Orthodontist Red Flags
About a month ago, I finally got my braces taken off. Again. I think this time was even more relieving than the first time, when I was sixteen.
This time around was... less than stellar, as I've already shared here. I'm aware that some of that stems from the impacts of braces on my self esteem, but with two different orthodontia experiences under my retainer, nearly a decade apart, I feel uniquely positioned to provide you with a list of things to look out for in your own journey towards straighter teeth.
Red Flags (in no particular order)
I honestly had a moment, during one of my appointments, where the ortho turned away from me in the middle of my greeting to ask a staff member a question, after which he continued to ignore me as though I hadn't spoken at all. He also refused to listen to my questions or concerns until I finally confronted him to mention that I might not have insurance following the end of November... which was both true, and the reason I got my braces off on November 1st.
Green Flags (of course!!!)
It is your ortho and their team's job to answer your questions, assuage your fears, understand the wonder of having a tooth, update you on progress, and at the very least, tell you what extras you might need. Braces are so costly, that I think they should just give you those supplies, but I lean towards national healthcare and communism, just so my biases are clear. Take my words with a grain of salt, enjoy flossing in the before-braces-times, and call for a consultation today!
For the Ancestors (A Poem)
If I fall in love wrong,
Is it disrespect?
If the hand in mine is pale instead of dark,
If her eyes, their eyes
If his ears can’t hear,
If her mouth can’t speak
If their legs don’t move, their arms.
If their family hates me,
Will you hate me?
Is it giving up to want?
To have someone see me?
To be more than?
More than exotic,
More than different,
Less than different,
One or two
Can love me completely,
Can you forgive me?
If we don’t look the same,
But when we look into each other’s eyes, we see the future,
We are the future,
Would you leave?
If their hands are darker than mine,
The palms of her hands lighter,
The soles of his feet,
Would you leave me?
Would I feel it,
Somewhere deep inside of me?
Given the chance, any chance,
Would you hate me for being different
For being strong in my sense of gender- she, her, hers,
For being not- quite- white- enough,
But not- quite- dark- enough either?
For being neither,
For being both.
You gave up everything
So I could be here
Would you hate me,
If they looked less like you?
Do you already hate me, for them?
Do you hate each other
The way you hate each other
Outside of me?
In the streets
In unfair policy,
In the words of Dr. King?
Do you hate each other
For Civil Rights?
For the opportunities two sets of sacrifice gave rise to?
Or, if he looked more like you,
Would you love me more?
Do you hate me already
For who I am,
The color of my skin,
The way I speak?
My separation from one or the other,
The way I’m both?
Does it sicken you
That I’m the product of you?
All your sacrifices
For my bleeding heart.
My terrible jokes?
And would it assuage you,
If I loved someone more like you?
Would you love me?
Brace Face II- Adult Metal Mouth
When I was twelve, I got braces. The first time. I got them off four long years later, with the expectation that, as long as I wore my retainer, everything was golden. It is important to note here that I'm missing a tooth. Right up in the front, next to my two front teeth, there's a hole on my right side. A fake tooth was built onto my retainer, and I wore it religiously for eight. whole. years. I took it off to eat, and didn't wear it at night, but I wore it.
A couple of years ago, my dentist looked at the space created by my braces and frowned. He pointed out that the space wasn't big enough for an implant. That we'd need to do something to make the space bigger.
This Tuesday I went in for a consultation at a new orthodontist's office. The braces went on today, with just one day in between (during which I got my fist dose of Pfizer). The turn-around was so quick that I didn't truly have time to process. I was told that my headgear days are over (fingers crossed that doesn't turn out to be a lie!), but as long as the braces had to go on, it made sense to correct all the little things that are standing in the way of a "perfect smile," whatever that means. (Despite the fact that I've never had a cavity and routinely doze off at the dentist, I have pretty yellow teeth. I have no issue with the color of my teeth, and I talk so much that people probably don't see much of them anyway.)
What's important here is the processing part, though. I was always careful to have the top retainer in for pictures. I felt ugly and unprofessional-- like I looked young or uneducated without it. Braces mean somewhere around a year and-a-half without that tooth, something that made me feel pretty and smart for eight years. When acknowledging the reality of another round of braces, it slipped my mind that so much of my self- esteem hinges on that tooth. My eyes filled with tears as soon as I left the building, feeling frustrated at myself and mourning the loss of something I didn't realize I would lose.
