Sunday, September 29, 2013

How Having Braces Changed My Life

[As published on HERE]

When I was growing up, I was the token fat kid. The one nobody wanted to be friends with. I had a crush on this guy at school, and somehow (kids can never keep secrets) he found out. He told his friend I was fat and ugly, and I was sad for a long time. To top it off, I had an underbite and my teeth were spectacularly crooked in the worst was possible.
Kind of like this, but nowhere as cute.
I was called nicknames like ‘taugeh’ (which means beansprout. Its curved shape resembled my profile), ‘moon face’ (crescent moon, of course) and fatty (because that was totally a no-brainer).
Once, during a school trip, while wearing a cap and a jacket, I was mistaken for a boy by one of the male students. He came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. When I turned around, he did a double take and went, “OH, I THOUGHT YOU WERE A BOY!” and pushed me away.
I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like having my photos taken because my jaw would jut out. I didn’t like showing my teeth for fear of being laughed at.
Back in the day, collecting the most number of handwritten wishes like ‘I have a pen, my pen is blue. I have a friend, my friend is you’ and ‘the biggest ship in the world is friendSHIP’ was a direct indication of how popular you were. I resented the cuter girls who received all the attention. Their yearbooks were full of messages – you could hardly find any blank pages in them. I guess my yearbook was decent, I suppose, but nowhere near as well-received.
When I was 11 (shortly after the photo above was taken), my mother saw a television ad about braces and how they helped give patients a perfect set of teeth. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and the next thing I knew, I was whisked off to the government dental clinic on the same day. A week later, I had four of my molars extracted. Not only was I fat and ugly with a horrible underbite, now I had gaping holes where my teeth were supposed to be.
When the brackets (the silver pieces stuck to the surface of the teeth) went on, I was miserable. I was now officially Miss Metal Mouth. It hurt like a b***h, and I could only eat porridge or soup. For the most part of the first two weeks, I was in so much pain I didn’t even feel like eating. And that was saying something, judging by my girth.
(Because I was the only one in class with braces on at that time, my popularity soared for a few days. Everyone wanted to see my metal mouth. Gullible me was happy.)
Having braces on meant I had to give up lots of food I liked. I could no longer chew ice, because the brackets would detach from my teeth. I had to eat with extreme caution and brush my teeth after every meal (having bread or noodles stuck in your braces is gross). I started losing weight. A lot of it. Before the year was up, I was considerably much slimmer than before, which was good. But I still had my underbite and my metal mouth.
My braces stayed on for 4 years, much longer than the intended 18 months, because my teeth were hard to fix and I wasn’t really disciplined about maintenance. I had tiny rubber bands hooked to my braces to reverse the underbite, and was called ‘Bubblegum Teeth’ for a year.
Finally, after years and years of anticipation, my braces were ready to be removed when I was 15. It was the best day of my life (although I did spend 3 hours in the dentist’s chair with my mouth forced open). When I ran my tongue across the surface of my teeth, I no longer felt the metal pieces poking at me. It was a triumphant day for the dentists, too – they managed to fix my teeth and my underbite. And my smile – it was so utterly perfect I wanted to cry.
I could finally smile without having to worry about people staring.
Along the way, I’ve met so many other individuals who have had braces. They also endured years of being on the receiving end of metal-mouth related jokes, but none of us have any regrets. I am forever indebted to my mother for dragging me to the dental clinic, and putting up with my endless complaints throughout the four years of oral torture.  It was totally worth it.
Having braces not only made me lose weight (that was a bonus) and gave me a perfect smile. It trained me to be patient, and I learned to keep my short temper in control by ignoring the pain and the jeering. It also taught me that good things come to those who wait (however clich├ęd that is), and that if you hang in there long enough, you get the last laugh (and a flawless one at that!).
And yes – your mother is always right.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story! You look beautiful with that perfectly happy smile. You're so lucky your parents could afford your dental braces. Keep smiling.