By Kainat Sarfaraz:
Greek philosopher Plato believed that ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’. But today the world has created a checklist for determining whether a person is beautiful or not. And if someone refuses, or is unable to conform to this list, we indulge in name-calling and ‘otherizing’ them. I have read a fair number of pieces on fat-shaming and discrimination on the basis of complexion. However, I have not read anything on the ‘problem’ I am now going to write about.
I ‘suffer’ from Class II Division 2 malocclusion. In simple terms, I have buck teeth, which are crooked as well. I have a problem of protrusion and intrusion, these were the terms thrown at me when my father took me to an orthodontist during my early teens. The dentist assured my father that I would look totally different once the treatment was done. All it required was 2 years of patience and 40,000 rupees. But the moment I heard him explain the procedure, I was convinced that I would not go for it. It sounded too painful. Besides, I had no qualms about my bunny teeth. I didn’t love them or hate them particularly, I was okay with how I was.
But the world around me wasn’t. As I continued to smile and grin unabashedly, relatives, well-wishers and family-friends almost unanimously suggested and even argued that I should opt for braces. They continuously harped on the fact that I was a girl and if I didn’t get the treatment, no one would marry me. Luckily for me, my father respected my decision and stood by me throughout.
However, the unsolicited advice soon took the form of taunts and jibes. Classmates sniggered and made comments. The kinder ones repeatedly urged me to get my teeth fixed as it would make me look better. At one point, even my close relatives described my grinning photographs as bhayanak or horrifying. Recently, someone at my friend’s place mentioned that my teeth resembled those of a rabbit. He said so in Bengali thinking I wouldn’t understand it. Little did he know that I was a Calcuttan myself. When he realized that I understood what he said, he wasn’t the least bit apologetic about it.
Slowly my self-confidence started chipping away with every comment and suggestion that people made. I stopped grinning the way I used to because these comments had made a place for themselves in my head. I realized that my self-esteem was beginning to get buried under the avalanche of unkind statements. That is when I decided to get a hold of myself and be happy with the way I am.
Almost all of us go through something similar in our own lives. Our body is under constant scrutiny. We are chastised for having breasts too big or small, fingers too thin, nose too sharp, eyes too small (or big), and the list goes on. Ideal beauty standards are so internalized in our systems that anyone who doesn’t follow those standards seems ugly. In such a scenario, it becomes extremely important for us to speak up for our choices and highlight the fact that beauty is subjective.
Women around the globe are doing exactly that. Be it fashion blogger Jessica Kane, who is confident of her plus-size body or Canadian dancer Cassandra Naud, who refused cosmetic surgery to treat the birthmark on her face, these women are embracing their own individuality with élan. We too need to inculcate self-acceptance in ourselves and stop catering to the demands of others, consciously or unconsciously. This is the reason why I chose to share my own ordeal. Yes, I have crooked teeth. If people have a problem with it, they should keep it to themselves. Period.