Thursday, January 10, 2008

by the skin of my chipped teeth

I have to believe that if straight, pretty teeth had always been such a desirable attribute, people wouldn't have persisted very long. Teeth are useful tools. Even with access to scissors and steel knives and various and sundry other cutting apparatus, I rely on mine a whole lot. And it shows. But I doubt anybody's going to notice my front and center chips and think, "now there's a lady who doesn't mess around with stubborn soba noodle packaging, oh no, she an industrious force to be reckoned with." They probably just think I can't afford, or fail to prioritize, cosmetic dentistry. It seems so recent in our modern western history that we've created such a high standard for attractive teeth. Orthodontics aren't strictly functional anymore, restoring grossly deformed smiles into average grins or fixing misaligned bites so fundamental chores -say, eating or talking- can occur with less difficulty. Suddenly the whole world (or the whole world according to commercial advertising executives) sports a perfect set of pearly whites, tall and straight and stainless. Those of us who weren't blessed with ideal choppers from birth, or are disinclined to take the expected steps to acquire them after market, are left feeling a little inadequate. Or, we're supposed to feel inadequate. That's the message anyway. Whiter! Brighter! Straighter! More! Okay, maybe not the more (though surely permanently missing teeth carry a heavier stigma now than in times past), but it's untestable that we're not bombarded with images of perfect teeth all the time. Are we really supposed to live in a world where teeth aren't useful tools anymore? Are we really supposed to look like we never indulge in tea or coffee or red wine or betel nuts?

I was thinking recently (and probably talked about this with at least a couple of you -ha, there only are a couple of you- so my apologies if this is recycled -reduce, reuse, you know. . .) about Whatever Happened to Mediocre? Have you noticed this? It used to be okay not to be the best at everything. Now, every five year old on a soccer team might be the next Beckham (and parents yell from the sidelines accordingly) with all the hopes of scholarships and endorsement deals ascribed thereto. Oh, sure there's lip service given to being your "personal best" but the prominent, throbbing vein poking out from all of this is that we should really push ourselves to be THE best. But we can't all be the best at everything. We can't even come close.

With these chemical bleach strips, though, we can give the illusion that we are. And I guess that's all that matters.

3 comments:

midgettroyani said...

I must admit I've thought of whitening my teeth. It's hard to resist b/c everytime I go to the dentist (about every 6 months), I'm told what a great candidate I am for whitening! I don't drink coffee or tea or smoke cigarettes.

But I don't trust their chemical whiteners. They make me nervous. I worry it's like smoking or DDT or unlimited sun bathing or something: we just haven't seen the long term effects yet. I wonder that it's one of those things where people will look back and say, "And people thought there were no side effects? Of putting chemicals on their TEETH?"

I suspect someday that people who whitened their teeth will be sorry. Sure, they got a few good years of white smiles that made them look younger and healther, but now they have sprouted another ear on their forehead OR now their teeth have turned to a powdery dust OR their gums just won't stop bleeding.

Then you and I can sit here w/ our chipped, yellow teeth and laugh and laugh and--you know-- chew our food.

Angelina said...

I do sometimes feel sad that my teeth get yellower every year. I just know a day is going to come when I will hear a private conversation in which my teeth are described as "horsey".

That being said, I happen to be a big fan of diversity in teeth. I especially like mildly crooked teeth. I don't mind straight teeth but only if they aren't uniform in shape and length. I like white teeth, but I don't like blaring white teeth. I love gaps between front teeth and am sad to this day that both my mom and my sister had theirs closed as teens.

I am not sure I ever make friends with people whose teeth I don't admire in some way. Which is really weird to think about and is certainly not conscious.

I have only one real prejudice and that's unfixed missing teeth. I am not proud of that. I think seeing big holes in sets of teeth immediately makes me think of rough living and bad health. What isn't fair is that some people don't fix their missing teeth because they don't care, or they can't afford to.

I have terrible teeth and I just know that one day soon I'm going to start losing them. It will serve me right, I suppose, if when that day comes I find I can't afford to replace them.

ivy/lynnie said...

I remember when it women didn't worry about their upper arms. Didn't even think of them! Or how "toned" any pert of their body was for the most part. Everyone still thought thin was the best- but even then there were varying sizes of thin. Like you could be curvy and not be considered fat like nowadays. And there were different sized breasts too! Evey now and then I'll see a very small breasted actress on t.v., but it's rare. It's like that's not allowed anymore.

The white teeth bother me. When I was little, the only people past 30 with really white teeth were wearing fake choppers. All these dayglow teeth look weird to me.

I sound so old.