I did something recently I’d never do voluntarily when I was a child. Actually, there’s a laundry list of things that I’d not do as a kid that I’d do now: sleep in a basement, eat vegetables willingly, go jogging, catch bugs in the house and take them outside for release, etc. But, despite a deep seated fear of the dentist and the interest in going willingly without major jaw trauma first as a factor, I got my teeth cleaned by a professional. I’m not proud that it’s been over a decade, but as an artist’s life is not conducive to dropping that kind of money one of these visits require, it wasn’t a need.
I’m pleased to say now that there are no major problems other than about a pound of tartar build up. Which is lucky, since given the fact there have been times my dietary choices have not been the most healthy, that could have gone south fast. However, even now I can’t stop running my tongue over my teeth which I fear is making me look somewhat predatory. I also can feel the retainer permanently affixed to my lower front teeth a lot more prominently. Of all the things I’ve done to alter my appearance, I find this is the one things that’s withstood the test of time. Body piercings have been removed and allowed to grow over, corset training waxes and wanes with the season (summer in corsets is hot, okay?) and dyed hair fades and grows out. But altering my skull to fit conventional beauty has to be the biggest shift I’ve done.
While orthodontics are fairly common, when you stop and reflect, it seems kind of hardcore. In my ‘tween’ years, my parents paid money to have pieces of my skull removed (I had too many teeth, and thus an overcrowded jaw) so that metal devices could be fitted to them to retrain the remains to fall into a line that was pleasing to the eye. To speed along the process and get my jaw better aligned, I also wore a headgear. Yes, between that and the glasses I wore in grades six to eight, along with a bookish nature and a affinity for all things dragons, I don’t know how any self-respecting bully could be expected to just walk by. But after all of the changes to my teeth, the little white pearls in the oyster of my mouth, a giant terrifying clamp of doom (as I recall them to be) were placed into my mouth to remove the metal brackets and wires. Except for one that remains, to this day, attached on my lower jaw bone. The thing is, this isn’t even a unique story. I’m not sitting in a minority here… lots of kids get this done while being told that they will have a beautiful smile, it’s worth it, it’s not forever, and so on. Do I enjoy my smile now as an adult? Totally. But younger me was clearly thinking ‘fuck that noise’.
What amuses me now is, despite having part of my skull removed to make myself more attractive, isn’t something that people think is weird. I practice semi-permanent body modification with corsetry when dying of heat exhaustion isn’t a problem. Semi-permanent because I’m not as hardcore a waist trainer as icons like Cathy Jung or Mr.Pearl and also because, again, sometimes I like to have my waist unrestricted so the results don’t last as long as someone who wears it 23 hours a day. But when I do wear corsets, people get a little odd. A little presumptuous, even. Personal space becomes null and void, your lifestyle becomes the subject of questioning as well as your sanity. Strangers are happy to give you health advice about what you are doing is crushing your organs and slowly killing you.
It’s the grabby-grabby that gets me when I am in waist training mode. People make all kinds of assumptions and person space becomes a figment of your imagination. I’m not alone in this; anyone from the illustrated to the branded to the implanted can likely share a tale about someone getting touchy-feely without asking first. I know that we are attracted to touch such unique and interesting humans, but social decorum and impulse control must be observed. After all, I know a number of parents-to-be that will not appreciate a pregnant belly handled without invitation… I can only imagine how they’d react if someone poked their child in the mouth to finger their dental work like the kid was a prize show pony or something.
And yet, as fantastical as we find these self imposed decorations are, there are still places that ask their employees to cover up tattoos, remove jewellery from piercings, etc. I was sad to witness my bank teller being hissed at to ‘cover up’ when her half sleeve threatened to poke out past her shirt. Now, I know some corporations think that ink denotes some kind of weird inability to do your job effectively, but it vexes me. As long as she can handle my account needs, her body alterations through her casual business attire in no way bother me. By that logic, you should have everyone with masks over their mouths if they’ve worn braces or had orthodontic surgery done in their lives.
It’s a weird contradictory world we seem to exist in. Frankly, I’m looking forward to when, in another forty years time, we’ve all aged and we still think our hipster tattoos are funny, if for no other reason than to embarass the next generation. In the meantime, I’ve got some very expensive body mods to maintain, so I’d better go and brush my teeth.