Me and my big, goofy smile. That takes over half my face. I’ve always had a big mouth - physically and symbolically. "Shy, retiring violet" would not be the label most would give me. And yet, I used to wish it was. I wanted to be less visible, less opinionated and have a smaller mouth.
Most kids have a temporary gap when their adult teeth first come through but mine became a permanent feature. And big lips, a big mouth and big, gappy teeth are not what your average 10 year old needs. So I used to get teased. Alot.
The older I got though, and the more examples I came across of gappy teeth being valued in their own way, the less ill at ease I became with my particular looks: as a 12 year old in France I learnt that they are called 'dents du bonheur' (and that one of the nation's hottest sex symbols - Vanessa Paradis - also shared my 'diastema'); and as a 17 year old at school, I stumbled upon Chaucer’s “gap-toothed wife of Bath”. Her gap symbolised her 'lasciviousness', and whilst I didn't really have a clue what that meant at the time, it did make me secretly a little bit proud.
So I grew to live with my gap. And to even sort of like it.
And then....it went.
Just like that.
Aged 42, I still have a big mouth, big lips and big teeth but I am no longer gap-toothed. (Who knew that teeth continue to move all throughout adulthood?)
And now that it is gone, I kind of miss it. I realise that my gappy teeth were actually quite a big part of who I am. They were a tiny bit of me that made me stand out. A teeny, tiny definer of who I was.
Which got me thinking about which of our physical traits we identify with the most: what is it about you that makes you feel really you: your hair (its colour or length)? Your eyes (their shape or colour)? Your height? Your shape? Your size? Your skin colour and tone?
And do you identify with this feature because of what other people have said to you? Or because of how you yourself feel about it?
I realised that it is definitely easier NOT to stand out for something that defines you as physically different to other people, but it is also way more boring. And since different cultures value different forms of beauty, what could be seen as ugly in one, might be the epitome of sexiness in another.
Because beauty really is subjective. And those that feel beautiful inside really do radiate that out, regardless of their individual, physical features.
Embrace your unique traits and your particular form of beauty now. Because you never know, one day they might disappear and you’ll never have had the chance to question why you identified with them and to relish just how amazing they were.... 😇