My mom’s got these big “cover girl” teeth, as she and her dentist call them, and my dad’s got tiny teeth. What do I got? A perfect mixture of the two. Some say I’m eclectic, others say I need Invisalign.
The summer going into high school my teeth were imprisoned behind bars. Luckily, the braces only lasted about 10 months, but the thousands of dollars my parents poured into straightening my pearly whites went down the drain. I hated wearing my retainer because it didn’t fit, and I didn’t tell anyone I needed a new molding done because I was too lazy (a psychologist would probably say I was self-sabotaging myself – but that’s a different story). Like my three brothers before me, I stopped wearing my retainer and my teeth reverted back to how they were pre-jail.
Two of my incisors next to my front two teeth are much smaller than the rest, giving an almost chipped look. My canines are sharp and vampire-esque, and my front two teeth are large – presumably inherited from my mother.
“They’ve got character,” my mom always says.
“Bullshit,” I thought.
A mouthful of character isn’t the type of compliment a girl wants to hear while navigating the rough seas of high school filled with tumultuous waves of self-consciousness and the desire to fit in. But, I was given the opportunity to have the smile I wanted and I squandered it. For that, I had to endure the consequences of irresponsibility.
What was a crooked smile on top of battling weight issues, having a larger than desirable nose, and an unending list of imperfections? Just another something to add to my growing collection of what gave me “character.”
I hated that. My personality gave me character enough – I didn’t need my body spilling the beans that I was unique, too. I thought a perfect smile would make me so much more desirable – I mean, look at Chip Skylark. His fame is entirely based on his majestic, shiny teeth.
I knew it wasn’t just something I made up in my head. Remember Formspring? People actually commented that I should fix my teeth – and as a high schooler, I believed everything Anonymous said. The hardest thing to believe about this is that I actually had a Formspring account, practically begging for bullies to substantiate my self-doubts.
But everything changed in 2013 when I graduated high school and J.Cole released his single, “Crooked Smile.” I like to think it was in response to a Complex article that included the hip hop artist in a list of 11 rappers with bad teeth because I like to think of this article as a response to my Formspring h8rs and my 87-year-old Spanish cousin who said I should see a dentist.
They tell me I should fix my grill, ‘cause I got money now
I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing, but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked – look at how far I done got without it!
Like me, J.Cole battled with his appearance. Although he’s an incredibly successful artist with a voice of an angel, he and I aren’t so different. His song resonated with me and it was oddly comforting knowing that I shared a struggle with a celebrity.
Knowing my parents wouldn’t shell out another dime to fix my teeth, I continued going through the motions. I graduated high school, was accepted to Indiana University and joined a sorority. I lost my virginity during spring break, became the Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey, and made tons of friends throughout college – all with a crooked smile.
My shit is crooked – look how far I done got without it!
I keep my twisted grill, just to show the kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect, but we worth the picture still
“Crooked Smile” is more than J.Cole overcoming a personal beauty standard — it’s an anthem. It’s a song that should be sung every morning as a reminder that flaws only hold you back if you let them.
You wake up, put makeup on, stare in the mirror
But it’s clear that you can’t face what’s wrong
No need to fix what God already put his paint brush on
Your roommate yelling, “Why you gotta take so long?!”
What it’s like to have a crooked smile
J.Cole relates the struggle of having his flaw under constant limelight to the pressures that women feel from society to cover up their imperfections. He uses the platform he created despite his crooked smile to translate his insecurities into a beautiful message that blemishes should be embraced, not covered up.
Easy to say for a celebrity, right? But donning a crooked smile is what helps people like J.Cole and me stand out and succeed in a society that is obsessed with conforming to norms.
Remember the Fairly Oddparents episode when Timmy wishes that everyone looked the same because he was bullied by a dentist for having a large overbite? And remember the moral of the episode is that those differences are essential to our entity, because if we were all the same we’d be gray blobs living in a dull world?
And remember the moral of this article is that the greatest life lessons can be learned from hip-hop artists and cartoon shows and that you should never strip yourself of your imperfections because those individual characteristics and traits are what make you memorable.
I’m keeping my crooked grin because I don’t want to be a gray blob.