Since I created this blog as a place I where can fearlessly write about anything I want, I thought I would take the time to address a deeply painful personal issue. I have messed up teeth. Stemming from a tragic accident, then compounded when I was the victim of a hit-and-run by a driver in too big of a hurry to actually look before taking his free right turn at a stoplight while I was riding my bicycle, I have a couple of fractured teeth. As a person who always took a great deal of care to maintain my dental health (I never even had a cavity until I was into my 30’s), I was crushed when my flawless smile was taken from me in a single instant. The extent of many wounds isn’t always obvious upon an exterior observation. This is the case with my teeth. The wound that opened up inside my mind has caused me more grief than I can possibly express. Over time I have become very self-conscious about my teeth. I lack the confidence that I once took for granted, and have become increasingly introverted over the years.
Being so self-conscious about something feels very strange to me. For a long time now, I haven’t been one to place much value on other people’s judgments of my appearance. This was a lesson that I learned the hard way. As I kid I was a little chubby and my peers poked fun at me. Right as I started junior high school, I became very sick. It took doctors a long time to diagnose me with Grave’s Disease. Grave’s Disease sounds pretty scary, but really it is just hyperthyroidism. I quickly became quite skinny and my hands became shaky with tremors. To the sacrifice of my attention in school, I used to draw for hours on end every day, and was starting to get pretty good by this point. The tremors took that away. Through it all, I found it pretty hilarious when the kids who used to make fun of me for being chubby now mercilessly gave me grief for being skinny. As we all know, when left to their own devices children can be quite cruel to other children. But in a way these kids did me a great service. I saw the hypocrisy of their insults. There was no way to really win with these people, so it was best to just be an individual. This idea set me free. I cultivated a fiercely independent streak. I immersed myself in music, art, and literature. I took every insult of “punk” or “fag” as proof that I must be doing something right, if somehow my very existence could draw the unearned ire of jocks and the “in crowd.” I continue to consider myself quite independent to this very day. I really don’t care about things like trends and fashion. No pop music for me. I continue to dress as I have for a long time: usually in black Carhartts or some other kind of heavy work pants, with a rotating variety of my latest vintage scores or industrial uniform shirts. No skinny jeans or too-small Ed Hardy shirts for me. No bland clothing for the masses made by children in sweatshops either. I treasure individuality.
Yet when someone starts making snide comments about my teeth it really touches a nerve with me. Most people have the good grace to never bring it up. Other people might ask me what happened, and I don’t mind this inquiry. It’s a fair question, and provided they ask it in a considerate manner, one I am willing to oblige. I really appreciate the people who fall into these first two groups. It is the last group of people that I have serious issues with. These are the people whom, for some reason, feel the need to make snide comments about my teeth. This is often done behind my back, or when they think I am out of earshot (surprise, I have excellent hearing, assholes). Even worse are the people who will make these hurtful comments right to my face. It happens far more than you would expect. Sometimes they will just open with these remarks. Usually they will start working teeth into the conversation within a couple of minutes, and think that they are really crafty. As if I am so fucking stupid that I won’t immediately catch on. It seems that they usually do this as a way to crack jokes to their friends at my expense, and think that they are being clever and covert. They aren’t either of these things. It is at this point that I will remove myself from the conversation and instantly write them off as unworthy of human status. Sadly, they are actually the embodiment of humanity. We can be an unusually cruel and destructive variety of shaved apes.
This weekend at PAX, I was talking with a representative from an indie game developer. When he found out that I write about games and geeky stuff, he became quite excited and started telling me about his company and their projects. They had some interesting games released with others in development, and were really looking to get some media exposure. At this point in the conversation, one of his colleagues came over and instantly made a comment about, “The busy PAX weekend really kicking them in the teeth.” His eyes quickly flashed over to the rep that I had been talking to and he made a minimal effort to try and conceal his smug little grin. I let that one slide, but Mr. Douchebag wasn’t content to quit while he was ahead. In a shocking display of unprofessional behavior, he kept working similar digs into every comment he made. This was no fluke. I was not being oversensitive and reading into things that didn’t exist. In my mind I considered how satisfying it would be to punch him in the face as hard as I could and see how smug he was while he was twitching on the floor knocked the fuck out. But I am a peaceful man who believes that violence is the recourse of a weak mind and should only be used in defense or as a last resort. That doesn’t mean that I don’t entertain the idea at times though. No, I am a professional and didn’t care to be banned from PAX or to give this bastard the satisfaction. He was not worth it. I may have messed up teeth, but he was the real monster. After the third or fourth comment, I abruptly excused myself from the conversation. As I walked away I made no effort to conceal the fact that I was ripping up their business card and letting the pieces flutter to the floor. I will never support this company with my money, and I sure as hell will never waste my effort to cover them in an article. Yes, I realize this is a somewhat unfair reaction. The other people at this company shouldn’t have to pay for the actions of one asshole. But it is also unfair that I had to endure him, and it is unfair that this company decided to let him represent them in public.
This is but one example of situations that I have had to endure because of my teeth. Try as I might to not let these things affect me, having snap judgments made about me based one arbitrary factor does in fact piss me off. I have undertaken huge efforts, like working at very public tables during conventions, in an effort to overcome my self-consciousness, but it still remains. “So why don’t you get them fixed?” I hear you ask. I intend to get them fixed at some point. Unfortunately I do not have insurance and it will be quite expensive to do so. I am not a wealthy person by any means. In fact, I am the opposite of wealthy. But until such a time that I can get my teeth fixed, I will probably have to deal with more situations like this. I am sorry if my teeth offend you. However, that is ultimately your problem and not mine. I refuse to quit living my life or become a hermit because of an aesthetic flaw. My teeth do not detract from the person that I am inside, but they do serve as a pretty accurate detector of people who are unpleasant miserable assholes. So you’ve decided to make snide comments about my teeth? This isn’t the first instance of this happening, and sadly it won’t be the last. This behavior tells the world much more about you than it does about me. I would strongly suggest that you exercise caution if you choose make hurtful statements about my teeth right to my face. I am a non-violent human being, but nonetheless I would advise you not use this issue as a means with which to provoke me. One of these times you just might succeed, and I don’t think either of us really wants that.
Thank you for letting me get that off of my chest and for reading my rant. It is deeply personal, brutally honest, and something that I don’t really share with many people. Writing is a form of therapy for me, and continues to help me keep my tenuous grasp on sanity. Hopefully I manage to write some things that others can relate to (or at the very least entertain a few people) along the way.