Required or not, I love wearing my face mask. I love it for the security it gives vulnerable people; for the anonymity it provides; for the floral smell of my moisturiser, which it keeps in my nostrils even when the sun beats down on the city’s bins. And, as I realised this week, face masks are a great opportunity for some adult orthodontics.
I’m getting braces. I’d been thinking about it for years. But it wasn’t just the money or pain that stalled me: deep down, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to straighten the crooked smile that felt so uniquely me. And ironing it out for no discernible health reason felt at best vain, at worst conceding defeat to beauty norms imposed by “The Man”.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think beautifying is a weakness. Few things make me feel quite like a queen as a blow-dry honouring the hair that is my crown. It’s also not my business what other people do. But it struck me that the ultimate goal for womanhood must be separating “feeling good” from “feeling beautiful”, so that one isn’t dependent on the other. And nothing feels quite as good as sticking it to said Man.
“Anyway,” I’d say, “if it’s good enough for Brigitte Bardot, it’s good enough for me.” The story goes that the young Bardot was so self-conscious about her teeth that she would cover her mouth with her wrist like a cat, hence the term “sex kitten” (admittedly there are obvious differences between Brigitte and me: age, ethnicity, our opposing views on victims of sexual harassment).
The truth is that I was almost happy when the dentist gave me a health reason to commit to braces, even though “less jaw pain” sure sounded vague. At least the umm-ing and ahh-ing was over. Although I expect my journey to a womanhood free from the tyranny of beauty has only just begun.