A little while ago, I was at my friend’s house for Shabbos. Her younger sister, who was in second grade, had a friend over; let’s call her T. According to today’s beauty standards, T was absolutely gorgeous. In addition to being physically appealing, her personality was 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 just 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. 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 ignore the whitening toothpaste ads. I wish we could all laugh like that.