I don't want to open my mouth. I have to re- learn how to talk around braces, have to get used to a stronger lisp. As I sat in the dentist's chair, the headrest flattening my afro, I was drafting funny captions for an Instagram post about my second round of braces. I had some good ideas, thought the silliness would be appealing.
The uncomfortable reality, though, is that I don't feel comfortable sharing them. I feel vulnerable, like sharing the photos of me without that one tooth would be like dropping my own nudes.
Years of work to love myself feel like they disappeared over the two hours it took to put on new brackets. I've never been happier to have to wear a mask.
Love yourselves for me, as I figure out how to navigate my own self- worth (and how to talk/ enunciate).
Being Mixed in America Today
Being mixed in America today is realization.
It is the knowledge that if you were different, your gender, the richness of your melanin, it could be you lying on the ground with a knee crushing your windpipe. It is choosing not to wear a hooded sweatshirt when out at night alone. It is knowing that racism isn’t just a white- on- black problem, but an everyone- on- everyone problem. That addressing white supremacy won’t eradicate racism.
Being mixed in America today is being able to count the celebrities who are like you on the fingers of one hand.
It is growing up with the question “what are you?” and never knowing how to answer a question that strips you of your humanity. It is not knowing how to ask new people the same thing you don’t want to be asked, and settling for “are you like me?”
Being mixed in America today is yearning for stories about people who are more like you.
It is hoping, hoping for books about black people who aren’t being murdered or pushed down. When you find them, there’s a sense of something missing, because they still don’t represent you.
Being mixed in America today is wishing you looked different. More black.
It is realizing that you want darker skin, that you want to feel beautiful the way you think you should. It is keloid scarring and hair breakage when you try to assimilate.
Being mixed in America today is fear.
It is hoping you will never be the victim of gun violence, or police brutality. It is cautiousness and avoidance and trying, trying, trying not to give up.
Being mixed in America today is remembering.
It is the moment your ex- roommates, both daughters of state troopers, laughed and made fun of the military police officer who pulled you over. It was your car, but you weren’t driving. It is the visceral fear you felt when you realized they didn’t understand why you were terrified and not moving.
Being mixed in America today is crying.
It is attempting to reconcile the part of yourself that is being shot, strangled, spit on, and tear gassed with the part of yourself that is doing black face, calling “all lives matter,” and performing the violence. It is holding your white father’s hand and sobbing, asking “Why are we still having the same conversation about gun violence and whose lives matter most?”
Being mixed in America today is learning about history and wishing you hadn’t.
It is imagining your Confederate ancestors rolling in their graves at the thought of your existence. It is the screams that scrape at your throat when you learn about the rape, lynching, and numbers of slaves that didn’t live past thirty. It is holding the truth in your heart, that your ancestors did this to your ancestors.
Being mixed in America today is aching to belong. Searching for a way to be part of both worlds.
It is thinking of your black brothers and sisters and realizing that you don’t think of white people in the same way. It is growing up and being the “blackest person in the room,” which comes with the weight of other people’s expectations.
Being mixed in America today is pretending.
It is pretending that the world doesn’t see you as black, even when you identify as mixed. It is pushing aside your disgust at racial slurs in popular music that make your heart break and your soul tear. It is slipping on armor to protect your identity against people who tell you to choose.
Being mixed in America today is teaching and learning.
It is the knowledge that white people expect you to have a PhD in race relations “straight out the womb,” even when the people you’re speaking to are twice your age. It is listening to and pushing the voices forward of those who are blacker than you. It is reading and watching and searching for meaning, because you know people will ask you about being an ally.
Being mixed in America today is constantly being both by being neither.
It is hoping you fall in love with someone who isn’t white, because no matter what, your children won’t ever truly pass. Knowing that you are dooming them to a life of never really belonging.
Being mixed in America today is horror.
It is the knowledge that classic books mean something different to you than they do to others. It is the sickening way The Bluest Eye made you hate yourself. It is gun violence that makes you rage and weep. It is the idea that those bodies could have been your family.
