“Have you ever considered getting your teeth fixed?” The photographer bent down to adjust his tripod. “Your gap isn’t that bad–a dentist could probably correct that pretty easily.”
My face turned bright red, which was absolutely not the look I was hoping to rock in my high school graduation photos. “Yeah, I’ve considered it.”
I’ve had gap teeth since the moment they grew in, and yes, I’ve spent a lot of time “considering” the issue. As a kid, the gap between my teeth was extremely pronounced, but it was cute in a way that only five- and six-year-olds can pull off. When my adult teeth grew in, the gap was still there, but it was significantly smaller and not something I really concerned myself with at all. I was too busy reading Sweet Valley books and playing fastball to pay attention to anything else. It wasn’t until I was in the fifth grade and a dentist told my parents that I should probably get braces to “bring those two front teeth together” that I realized the gap was something to be fixed.
Later that year, I was outfitted with purple and turquoise braces–it was 2001, in my defense–and with each passing week, my two front teeth inched closer and closer together. The process was painful, but also somewhat thrilling. By that point I was well aware that gap teeth were not a trait to be desired, so I was excited by the prospect of no longer having a smile that looked like it “belonged on a hillbilly” (a direct quote from a kid who rode the school bus with me).
After eight months, the braces had done their duty. For the first time in my life, my two front teeth were together.
And they remained that way for a grand total of 48 hours.
Yes, after two days of love and togetherness, my teeth decided they’d had enough, and they shifted back to their original places. I was mortified, to say the least, and incredibly disappointed. I don’t even have a picture of myself from that 48-hour period, so it’s almost like it never happened.
And considering how much I’ve come to like my gap teeth, that’s not a bad thing.
Strangely enough, I started appreciating my gap when I moved to Paris in the tenth grade. I say “strangely enough” because the fashion capital of the world is not typically the city where insecure teenage girls go to learn to love their quirks and flaws, but in a happy twist of fate, that’s exactly what happened to me
In the days leading up to my 16th birthday, I found myself walking home from school with my new classmate, Jean Baptiste (who also happened to be the most beautiful teenage boy in all of Paris). He kept looking at my mouth, and I figured that could only mean one of two things: he wanted to kiss me (highly unlikely), or he had just noticed my unsightly gap (far more likely).
Me at age four in 1993 and at 25 today. Mind the gap!
Just before we reached my apartment, Jean Baptiste turned to me and said, “You have les dents du bonheur. That means you’re going to have a good life and be very lucky. ”
Assuming I was lost in translation–there was absolutely no way this gorgeous guy was complimenting me on my teeth, of all things–I did what any teenage girl would do when flustered in the face of French beauty. I turned red and blurted out a strangled “OK, merci,” and then ran home to Google “les dents du bonheurs.”
As it would turn out, I hadn’t misunderstood Jean Baptiste at all. In France, gap teeth are called “les dents du bonheur”, which translates to “lucky teeth,” and those with the coveted gap are are said to have good fortune follow them through life.
Armed with this invaluable information, I spent the remainder of my time in Paris smiling like a maniac at every attractive French boy I came across–and trust me, there were many of them.
In the almost 10 years that have passed since that fateful walk home from school, I’ve come to appreciate my teeth for reasons beyond the approval of Parisian teenagers. Primarily, I love my teeth because they were a genetic gift from my mother. She was also born with gap teeth (although the same dentist who put braces on me capped hers when she was in her early 20s), and it’s really the only physical trait I inherited from her. In appearance, I am very much my father’s daughter, so I’m happy to have something that I can point to and say, “I got it from my mama.” (Truth be told, I would absolutely never say that in real life, but I’m sure you understand the sentiment here.)
Also, I’ve come to the realization that having a gap between my teeth is pretty much the most inconsequential thing ever. To quote kween Kourtney Kardashian, “Kim, there’s people that are dying.” It’s about perspective, and truly, gap teeth are just not that big a deal. In the grand scheme of things, gap teeth don’t even register on the radar of “big deals.” Besides, I like the way my gap looks. It gives me a bit of character; it’s interesting; and in a sea of perfect, orthodontist-approved smiles, it’s a little different. And you know what? Jean Baptiste was right: I have been very lucky, and it is a good life.