by Julia Buckley
There's a trend that began in Hollywood and which now extends far, far beyond it that has always really bothered me--the obsession with white, white teeth. (This is often accompanied by faux tans that look orange and unusual, but I'll save that for another post). The tooth phenomenon, I read on this ABC blog, has become such an obsession for some people that they are referred to as "bleachorexics" and they flirt with the danger of totally destroying their teeth.
What is it, then, that makes people so determined to look so unnatural? In some movies I am so distracted by an actor's weirdly glowing teeth that I can't even appreciate his or her performance. I just keep wondering, "Don't they know that their teeth look that way?" I wonder, too, if they think that white teeth somehow make them more authentic, because to me, even in these days of good dental hygiene and a healthy braces trade, "normal" teeth would be a bit crooked and not entirely white.
Skim through blogland and you'll find that folks in other countries find Americans strange--not just because we are, to them, weirdly friendly, but because we as a nation have some scary white teeth.
Now, some might think that my argument is nothing but sour grapes: not only did I never get braces as a kid (my parents couldn't afford them), but I have inherited a tooth enamel that could only, at its kindest, be called "ivory," and at its worst, "yellow." All of my siblings have this color teeth. What it creates, though, is a mouth full of dentiture that does NOT draw attention to itself. It goes with our skin. If I went to the dentist tomorrow and told him to make my teeth twenty shades whiter, I think it would disorient everyone I know. How could they not notice my suddenly powder-white chompers, my newly odd smile?
Beyond this, I wonder that no one objects to the fact that we are a culture trying to homogenize itself. How many starlets have given in to that horrible "get too thin" disease that has eaten away at the bodies and self-esteems of many good women before them? How many men feel they are not worthwhile, especially as a visual image, if they are not pumped up and muscular, then sprayed brown and bleached until their teeth can light a room? Doesn't this feel like a conveyor belt of falsity? Isn't it okay to just be yourself these days?
In any case, even if I fell victim to this public-scrutiny disease and found myself somehow lacking, I simply don't have the priorities to spend thousands on my teeth and skin. I have a ten-year-old car and kids who need college educations. I'm pretty sure I'll remain authentic until I die. :)
I had a friend who got her teeth whitened recently, for a wedding. She was convinced that she wouldn't look good in the wedding pictures unless her teeth were somehow better, whiter, cleaner looking. She went for the procedure in my town and then stopped to visit me for a while. Through our entire conversation she clasped her jaw and moaned in pain. "This will go away," she assured me. "It will be worth it. The pain only lasts a while."
Okay. I'll take her word for it, but I'm still not going to whiten my teeth.
What's your take on this phenomenon? Is it simply a social necessity? A way to make movie star dreams come true? Or a sign of our obsession with our own faces?
photo link here.