Unless you’re an unusually self-assured individual, most of us have something about our bodies that we’re not entirely happy with, bits that may be saggy, baggy or craggy. Over the years I’ve made peace with several of my own. That is, until the pandemic struck, and I decided to invest in my crooked teeth, in essence, putting my money where my mouth is.
I’d had braces when I was in my teens and had four teeth extracted to make room, since my mouth, like the face that surrounds it, is very narrow. I had the standard 1960s metal braces, torture devices that came complete with rubber bands that would frequently get unhooked and shoot across the cafeteria during lunch. It was embarrassing – but many of us were armed with these projectiles. It was just part of being a kid – one with crooked teeth.
So – from the time I was 17 until I was in my mid-20’s, my teeth were straight. And then they weren’t. My bottom teeth began to crowd in front like tween girls at a Harry Styles concert, and one front top tooth angled in. Now in my 60’s, I’d lived with my crooked teeth for decades – so why fix them now?
I have to admit that one of the motivating factors was my mother. One day, about eight years ago, during an uncharacteristically calm and quiet visit, I heard a noise from across the room. It sounded like a grandma’s sloppy kiss or a dinner date trying to dislodge food from a molar. As my ears focused – I realized that it was my mother, staring hard at me and making the age-old “tsk tsk” sound.
“What a Shame”
She repeated it until I made the mistake of asking what was wrong. She wasted no time in replying. “What a shame,” she said. “What’s a shame?” I asked. “So much money,” she said. “What?” I asked. “So much money. We spent all that money on your teeth and now look at how crooked they are.”
OK – so there it was. I had no response. My teeth were indeed crooked and it only took about 40 years for my mother to bring up how my mouth and I had squandered my parents’ hard-earned money. I acted as her comment didn’t bother me, but my mother knew better. After she passed away I recalled that conversation often. I believe that she was part of the impetus for my dental expenditure, even years after she was gone.
But it wasn’t until I started writing a screenplay, in which I hoped to play the main character, who coincidentally looks just like me, is my age and shares my name, that I decided to get braces. (Please don’t fault me for dreaming big.) I figured that my chances of getting cast in the role of “Mona” would be much improved if my teeth were straight. In fact, although I talked a good game about the health benefits of the dental procedure I had embarked on, it was the aesthetics, a must for the big screen (or a streaming service, I’m not picky) that became the primary motivation for fixing my teeth.
After six months, I was done with 24 sets of invisible liners and my teeth lined up like a small white-washed picket fence. I couldn’t stop staring and smiling at myself on Zoom calls and admiring my reflection in each mirror I passed. I obviously had been self-conscious for a long time and was now thrilled with my new dental lineup.
That said, I was distressed to discover that when I unveiled my choppers for friends I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic – most said that they hadn’t even noticed my teeth were ever crooked ... ARGH. So much money, I thought ... (Ah, but the casting directors will notice, I’m almost sure of it.)
Mona is a former vocalist, a freelance publicist and is still working on her screenplay and a book of essays about her mother.