses the nearly free method of wrapping those tiny clear plastic hair ties--the super small ones, around his two front teeth, every once in a while while he's sleeping or at home or something for the day, and that helps keep the gap closed.. Obviously that is not a dentist-approved technique--it's one we heard of from a friend's mom years ago, what she used to do for her own teeth, haha!

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    1. I AM BUYING THESE HAIR TIES YOU SPEAK OF!!

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  8. HOW has it taken me so long to find your blog? Thanks, because now I'm going to cease doing actual work at my job and just get caught up on every post you've ever written. BTW, I currently have Invisalign (after two years of metal braces in my past) because my teeth shifted years later. Why did no one inform me this was a lifetime commitment? I also wrote about my experience in my blog outlining why adult braces are the LITERAL WORST - http://alia15.tumblr.com/post/127718550723/rotd-invisalign

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    1. Ali! This comment makes me SO happy. I'm hopping over to your blog post right NOW!

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  9. Ugh I hate the dentist. Every single time I go I get a hygienist who continuously stabs my gums and then makes a comment like, "Do you floss? There is an awful lot of bleeding on your gums." Weird how that happens when you are using a sharp object right on and near my gums. Oy vey. Anyway, I haven't been to the dentist in a little over a year. I'm not sad about it right now, but probably will be when I end up in dentures at 50.

    I've got all kinds of weird hang ups. I feel like all of them are just so weird that only my husband and my sister know about them so I'll probably just keep those that way.

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    1. Yeah, dentists can be super judgmental lol! That's the one thing I get nervous about whenever my checkup comes around.

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  10. I love your boldness in sharing this--hilarious and so relatable. I had a similar moment like this a few weeks ago at work when I realized an lunchtime my shirt was inside out. The tag was obvious and it's clear it wasn't a fashion statement, but no one noticed. And if they did, they didn't care. BTW--you and your "tooth gap" are beautiful!

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  11. You are so right! Why are we so focused on ourselves? I have a tooth on the bottom that I swear is crooked. I can look in the mirror right now and definitely see it. My friends and family don’t know what I’m talking about. I, myself, can’t even see it in pictures. Maybe I’m too vain...or insane!

    Sharon Woods @ Fall Spark Dentistry

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