Growing up in a world where stereotypes and chestnut phrases define us, I always felt vulnerable and self conscious about my appearance and which category I fell into. Mostly because at the back of my mind I knew that one day my reality would revolve around metal bars gripping tightly to my cheeks and the smile on my face wasn’t necessarily by choice. Flash back, it’s 2008, I’m 13 chanting along frantically to Sailor Moon’s masterpiece on the theme song to Melissa Clark’s Brace face desperately begging my folks to take me to the dentist because at least then I’d be considered dope for having them. 8 years later and here I am, old enough to be considered a cougar with chunky mouth accessories to glam up my look, mortified by the intensity of emotions running through my skeleton. If you thought being an adult was hard, try being an adult with braces!
My first trip to the orthodontist was characterized by excessive enthusiasm, heebie-jeebies and blissful ignorance to say the least. Who knew you were expected to eat enough for a week before your appointment? As if displaying an array of vamp colours to choose from would make up for that fact and what was to come – a painful, arduous, uncomfortable experience only guys who’ve had braces before can attempt to paraphrase. Searching for confidence between those four walls like most teenagers left me feeling flimsy about life in general. Turns out the next couple of months would be nothing as I imagined, I now had a new best friend and we would go everywhere together and I mean everywhere…including 2 A.M trips to the bathroom to cocoon our teeth in fancy flavored dental wax in a bid to numb the pain.
Days turned into weeks and after a monogamous relationship with mashed bananas, mashed peas, mashed potatoes I finally had my first bite at chicken and the feeling was phenomenal but nothing quite prepared me for my next visit merely a week after. Just when I thought I could enjoy some adult food I was back to routine and a ton of calories heavier because sticking to a vegetarian diet is impossible! Having braces means spending every waking moment in front of a mirror grinning mechanically, analyzing every wire and then the rest of the day narrating gruesome stories to your friends of every experience you’ve been through when the reality is they could care less about your ‘child-like’ rants. When you aren’t making yourself a complete spectacle, the rest of the world is gawking at you through their wide rimmed glasses from across the table drawing conclusions of how incapable you are to take on any leadership roles in their organisation because of the train tracks blinding their sight when you smile. Believe me you’ll notice, somewhere in between their calculated responses and glances at each other is your shot to throw in copious vocabulary enough to show that your undergraduate degree wasn’t obtain illegally.
Do you get what I mean?
And when the pressure isn’t meetings and job interviews, it’s social gatherings and boyfriends (or girlfriends) and the constant need to feel included which is kinda hard to do when the pizza order arrives and you quickly yank out your ‘travel’ cutlery kit because if your teeth are anything like mine then you can forget ever biting into anything again. That’s gotta suck monkey balls! Oh but that’s not all – forget about any steamy make out sessions. If he’s lucky he’ll get a peck or two if the jealous best friend is knocked out on chill pills otherwise the only pecks he’s bound to get back are the kind that resemble a weaver bird accurately sculpturing her nest and the only thing curling will be the sweat drops on the arc of your nose and the only lip action you’ll be getting honey is the 100000 pricks from your worn-out toothbrush!
…and after countless visits to the dentist and his empty promises to have your rails removed next visit, you’ll finally resolve to your daily mantra…”It will all be worth it in the end”
Photos by Mark Kibe and Trish Kanana.