Why I Never “Fixed” My Teeth
I was offered the chance to erase the most visible sign of my poverty.
He began pulling up color-coded spreadsheets on his computer. He explained that I needed braces because many of my bottom teeth were still baby teeth. They could make space for the adult teeth to finally come in.
It would cost three thousand dollars to fix the teeth that had been neglected in my youth. The young man pressured me to get another set of braces on my top teeth, for cosmetic reasons only. “Doesn’t a pretty girl like you want straight teeth?” he asked.
I realized I had made a mistake: I wanted my old face back. When I moved back to Seattle after graduate school, I skipped out on my remaining $330 bill and had another orthodontist remove my braces.
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I sought a cherished symbol from my own childhood, not a standardized emblem of all Indonesian culture, which I can’t and shouldn’t pretend is all mine to take.
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Beauty and its pursuit can be art, a delight, a terrific party. But a party you must attend every day isn’t a party at all. It’s an unpaid job.