Being mixed in America today is hard. It is overwhelmingly difficult. It is everything and nothing. It is hoping for, searching for belonging. It is finding it with people who don’t look like you. It is being raised in a religion that wouldn’t have let you in at its inception. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and probably always will be.
Being mixed in America today is me.
An Alien Invasion of sorts
Hello my lovelies!
I know that it has been a while...
This is such a strange time to be alive. I really feel like this is an alien invasion. The whole world is united in turmoil. This is feeling a lot like Stephanie Meyer's (best) book, The Host. Earth is fighting off invisible invaders.
I'm grateful to the people on the front lines. Grocery store employees, doctors, nurses, and delivery people; I see you, and I am so, so, thankful.
This is a time of "sink or swim," and as I'm finishing my last term of university, I feel like I'm barely treading water.
I hope you're all holding up a little better than I am...
This is the 100 year anniversary of women (white women) gaining the right to vote in the United States of America. Don't throw the privilege away!
So you want to get involved in democracy. Here are some of the things you need to know.
First, how to register to vote:
This is how you know if the groups that matter to you agree or disagree with a candidate. These can include, but are not limited to unions, nonprofits, and state representatives. If you tend to align with a particular political party, looking to see if district groups for that party have endorsed candidates.
Third, the ballot:
If you registered to vote long before the election, this shouldn't be a problem because you have provided you address and both your ballot and voter pamphlet should arrive in plenty of time. If not, or if something got muddled up along the way, you can go online and print out a ballot yourself. This can be accessed through your county elections page online. It can be a little confusing, but don't give up hope; keep clicking. And don't forget stamps!
Happy voting, y'all!
Differently Abled- Aren’t We All?
I’ve recently had to start thinking about what it means to be disabled. For some people it’s just a word, for others it’s an identity, or a form to fill out, a box to check or not check, a joke, a slur, a life shattering diagnosis. If you’ve never known anything different, life just goes on as usual. But the hardest part is when someone knows what they’ve lost because they used to have it.
I’m a list of scary acronyms, but I’m more than that. Each and every one of us is fighting a battle that a stranger on the street knows nothing about.
Last summer I was at an inside trampoline park with some friends. Everything was fine until I finished all the cool tricks and flips and just started bouncing. It felt like my knee went one direction and my body went another. It hurt, but I assumed that it would go away as long as I stayed off of it for a while, like every other injury. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and I ended up on and off of crutches for about 9 months. Part of the problem was that it didn’t feel terrifying enough to go to the hospital, but I couldn’t go anywhere else because my insurance didn’t cover anything in the state I go to school in. Dealing with the crutches meant that all of a sudden I couldn’t do things like open doors for myself, or move chairs. I started to notice things that said “accessible” or “disabled.” My biggest issue was that things claimed to be accessible and really weren’t, like a bathroom with an automatic push door on the outside and a pull side complete with handle on the other. I couldn’t even get out of a bathroom!? Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten around to thinking about our differently abled brothers and sisters (and siblings) yet. We’re too busy trying to fight racism (again) to change anything else…
I’d been getting progressively more depressed for the past year and a half. Then suddenly, last summer I started having bursts of random energy. There didn’t seem to be any pattern to the bursts, but when they hit I had to do something; I had to do something specific. It was scary. I would wake up at 2 in the morning and do homework for 3 hours before collapsing back into bed and sleeping soundly as though nothing had happened. There were weekends where all could do was paint. It made college even harder. All I wanted was for it all to just stop. I just wanted to feel normal. What I found out was that my idea of normal is probably not ever going to be accessible to me again. I’m not going to share the diagnosis because I don’t want to be defined by it. Part of me was relieved, because knowing what’s wrong means that you can treat it. But another part of me, the more hidden part started to worry about what it all meant. I changed medications, and seem to be doing a lot better.
