Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Case for Laugh Lines by Dominique Browning

If you didn't read this article, The Case for Laugh Lines, in The New York Times Sunday Style section this past Sunday, you need to. It's wonderfully written by Dominique Browning. In the piece, Browning talks about how many of her friends are erasing the traces of their identity from their faces. She writes that she believes we have a collective case of late-onset body dysmorphia. She remembers that while reading aloud on a book tour, none of the audience members, who usually express like or dislike through their facial expressions, reacted at all--they weren't able to due to youth-enhancing procedures.

The night before reading Browning's story, I stayed up watching Less Than Zero on Encore. I was struck by the fact that all of the actors' teeth, Jami Gertz's, Andrew McCarthy's and Robert Downey Jr.'s, looked imperfect: not white enough, not straight enough, and not gap-less enough to me. I realized that we've come to a place socially where veneers and perfect teeth are normal--and idiosyncratic, REAL teeth are unattractive or not attractive enough. This realization completely freaked me out. I wasn't aware that I, along with everybody else, had begun to subscribe to this. I drank the Kool-Aid when I almost NEVER drink the Kool-Aid; I swam with Hollywood and the media, whereas I normally think they belong in a locked shark tank of their own, away from all of the other beautiful fishes.

But mostly, I was freaked because I've always had a substantial gap in the set of teeth right next door to my two front teeth. I've had a certain number of people over the years tell me that they liked it. And still, I had it fixed about a year ago. During a routine visit, my dentist offered to fill-in and re-shape (a less expensive alternative to veneers) my top four front teeth to "improve my smile." I could kick myself now for being so easily convinced that my natural, quirky smile wasn't good enough. My gap is gone. And I miss it. So does my husband and my close friends. It's what set me apart, but I stupidly jumped on the beauty bandwagon. And now my smile that was not like anybody else's is gone.

I kept Dominque Browning's article, which doesn't talk about teeth so much as it does wrinkles and grey hair, so that I never drink the Kool-Aid again. I don't want to be an expressionless time fighter. I want to wear my lines, have beautifully long and curly, silver hair and drink my tequila in a rocking chair, remembering all of the good, the bad, the difficult and the beautiful instead of trying to erase it.


katherine said...

When I look at the lines in my forehead and wonder whether I should get botox, my husband tells me that even though 41 (yes that's my age) year old women with botox have smooth foreheads, they still don't look 21. (Keep in mind that I have an autoimmune disease, i.e., weakened immune system and still wonder this, which shows the power of media and/or my own stupidity).

Laura Mauk said...

This gives me chills. Your husband is right. I'd never thought about that. Re: the media/own stupidity, I'm thinking I'm DEFINITELY going to limit Sabine's fashion mag intake as she grows...or at least constantly talk about their depictions.


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