“When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” How could I—how could anyone—not be seduced by these words? So what if a toothpaste commercial borrowed Louis’ line?
Borrowed. Pilfered. Plagiarized. Bastardized. Whatever.
Before you decide to read on, be mindful of one key fact: this is a manifesto about teeth, not truth in advertising or the power of positive thinking or jazz’s shift from collective improvisation to solo performance. To be clearer: this is a mission statement about how I, Amie Heasley, view my teeth. (It’s okay. I hear the buzzing of your oven timer, and yes, of course tater tots are best served medium well. Sure, now is a good enough time as any to get back to that documentary on gypsy weddings.)
Then let me continue avoiding the point. While I have plenty of anxiety when tackling new writing ground, I’ve found my angst is at a fever pitch when I’m not writing anything. Idle minds are fine, but I simply cannot bear idle keyboards. (Because I type with purpose. I make those keys, especially t and a, my bitch.) That being said, sometimes I do find it painful—like a shin perpetually ramming a coffee table—to write. The pain comes from two sources: 1. lack of confidence and 2. lack of plot.
For this dissertation, which again, is about teeth, we’ll briefly examine 2. (Because let’s face it: nobody can save my SELF from my ESTEEM. I will find the right literary moment to replace “drunk” with “tight,” but I’m certain I will never ever locate my inner Hemingway. Okay, it’s official: there are too many colons and parenthetical statements in this piece. Fuck, fuck, fuck, I’m leaning too heavily on adverbs. And obscenities. I shouldn’t start sentences with and. Or end them with and. Or start them with or. Fuck.)
See what I mean about plot.
Despite my issues with confidence, I like to get good and lost. Most of the time I like to get good and lost in characters. Human beings are what interest me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been embarrassing my loved ones by ogling people in all settings, from churches to strip clubs. (Actually, I’ve never been inside a strip club. This is another “problem” with writing. It encourages you to [James] Frey.)
What in God’s name does any of this have to do with teeth? Patience. We’re getting there. We’re just taking the scenic route. You said you wanted to see the largest ball of twine in the Midwest, so you will goddamn see the largest ball of twine in the Midwest, along with the tiniest ball and the medium-ist ball. (And yes, we will snap pictures of you smiling in front of each ball.)
Back, ahem, nearer to the point.
Like most people, one of the first things I notice about other people is ... wait for it ... wait for it ... their smile. Research has shown that those who often smile are “perceived to be more in control, at ease and attractive than those who don’t” (Lau, 1982). Studies have even revealed a link between smiling and general health and well-being.
Today, teeth aren’t just for eating anymore. Bleaching, bonding, contouring, reshaping—cosmetic dentistry has become an art form (albeit a creepy one). Everyone seems to be paying the price to say cheese celebrity style. Everyone, that is, except me.
Look, my mother couldn’t afford braces for me growing up, but now that I’m all growns up, I could spring to have at least some work done on my grill. So if I’m not confident in my smile, why don’t I do something about it? I could tell you it’s because I, like the other 9 to 20 percent of Americans, am afraid of the dentist. (I guess I just did tell you that. Yet again, it’s stretching the truth. But I managed to sneak in an insightful statistic.)
Yes, I’d probably rather spend an hour cleaning my toilets than sitting in a dentist’s chair. Yes, I’d probably rather spend hundreds on stuff that stains my teeth than stuff that whitens them. Yes, I have superficial wishes I wish I didn’t have—wishes of being prettier, thinner, younger. Smilier.
Yes, my crooked teeth are part of what makes me Amie Heasley. They aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. Maybe they’ll change. Maybe I won’t. Either way, I hope my teeth reflect more of my character and less of my plot. I’m happy, I’m blessed far beyond most, and on the inside, I’m all smiles.