Feminism | Posted by Talia on 08/2/2011

Like When We Were Eight

A little while ago, I was at my friend’s house for the weekend. Her younger sister, who was in second grade, had a friend over (let’s call her T) on Saturday night. According to today’s beauty standards, T is absolutely gorgeous, despite the fact that she is only eight years old. In addition to being physically appealing, her personality is totally adorable.

The thing I remember T most for, however, is the fact that she laughed. That is, that she laughed despite the big gap between her two front teeth.

It struck me that this little girl wasn’t afraid to laugh out loud, that she wasn’t afraid to smile. She wasn’t trying to hide her “imperfect” teeth. She didn’t feel self-conscious about it. She just didn’t care that her teeth are not what society tells us is beautiful.

And that just amazes me. I think it’s freaking incredible that T is too young to be hurt by what society tells us is the right way for teeth to look. She’s too young to care.

But at the same time, it hurts me that she’ll get older, and kids will make fun of her and her gap. She’ll get braces, no doubt. Even if she doesn’t end up self-conscious about it, her parents will be self-conscious for her. She’ll get braces, but she won’t forget about the teasing that kids threw at her. You won’t be able to tell that her teeth were ever anything other than straight and even. But she’ll be able to tell. She’ll look in the mirror and remember all the pain those kids, maybe not even purposely, caused her.

Why can’t it be like it was when we were eight? We didn’t care how our teeth looked. We didn’t care if our stomachs stuck out a little bit too much. We didn’t care whether boys liked us or not. Our biggest worries were that spelling test on Friday that we didn’t study for yet and if our big sister would notice we used up her favorite lipstick while playing dress up.

I wish we could all have T’s confidence in how we look. I wish we could all just smile at ourselves in the mirror and tell whitening toothpaste commercials to go screw themselves. I wish we could all laugh like that.

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  • Katherine C. @ at 12:33 am, August 3rd, 2011

    *sigh* This makes me worried for my little sister, who is eleven. She’s already starting to go through the whole “oh I’m too fat, oh maybe I need to shave my legs” thing :( It makes me very sad. I hope T can hold on to her self-confidence.

  • Rebecca D. @ at 2:32 am, August 3rd, 2011

    As a person with a rather large gap between my two front teeth (and rather gappy teeth in general), I really appreciate this. Thankfully I never suffered much teasing about this when I was a kid. And when I was, completely unknown to my bullies, my mom had told me long before that in some parts of Africa, gap-teeth are a sign of beauty (though of course the beauty standards there often lead people to surgically alter their teeth so that they can have gaps). After learning that, and also because I thought it was just plain cool, I grew to love my gap, and whenever I could see the word “braces” coming to me from a mile away I would fight to keep my gaps(also, because I’m scared of braces, but whatever).

    Aside from my natural gap, a lot of my other teeth have a lot of gaps because of baby teeth that never (naturally) fell out. As a result, every now and then it has been suggested that I get braces, despite the fact that those teeth have never caused me any pain. I do happen to be slightly more self-conscious about those teeth, but I love all of the irregularities in my mouth and wouldn’t trade them for anything. Especially if it involves a mouthful of metal.

  • Alexa @ at 11:51 pm, August 4th, 2011

    @Talia- awesome piece :)
    @ Katherine- in my opinion, feminism’s the best “protection” for keeping your little sister from falling into self-consciousness. Maybe she’s not ready for here yet, but other places (like newmoon.com) are stellar for her age group :)

  • Roni @ at 5:08 am, August 6th, 2011

    Aw, good for her. When I was a kid I had a bad overbite, but unlike T I was more self-conscious about it. Mostly because as a child my entire FAMILY picked on me about it. It didn’t stop me from smiling and laughing, but it did make me want braces. :/

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