Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Change, please.

Jan 12, 2009


(And I'm not talking about coins.)

At some point during my childhood--I think age 10 or 11--I had an accident. My cousin and I were riding our bikes down a steep hill, as we frequently did, trying to see who could go the fastest. Something must have been wrong with one of my tires, or it just wasn't a good day for going so fast,cause before I knew it, me and my bike were over in the ditch. A deep ditch. I was in pain, but it wasn't so bad. Until I saw the blood coming form my mouth. I panicked, jumped up, and ran all the way home crying and thinking surely I was bleeding to death. My cousin followed behind me on her bike. Soon enough I was calmed down by my mother and the bleeding was brought under control. Turned out that in the crash I'd bitten down on the inside of my mouth causing a small cut. Apparently it was a pretty hard bite, because when I was observing my inner lip in the mirror I noticed that one of my front teeth was now slightly chipped in the bottom corner. I just shrugged it off, figuring it was a natural part of my youthfulness. I'd go on to have many more cuts and bruises and marks resulting from falls and bike crashes and ant bites and the like. My cousin did the same (She ended up having a bike accident during which a small rock managed to embed itself in her forehead. The scar stands to this day)
Life went on.
Fast forward to October 2008. I'm at the dentist (a new dentist for me) for a checkup. The lady tells me everything she needs to tell me then proceeds to tell me that my tooth should be "fixed." Her position was that, as a designer (she'd inquired about my "occupation" to assist her in her sales pitch, I suppose) I'd be meeting and talking to new people all the time, so it was important that I have a "perfect smile." I'm guessing a chipped front tooth does not exemplify perfection. She wasn't asking me how I felt about it. She was telling me how I should feel about it.
Never in the 15-16 years since that accident has the tooth posed a problem for me. In all my years of going to dentists and meeting people and talking to people has it been an issue. Further, I'm quite content with it the way it is and sport it proudly as a nostalgic memory.

As a person who understands business and what the bottom line is ($$$), I know that it's in the dentist's best interest to squeeze as much money out of me as possible. "Perfecting" my smile would have meant more money in her pocket. Knowing this and knowing that I have no worries about the tooth, I didn't take what she was saying personally.
But what about the cases where references to one's "imperfections" are taken personally? Seems that sometimes people are fine and secure with themselves until someone else--it only takes one single person--comes along and implies that they aren't good enough as they are. They're told that their smile or nose or way of speaking or place of origin or whatever isn't sufficient. So they have a cosmetic dental procedure or they cut/color/curl/straighten/add weave to their hair or they have nose surgery or they try to abandon their accent in order to speak "better" or they pretend to be from some place they're not. All because they've suddenly been told--after so many years of being perfectly fine with themselves--that they should change. (and I put "please" in the title, but many times it might be a demand.)

To me this is pretty tragic and detrimental to the individualism that apparently--based on the prevailing differences among people of the world--is meant to be.
I mean, isn't individuality a good thing??

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