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Even as part of a generation that values personal choice so fiercely (“You do you” is our rallying cry), I feel embarrassed as I hand over my credit card to the receptionist and head in to have my front tooth shaved down and covered with a pearly white composite. Has vanity got the best of me? I wonder as my dentist chisels away gleefully. That tooth may be dead, but it’s perfectly functional. His own grill is gleaming and capped and perfect, and I can tell he is pumped to Change My Life. During our consultation he showed me books of before-and-after photos, of men and women who had been ashamed of their smiles but now have the confidence to get the job/get the girl/tell off that coworker. He also offers Botox treatments. I politely decline.
Your face is your first impression, whatever your age, so it makes sense that we strive to present the best version possible. We can’t help taking stock of our fellow humans this way, as much as we fight it. There are evolutionary forces at play that make us find symmetrical faces attractive and a healthy smile appealing.
Your 20s are a time of finding your place in the world, so putting your best, most confident self forward is arguably most important now. You’re searching for a mate, making the connections that will shape your course over the next decade or three, starting your career. It’s a critical time to be appealing, and as much as we all want that appeal to be due to good genes and good luck, sometimes Mother Nature lets us down and we need to take matters into our own hands with makeup or zealous plucking. My peers aren’t getting cheek implants, but that may well be less about age than about income. Given the financial opportunity that usually comes with becoming a real grownup (fingers crossed), would we know where to stop?
It’s odd that these types of procedures can find an audience in Vancouver at all, where the natural carries so much cachet. Culture here is a farm-to-table dinner, ideally enjoyed while wearing organic-fibre sportswear; juice cleanses are a competitive sport. But it’s the same socioeconomic demographic snatching up these premium, chemical-free products that keeps my dentist’s Botox side business booming (though not everyone who gets a SPUD delivery is itching for a nose job, obviously). These are two very different pursuits of perfection — one achieved through needles and scalpels, the other with human interference of only the most artisanal nature — being upheld by the same social groups. Is it irony or two sides of a coin? What could be more ideal than an organic apple? What could be more ideal than a face that never ages?
I’m happy with how my tooth looks, but I feel guilty about it. Back at work, no one even notices my shining new incisor, or that there was anything wrong with it to begin with. I show them my own before-and-after pictures, though no one specifically requests them, and then I stand in the bathroom doing double takes in the mirror, smiling whenever I catch myself by surprise, until someone knocks to make sure everything’s okay in there.
by Stacey McLachlan
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