Sometimes I'm not the best role model: A story of aligners, allies and Alanis Morissette.
Does my voice sound different to you? I hope not, but I can’t really tell. See, I went and got some of that teeth-straightening thing done. So now I have to wear braces for a year. Not a big deal, really, but I was a bit worried that it might affect the way how I sound on here. The only reason I even got it done was because I’ve always been conscious of the one wonky tooth in my smile. I know it’s supposed to be endearing. It’s part of that whole ‘British’ thing, isn’t it? Charming accent, enormous penis and teeth that look like there’s recently been an earthquake in a graveyard.
I’ve almost got it done a few times, but I wanted to be sure I was doing it for me, and not so that I’d be more attractive to other people. That’s always the worry - that I was falling into the trap “If I change this about myself, more people will like me!” SO yeah, I took my time getting it fixed so that I knew it would be for me.
I don’t want to go too far with it, though. I’m not after that American thing where every time someone smiles you’re left with an afterimage, like a camera flash went off.
Like, I’d be out chatting with my American friends, and of course I’d say something funny.
Cuz, y’know, I’m just naturally very funny. It’s not like a tap - I don’t just switch it on when need it, hilarious stories and award-winning observational humour just fall out of me. It’s a curse, really.
Anyway, I’d make an American laugh and then suddenly there’s be flashes of white from all sides. It was like being inside a fireworks display, or that time someone gave me popping candy mixed with LSD, just pow pow pow all this bright white light coming at me.
And I was like Jesus Christ, Hunter, or Smith, or Chett, or whatever your name is, think about something sad for a minute. You’re doing my retinas in!’
After a while I started adding a downer to the end of my funny chat, just to give my eyes a rest. Like “That’s what he said! Haaaa! Death comes to us all.”
So, yeah, I don’t want to have teeth like that. Looking at my smile shouldn’t be like trying to out-stare a lighthouse, but at the same time, I don’t want to look at photos of myself smiling and think “Fuck. Maybe I could get someone to hit me in the mouth with a brick so I can get all of this sorted out properly.”
I went and had all the scans done. Someone stuck a thing in my mouth and waved it around for a while. Yep. We all knew what was going to go there, so I didn’t bother to say it. Moving on.
I had to go back another day and get the things fitted. I went for the invisible kind, rather than the metal train tracks. Part of me wanted to do the ‘adorkable’ thing that comes with being in your 30s and having visible braces, but I think that works better when you’re actually an adorable person, whereas I’m a bit of a wanker. And that’s offputting enough without giving me armoured teeth, too. ‘A bit of a wanker who can bite his way through prison bars’ certainly is a look, but it loses the charm somewhat.
Someone said “If you got those, wouldn’t you be worried it would stop you sucking dick?’, and first off, nothing short of full-on shackles and muzzle is going to stop me sucking a dick if I want to suck it, and second, rubbing a nob along the front of my teeth has never really been one of my secret moves, so I don’t think it would be a problem.
To be honest, I couldn’t help but worry that, somehow, I’d get the brace caught on a zip, or a nob piercing, because of course it fucking would. That’s exactly how my life works.
We meet up, expecting to just put your genitals in a stranger’s mouth as a fun thing everyone likes to do on a Saturday afternoon, and instead of a lovely time that ends up with happiness dripping off my chin, it would be a couple of minutes of fun, then a sort of worried ‘nnnnk!’ sound and then a slow but rising panic as we realise that your nob jewellery and my face furniture have somehow welded themselves together and now we’re stuck. Possibly forever. And then we’d have to find a way to sort of waddle to the hospital to get someone to help us remove it. Picture that coming down the street, with a sheet thrown over us or something, like the world’s most deformed pantomime horse,.
So I was at the place, getting these things stuck to my teeth. Alanis Morissette was playing in the background, because they let me choose the music and Jagged Little Pill is still an amazing album. The guy with his hands in my mouth was pretty cute, and I couldn’t tell if he was on my team or not, so I flirted a little anyway.
Then, after a while, his colleague came in and complimented us on our musical choice. I tried to say thankyou, but it came out as ‘nku since the dentist and his assistant were both wrist-deep in my face at the time. It was a very relaxed and banter-y dentist, not all stuck up and professional, which made a nice change. I was having lovely time with someone shoving things in my mouth (...) yep, again I didn’t need to finish that one.
Anyway. Lots of blokey jokes and chat, which was fun. I joined in, as much as I could, what with my mouth being full of dentist most of the time.
After a while the colleague said “Did you know he was in The Sun?” and disappearred for a moment, to come back holding a printout of a newspaper website. Well, nearly. It was one of those photoshopped things where you can just enter random text and pretend it’s a real news site. Much like The Sun itself, I guess. Anyway.
And it was all the usual ‘blokey’ humour about my dentist being caught up in a scandal of having sex with people in a park, or something. A little iffy a thing to share with a stranger, and one who is having a treatment, I guess, but I let it slide. But then at the bottom, the very last sentence, read “And he also admitted to being a transsexual.” And I rolled my eyes.
This was my cue to spring into action as a Trans ally and explain to them with diagrams if necessary, why that was transphobic and bad and people in modern London probably shouldn’t think like that at all, let alone be sharing it around a workplace.
And… I didn’t. In that split second moment when you choose between action and inaction, I decided not to. I could rationalise it and say that I still had a good hour or so of time with this guy’s hands in my body, and I didn’t want to piss him off any more than was necessary, and that it was an inappropriate time to get on a soapbox, and while both of those things were certainly true, it’s kinda been eating away at me since that I didn’t say something.
Part of me was thinking. It’s not my fight - I’m not transgender, so why should you care? Well, random voice in my head, the main reason is because it’s the right thing to do. But also, it kinda is my fight. Because ‘LGBT community’ doesn’t mean just middle-class white men with wonky teeth and enormous cocks.It’s all of us. That’s why there’s so many letters in it. If I’m going to think of myself as part of the queer community, then I have to act like it, too. It’s not just the fun bits - I’m happy to go wave a flag at Pride, kiss a boy in the street and dance to Kylie, but there’s more to it than that. If I want to consider myself part of the Queer community, I need to do the awkward, uncomfortable bits, too.
Which means that, when I see or hear people being dicks, whether intentionally or otherwise, it’s up to you, to all of us, to go “Oi. Stop being a dick.” In fact, it doesn’t even need to be confrontational. Just something like “oooh. I know you didn’t mean it to sound bad, but that’s not the best way to say what you said. Next time maybe try…” is good. I don’t have to be militant about it - I could have stomped out of there, trailing bits of dental equipment and refuse to be treated by an idiot who would say something like that, but there was no malice there. These guys weren’t being nasty, just a little stupid. And when it comes to stupid, the best way to deal with it is to gently school the people involved, rather than demand to see the manager.
Either way, in that moment, I failed.
I’ll be geared up and ready to say something when I go back for a checkup. Which, granted, isn’t for another 9 months, but still. “Hey, great to see you again. Uh, do you remember than offhand comment you made to me almost a year ago? WELL…”
Maybe next time I hear someone say something that’s not necessarily nasty, but is close enough to reach out and touch nasty if it wants to… And there will be a next time, and a time after that and after that… Maybe next time, I’ll remember how crappy I feel right now and actually say something. That’s the only way I can think of that might, eventually, one day, lead to there not being a next time.