A Set Of Keys
TL;DR: Take a picture, it'll last longer.
Originally Written: 29-Nov-2021
Word Count: 1538
Read Time: 7 minutes
Read Score: 76.4 (7th Grade)
When I lost my baby teeth as a kid, my two front teeth came into place in a crooked way.
So crooked, in fact, that I was known for having a huge gap in my teeth all the way through 8th grade.
Guess who got made fun of for their teeth?
Incessant, it was. So much so, it impacted my confidence severely.
I was labeled as ugly when my two front teeth came in.
It didn't matter what I did. It didn't matter how I treated others. I was still teased about it.
As a highly sensitive person, I took it to heart. Every. Single. Time.
It was frustrating that, every time I smiled, it would invite an opportunity for someone to give me a reason to wipe that smile right off my face.
I was bullied for it in class. Even teachers were in agreeance that my teeth were, in fact, contorted.
That was until I got braces.
When I was a kid, getting braces was honestly the most profound experience of my life.
It was life changing, life making even.
For when they were finally taken off in high school, I experienced something I never felt before.
Rinsing my mouth after they took them off, I dropped the cup I was using when I opened my mouth to smile because I was that shocked at how amazing my teeth looked without braces.
I cried. It was a momentous occasion for me and my family knew it.
Gone were the days where I would be teased for having a giant gap in my teeth.
Gone were the days where I would be considered ugly for having a warped smile.
In fact, those days were so gone that it's hard to remember what it was like at times.
In its place, whenever I acquainted myself with others, my teeth were still a matter of discussion.
Because they were fucking perfect.
I can still recall sitting in Algebra 2 where a consensus of a classroom labeled me as fine.
Fine. As. Fuck.
What the fuck?
As a person who was regarded as one who was not regarded at all in the context of attraction, I was shocked.
I was teased so much in middle school for how I looked that, at some point, I started wearing the same, grey, long-sleeved shirt every day that I could.
So I could blend in.
Fade into the background.
Be nothing but a blur.
I wanted to hide.
I don't know if you know this but middle schoolers are the most evil type of people on the planet.
It was nothing short of traumatic the way I was treated by kids in school.
Everyone liked to pick on Brian, the smart kid with glasses and a toothy grin who never fought back.
I was one hell of a target.
In those days, grades were how one measured one's worth.
Grades were what I was good at getting, especially good ones.
Grades were what pulled me through my experience of childhood as meaningful.
Grades were meaningful to me because they were the only thing I could control or have an impact on.
There was no place for me at the cool kids' table during lunch, but there were always seats in a library.
Labeled a loser and a loner, I didn't have many friends.
In fact, I had but one friend during most of that time.
Even still, his parents didn't like me and even tried nudging me away from him, which is sad.
Imagine being told by your best friend's dad that you should find other friends.
It hurt. A lot.
Tangent aside, I know what it's like to feel invisible in comparison to people who others would rather fawn over. I know what it's like to feel jealous of a person for being good looking.
I know because I was reminded on a constant basis that I was not.
Not just that, but during what are some pretty fucking formative stages of life as we lay the foundation for what we call our identity.
So, when faced with the experience of being called cute, sexy, and hot, I scoffed.
In fact, I couldn't believe it.
This is just another setup, I'm sure of it.
But it wasn't.
Suddenly, overnight, I went from ugly to fine as fuck.
It was nothing short of jarring, if not unacceptable.
People who used to tease me like it was their job suddenly were courteous to me, nice even.
Whenever I talked, people wanted to listen.
I wasn't ignored, cut off, or remarked at for being a troll.
In fact, I was elevated in status to a position I couldn't help but find nauseating.
Fuck pretty privilege.
Pretty privilege is a thing. If anyone tells you otherwise, they're fucking delusional.
Or a narcissist.
What is pretty privilege?
It is the idea that being considered more attractive will mean you receive more opportunities and more 'social goods' than if you are considered unattractive.
Who benefits from this?
Typically white, thing, young, cis-gendered, and able-bodied individuals.
If you have ever looked at a fat person and labeled them as lazy because of their size, you are feeding into the problem that is pretty privilege.
Even moreso, when we look at people as attractive and assume good qualities in them, what we are doing is placing a halo on them.
The halo effect is also something referred to as the "physical attractiveness stereotype" and the "what is beautiful is also good" principle.
It assumes that, if one is pretty to look at, that they too must be kind, smart, and funny.
In fact, fuck you.
Fuck you to every person who ever made me feel like I needed to look a certain type of way just for my thoughts, opinions, and perspectives matter.
Fuck you to every person who ever thought that what mattered first about me was how you felt when you saw me smile.
Fuck you to every person who ever did anything mean to me just because of how I looked.
For I am still the same person that endured that hate.
I am still the same person that struggled to find a place.
I am still the same person that is trying to feel like they belong somewhere.
But, for the love of god, where I do not belong is on a fucking pedestal.
I am not perfect, but that does not stop people from projecting that I am or want to be.
The problem with being put on a pedestal is that, invariably and in time, people will get tired of seeing you there. In fact, the people who put you on a pedestal are often the same ones willing to tear you down when you don't embody what they project you to be.
When you're not perfect to a person who regards you as such, they feel betrayed.
So betrayed, in fact, that sometimes they cannot deal with the reconciliation required to perceive you as the person you are over the person they thought you were.
Such was the case when an argument erupted in my apartment with my boyfriend and shit 'went down'.
The context of the situation does not matter, but the climax does.
In a heated moment, my boyfriend hurled a set of keys at my face.
They made contact with my mouth.
In a split second I went from angry to bawling my eyes out.
The taste of metal in my mouth swam around as I felt my teeth shatter into pieces.
Years of trauma surged up as I realized I was back in a position I hadn't been in since I was 12.
The smile that carried me through the years was gone.
Though the damage has been repaired and apologies have been made, the pain is still there.
At least, every time I open my mouth to brush my teeth, all I can think of now is that moment.
Considering that fate, I reconcile my present as something I can be grateful for.
Looks are temporary, hardly even lasting.
But what has had a lasting impact is what my former self decided to do in such moments of peril.
I am so grateful for being teased the way I was.
I am so grateful for being cast away as an invalid from the cool kids.
For I learned something then that holds true to me today.
My beauty lies within, not within the frame of my mouth.
My strength is not in my muscles, it is in my mind.
My power is mine to behold, not for others to dictate.
I am a free agent, with no attachments to others as meaningful to the cause of feeling valid.
For my validation comes with the continued practice of compassion I have for myself.
Nothing can change that.
Ugly was what I felt I was as a child.
Ugly is what I will one day be again in old age.
But, through time, what has persisted will.
Including the thought of where I came from every time I brush my teeth and grin.