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I wish I could tell you that that title was a figure of speech or a joke. It’s not.

First, some background.

I was born without both lateral incisors (the two teeth on either side of your front, big teeth), meaning I naturally have two, isolated buck teeth. I didn’t like to make it a big deal, telling people when they asked and enjoying my life.

I feel like it’s a universal trend for middle schoolers and freshmen to be absolute d*uche bags. When I got my braces off, I was given a retainer with two little teeth that would sit where the gaps were. They looked perfect, and after all of these years, it felt like a part of my life I could put to rest.

Yeah, no.

There were rumors flying around that I had dentures, with not a single tooth in my mouth. People would ask me to take my teeth out, but instead of laughing with me, they laughed at me. Someone made my missing teeth their twitter profile picture, and repeatedly posted harassing messages about them (behind my back, on a private account). I couldn’t escape it. It was my own living hell. The beautiful smile I was once so proud of became hidden under a tight-lipped grin. I begged my dentist for implants, with no one knowing how much pain I’d be in if I went under the knife. I gave up. When I left high school, I vowed to keep it a secret and deny it if anyone asked. It worked pretty well.

Until it didn’t.

I was visiting a childhood friend one last time before I transferred to VCU (pre-COVID-19), and we ended up drinking at his fraternity’s house. I don’t usually drink, and ended up down for the count. While spilling my guts in the bathroom, I took my retainer out (who wants barf in their retainer?) and set it on the ground. When I was done, we went back to his apartment. I was lying in bed when it hit me—I had no f*cking teeth. I told him what happened, and he ran back to get them. The next morning, he told me one of his brothers had found them, laughing about whose teeth were they. I was mortified. I knew they’d know it was me, and never wanted to show my face again. All of this time, building a wall around my biggest insecurity, exposed.

Then I looked in the mirror.

flower vase bouquet
Leonardo Wong on Unsplash

Mascara smudged under my eyes, hair an absolute mess—but I was still me. It wasn’t worth the stress and anxiety worrying if someone knew, trying to conform to societal standards. This doesn’t just apply to my teeth—my weight, hair and other physical attributes were taken off pedestals. At the end of the day, they aren’t something I feel the need to change. They’re what make me, me. I’m no longer terrified to answer questions about my teeth and feel beautiful with or without them in.

Note: I recently matched on Bumble with the guy who found my teeth. I have to say, getting called gorgeous by the person who held your teeth felt quite powerful.

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