It's official. The preliminary work is complete, the down payment made, and the appointment set. On April 10, 2006 at 11:10 a.m. I'm getting braces. Again. When I was 14, I was ecstatic to be getting braces, at 25, not so much. Back then braces were my gateway. On the eve of the appointment, I wasn't thinking about having to show the world a mouth full of metal for the next two years (turned into three because of popped brackets, missed appointments, etc.). The only thought that filled my mind was that I was on the road to being beautiful. Back then being beautiful meant being perfect. Perfect body, perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect face, perfect teeth. Braces symbolized jumping my first hurdle. Teeth, check. Only the body, hair, clothes, and face to go. The moment the brackets and wires were cemented to my teeth, I felt a thousand times better about my looks. When I smiled people wouldn't just see a wide gap between my two front teeth, they'd see that I cared enough to fix it. They would look past the braces to see what I could be.
Impacting wisdom teeth, a second growth spurt, and breaking my retainer have undone all the original treatment and created new problems. Initially, I didn't care. I even thought my slightly crooked bottom tooth added personality. And I didn't mind the small space that reopened on the top either. It gave me character. Somewhere along the line after high school, I stopped equating beauty with perfection. I learned to see just how beautiful imperfection can be.
Now that I'm getting braces again, I'm back to where I was in high school in more ways than one. To be completely honest, the reason I decided to fix my smile now is because I want the work to be finished ASAP, so I can look perfect in my wedding photos (yes, I know I'm criminally single, but it's good to be prepared). The pursuit of perfection rears its ugly head again. Or maybe not. I had no intention of fixing my smile's imperfections until they became too imperfect. It was fine when they were barely noticeable, something interesting to discover upon closer inspection. Now they are blatant, noticeable at first glance. I often wonder if people see the flaws first, the way I do, before the dimple in my left cheek or the gleam in my eyes every time I smile.
Unlike my first go round with braces, I'm not looking forward to being in the orthodontist's chair this time. I don't want spaced out, crooked teeth, but I don't want braces either. My perspective has changed. Now, I see it as trading one glaring imperfection for another. I can't reconcile wearing braces with the way I want to look. Take a moment and picture this scene. You see a tall, lean, African American woman walking down the street. The sun radiates off her skin, a massive afro frames her face, and her barely there make up is flawless. A pair of upper thigh grazing shorts accentuate legs that seemingly have no end and a body hugging tank draws attention to the gentle curve of her bust. She glides along the sidewalk in high heel sandals, commanding the attention of everyone who passes. As her path crosses yours your eyes meet and you hold her gaze. A warm blush spreads across her cheeks and she parts her lips in a metal mouth smile. SEE!!! The braces ruin it!
No, I'm not the only adult who's going to be walking around with braces. But to be honest, I've always felt that they looked a tad bit ridiculous. And if I feel that way looking at other people, I know that someone is going to feel that way looking at me. Yeah, yeah, I shouldn't care what people think. But unlike most folks, I'm going to be honest and say that I do. I already feel self concious whenever I open my mouth. I often find myself talking with my hand casually shielding my mouth so people won't stare at everything that's wrong in there. I'm getting my teeth fixed so I won't feel compelled to do that any more. In this case, the cure is worse than the disease and I'll feel more self concious than ever. I explored the options with Invisalign and removeable retainers, but none of them were viable solutions to the problem. So I've gotta go full out with metal braces, complete with a tooth extraction and rubber bands. Hopefully, I'll feel better about how they'll look over the two years I'll be wearing them. And who knows, maybe I'll meet a man with braces and when we kiss there will be sparks. Or our teeth could just get stuck together.