The photo above was taken yesterday afternoon when Jen dropped KK off at my apartment for one of her periodic overnight visits. This time out, the aunty/niece agenda included a three course meal at the Olive Garden (beloved by both KK and I), then a trip to the bowling alley for two games of cosmic bowl, with a splash of air hockey and Dance, Dance Revolution. I was ready for bed at 10:30 PM.
Anywhoo, those who are familiar with my face may notice a distinct difference upon viewing the snapshot. That is right – after 25 years of fleeing from cameras, scowling at people and covering my mouth when I spoke in public, I am free at last. No more snaggle teeth, and no more braces!
22 months of orthodontic treatment have taken me to a moment in time I could only fantasize about in my teens and 20s, a world where I can laugh at a joke without panicking that if I open my mouth too wide, I will disgust people (including myself). I cannot overstate what a source of shame, ridicule and sadness my crooked teeth have been to me for about as long as I can remember – the result of a first grade radiator face plant. But rather than dwell on unpleasantness, I would rather mention the tears of elation I shed on Friday morning in Dr. Colleen’s chair, my orthodontist, as she debuted the new Me to the most disbelieving of audiences – myself.
I really feel like a different woman now. It may sound shallow or vain, but the removal of my braces is truly one of the happiest events in my entire life, not withstanding the births of Jen’s girls and a few other milestones. This moment however, unlike a birth or wedding, is just for me, the first instance I can recall since six years of age when I can gaze in the mirror and genuinely appreciate the person looking back at me. Self-love has never been easy, and when it has come, I have only ever been able to recognize my inner worth. Outwardly? Well, the same way that Jen labeled me the “smart one” on Day 1 of this blog (which is a misleading label as my sister is clearly up there with the brightest), I was accustomed to idolizing her as the “pretty one.” I probably always will, as Jen is one mad hot MILF, but at long last I can allow that maybe, just maybe, I am not too shabby looking myself.
That’s huge. It’s impossible for anyone, even those who love me the most, to fully grasp just how big. I feel I have been let out of prison: the real, beautiful, confident and fabulous me locked away, for years, in an ivory tower of embarassing chompers. If I can overcome 25 years of shame by giving myself the keys to a vast self-esteem improvement, there’s probably nothing I can’t do. In my own socially responsible way, that makes me dangerous. I may even learn to smile.