That Crooked Smile

They say that conventional attractiveness is often dictated by how symmetrical your face is, with facial symmetry influencing perceived traits such as beauty, health, and generally good genes. I know I’m not conventionally hot, but if I may say so myself, I’m pretty damn happy with my appearance, and believe me, my face is anything but symmetrical. In photos, my right side is my good side, and I want to set fire to the photos taken from the left; they look nothing like how I see myself, and this is in part to my smile.

Let’s get the ugly word out of the way – snaggle tooth. It’s a hideous term for an imperfect tooth structure (typically involving one or both of the canine teeth), and it’s something the left side of my face has been graced with since puberty. My teeth aren’t straight by any means, but this singular tooth literally rises above the rest and distorts the left side of my smile while leaving a gap in any toothy photos taken from my left. Why didn’t I get braces when this happened? A few reasons. The main one is that I was a vain teenager who was in love with her best friend, and getting braces would ruin my chances of that ever happening (guess what? It didn’t). I used the excuse that I lost all my baby teeth quite late (which I did), but if I hadn’t been so concerned with how I looked as a not-even-fully-formed human, my world might be different now.*

But there was another factor – I just didn’t care at the time. No one ever pointed it out or mocked me for it, and I barely noticed it myself; I knew it was there, but I was never much of a teeth-smiler anyway, so it never really came up. The first time it was ever brought up was at my 19th birthday dinner, when I had been dating someone for about 6 months. Someone jokingly asked if now that I had a boyfriend, would I be getting braces to fix my rogue tooth? I shrugged it off, saying I really didn’t care, and I didn’t; the first time I cared came at my college graduation a few years later, when in a photo taken from the left, it looked like I was missing a tooth. I hated it, and my insecurity about this TEENY part of me has now changed my entire face.

I smile crooked. It sounds endearing, but really it’s just a habit formed over a decade of hiding a single insecurity. How sad is it that every genuine smile I break into is actually representative of my own self-loathing? I’m now at the point where I’d do anything to get rid of that single tooth, and all that comes with it; to not have it poking out of my lip in some photos, to not avoid showing it in the most genuine of laughs, and to not Photoshop in a little white patch to all those photos taken from my left side.

But then sometimes, I read a book, and the author describes a female character with a crooked smile coming across their face. When I imagine someone with confidence and attitude, I imagine a crooked, coy smile that comes naturally, and I count myself lucky to be a part of that group. It represents my personality in a way that most people’s facial expressions cannot, and that’s pretty cool, that my face has caught on to who I am as a person. Maybe one day I will tame my tooth, and it won’t be necessary to contort my mouth around it, or maybe I’ll name it Steve and we’ll grow old together. Who knows! This is my smile. It’s weird, it’s unconventional, and it’s not always easy to love, but that’s how I’d describe any successful relationship of mine, so maybe we’ll be just fine.


*Answering the inevitable question of why I never got braces as an adult: over the age of 18, insurance companies consider braces to be cosmetic, and they aren’t covered, which means thousands and thousands out of pocket.

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