By Erica Brown
I want to begin by expressing how much I now resent my childhood dentist.
All through my elementary and middle school years, I would go for my six-month dental cleanings expecting the dentist to take one look in my mouth and tell me I needed braces. Most of my friends and classmates had them, after all, so why was I any different?
It wasn’t as if I welcomed the idea of metal brackets glued to my teeth, strung together with wires and bands in atrocious shades of pink and blue. I wasn’t keen on showing up for monthly appointments where someone would use instruments resembling medieval torture devices to make adjustments, and yet I still wanted my dentist to drop the bomb one day that I needed braces. I wasn’t happy with the way my smile looked, and I wanted to “get them over with” while I was still awkward and pre-pubescent.
Four hair color changes, two cities and 10 years later, I got exactly what I wanted. I have braces. In college. At 21 years old. But these braces, these (thankfully!) clear, plastic torture devices, have brought upon me more awkward moments than I’ve experienced in my entire life.
Dating in college is difficult enough without the added complications of having a mouth full of brackets and wires that like to stick out at odd, unfortunate angles.
When I sat down for a job interview recently with a potential employer, I thought that my braces would make me appear younger and immature, thus hurting my chances of getting hired, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, my employer didn’t even notice I had braces on my teeth until I pointed them out in a moment of self-doubt. That was the first time I truly realized my braces didn’t have to be—and weren’t—the first thing people saw when they looked at me.
I graduate in May. And I’ve come to accept the fact I need to learn how to embrace my braces instead of hiding away my teeth for the next few months. It may be awkward getting food stuck in them during dinner, but it will be worth it. It’s not about how you look to other people; it’s about how you see yourself.