Good morning, everyone! Today I thought I'd discuss an often unaddressed accessory in personal style: the smile!
A blogger I follow* recently wrote a piece called The Fingerprints of Poverty that I found meaningful.It was that piece, and some friends of mine who grew up in poverty and shared their experiences with me that made me realize that I am solidly middle class, and one of the things that marks me as American middle class is my teeth.
*Incidentally, fans of Steampunk, you should check her out. She's an author of Steampunk books and posts on old-fashioned style.
I grew up raised by my father in a single income home. There were a lot of struggles for money growing up, but we were above the poverty line, there was food to eat every day, and I always had a roof over my head.
Then there was the issue of our teeth.
My teeth hate life. I brush. I floss. I rinse with fluoride. They came in covered in grooves and deep natural pits, and they cheerfully do their best to rot out of my head.
An example of the long faces that run in my family:
My father paid for extensive orthodontic and dental work for one of us, and it was me. At the time, I could not for the life of me imagine why, except that my teeth were the worst in the family. Why did I have to get braces? Why didn't we just take the teeth that didn't fit out? Why couldn't my teeth just stay crooked? I could chew fine.
Furthermore, we couldn't actually afford it. My father made that exceedingly clear, because he always talked to me about his financial woes. I didn't figure out until about a year ago that it's because I'm the female child.
I don't think my father even consciously thought of it that way; growing up, there was never a point made of my sex or different treatment that I noticed. But there are little things my father offered that imply he realized, however unconsciously, long before I did, that being pretty counts for more when you're female. I was the one who got braces. He even offered to pay for microdermabrasion for my acne scars when I grew up. (Again, can't. afford. it! Crazy.)
I think we're still very influenced by the idea that women, especially in families that aren't wealthy, marry up. You may have read in evolutionary psychology books like The Red Queen**, that sons are traditionally more valuable to rich families because they can produce more offspring than a daughter, while daughters in poor families have better chances than sons if they're attractive because being able to provide resources doesn't matter as much when you're a woman.
** No links in this post are sponsored, this is just one of my favorite books
And of course as an adult, I realize one of the American middle class hallmarks is even, straight teeth. It's something so common around me that I never questioned it until I traveled abroad and realized other countries don't bother with it nearly so much. Japan even puts a value on the snaggletooth that you don't see here.
So here I am, middle class, boosted up by my father in the hopes that I will do better, except the concept of "do better" is exceedingly vague. I don't know what I'm expected to do, except be good at college. Communication in my family is something of a weak point.
Lately I've been contemplating privilege more, and of course, teeth. I think about how much money went into making me more attractive before I was old enough to realize what attractive was. I still wear my Hawley retainer at night, and I'm fascinated by those new Invisalign deals they have now. Ah, the memories of all the scar tissue in my mouth from braces! People now might not have to deal with that, which delights me.
Did any of you wear braces or headgear? What are other things you can think of that are markers of class?.