Smile like You Mean It
Taking out the dog is generally a boring endeavor. Standing on the front stoop as the dog does its business and surveys the area. It’s usually the same scene, same neighbors, same cars parked in front of the apartment building. Occasionally you’ll find some litter or some such minute deviation from the norm. Last night I found a pair of abandoned dentures on my front stoop.
It took me awhile to figure out what they were. I let out our beagle, Gucci, and found myself looking down on them. The pink gums were all I could see at first. Their color seemed to exactly match the hue of Dubble Bubble; a gum so violently charged with sweet flavor it could cause an instant cavity or sugar-induced coma.
I decided it was a mouth guard. A young boy lives downstairs. He could be in wrestling or hockey. I could accept that.
Contented with my reasoning, I checked on Gucci. She, in true beagle fashion, was still running around, nose to the ground, and showed no interest in going inside.
I focused on the pink plastic once more, and hunched down for a closer inspection. It would have to be heavily sanitized when reclaimed. I started considering the plethora of hygienic horrors that could potentially arise from this situation when I noticed the teeth.
All of a sudden the whole ordeal seemed extremely odd. I looked over my shoulder, peered around the corner, and called for Gucci. If some crazy old coot had wandered off without their dentures, who knows what they might be up to?
Gucci dismissed me. I realized I was overreacting and began trying to figure out who they belonged to. I can’t recall ever seeing a senior citizen in my building. I also can’t imagine anyone leaving their teeth outside.
My Grandma wouldn’t leave her teeth anywhere. Not just because she was a relentlessly clean woman, but because she was also an extremely proud woman. She wouldn’t let you see her without her teeth in. She would cover her mouth and sprint to the bathroom, as if we would love her less if we knew she lost some of her pearly whites sometime during the 86 years of her life.
I remember when a lost tooth was an event to be celebrated. Children worked feverishly to yank milk teeth out of their heads so the tooth fairy would come and trade the tooth for cold, hard cash. Every childhood photo album has at least one picture with a wide grin boasting a cavernous gap where two front teeth should be.
So when did losing teeth become a point of shame? When did perfectly straight teeth become so important? Who decided that teeth should be bleached to the point of fluorescence?
Humans have had horrible teeth for centuries. Teeth grow in crooked, they get knocked out, and with age they fall out. By the age of 20 George Washington was losing his teeth to decay, but we didn’t think less of him. We elected him president, but he wouldn’t smile. Why?
Why do we sneer at nature’s intentions? I’m not denying that hygiene is important, but there are places in this world where people don’t worry about orthodontia, whitening strips, or which brand of toothpaste will most effectively fight cavities. There are places in this world where 80 year old women don’t have to hide their natural grin, and can laugh freely.
While finding a set of teeth on your doorstep may be out of the ordinary in any context, seeing a less-than-perfect smile shouldn’t be so strange.
I wish it didn't have to go all "moral of the story," but assignments have requirements. I still think it's hilarious that I wrote a essay on the dentures I found on my doorstep.