The other part to this story is about OCD. Or, mine that is. When we see OCD portrayed in the media we think of obsessive cleaning, of order and discipline, or maybe hoarding (which is the opposite of all that). But, what it really all comes down to is fear. The same way that our white blood cells sometimes get confused and attack important, healthy things in our bodies, our brains sometimes catalogue information as scary. I don’t know why, but things in color order feel safe to me. I like rainbows because the organization makes me feel safe. However, this isn’t something that I deal with all the time. Generally speaking, color organization only comes up when I’m particularly anxious and/ or stress. (So it makes sense that it’s come up a lot more in the past yearish). I get anxious when I’m not on time. I like to be early, but to an extreme. Growing up my family could never figure out why I would freak out when we were late, and why I couldn’t “just let it go” or “stop worrying about it.” I didn’t want to be anxious, but somewhere along the way my brain just decided that tardiness was a terrible enemy to be avoided at all costs.
But here’s the thing. I don’t want to share some of these things. When you apply form a job and there’s an optional checkbox for depression, or a place to talk about disability—who wants to fill that out? People who can’t hide whatever people say is wrong with them have no choice. My generation is more accepting of mental illness (a term I don’t love), but our employers are from a different generation. The last boss I had didn’t understand the term “mental health day,” and that meant that it was hard to be honest about things that were going on, both internally and within my team.
We have to find a way to change the stigma surrounding things like this. Maybe that starts with changing the common terminology from phrases like “mental illness” and “disability.” Maybe we have to start by cleansing words like “bipolar” and “depressed” from our vocabulary unless they actually apply. The truth is that we can put a band aid over some of the problem by putting people first. Literally; “person with chronic pain,” “person in a wheelchair.” When these things don’t feel like they apply to you, they’re easy to gloss over or ignore. The truth is that they matter, though. They matter a hell of a lot.
A Whole Lot of GRL PWR
I know that it has been a really long time since we had a chat, but please bear with me. There was a portion of time that we can honestly just refer to as “the dark days,” where I hit the lowest low my depression has been in my life. Probably even worse than while I was in Korea; my medication seemed to have stopped working, I was suffering chronic pain in my right knee, and I was gaining huge amounts of weight which didn’t help either of those things. This May, I came home for the summer from Alaska with the intention of getting myself back on track. I’m relieved to report that a switch in medications, a brace, and a verbal confirmation that I could be active again have made a world of difference.
I have an internship right now (side note: super exciting!), and as part of that I ended up going to an implicit bias/ racism/ LGBT awareness training on how to give trainings. (I know what I said, if you’re confused go back and read it again.) The training lasted all day and left me thinking a lot about sex & gender. At this point in my life, my gender is one of the few things that I’m sure about. I’m privileged that my sex and gender match up, but there’s even more than that to unpack. This is the right time to be a female. That is, a cis one. Mostly. Hear me out, please: transwomen of color make up a horribly high murder statistic. People seem comfortable with trans and nonbinary people at first glance, but aren’t so comfortable in practice. We are still being shoved into tiny checkboxes in an effort to make things comfortable for people who are stuck in the past. (I’m getting close to a rant, so Imma leave this here and save the rest for a full post later.)
All that being said, there are some pretty incredible things happening in the world. We’re fighting so that those murder stats go down, we’re working hard to give girls the same school opportunities everywhere. Full stop. This is a global issue, and one that we’re apparently mostly ready to tackle full on. This is the land of opportunity. Today’s children get to look around and seen strong female CEOs, CFOs, astronauts, teachers, leaders, and politicians. The music scene has never been a fuller display of girl power ballads. There has never been a larger collective voice reminding girls that they are strong enough, brave enough, bright enough, smart enough, or just plain enough. We’re leaving behind the stereotype of what it means to be ladylike, and erecting a statue of Beyoncé instead.
Here are my WCWs too, since it is a Wednesday and we’re spouting mad GRL PWR today too:
Michelle Obama, RBG, HRC, Beyoncé, Ashley Graham, Leandra Medine, Susanna Lau, Rihanna, my mom, my aunts…. (I could keep going)
Women are finally getting a seat at the table. And not just a folding chair they bring into the room with them. Women are walking into the room (where it happens) and there’s a chair waiting for them. This is a huge deal. Girl Power has been a long time coming, despite arguments to the contrary. Things have never been better for women than they are now. Let that sink in. Things have always, always been worse than this for us.
Now is the time. Don’t wait for someone else to serve you, take the whole pie. It can be so easy to look at where we are and see how far we have left to go, but it is just as important to look at what we have done; what we are doing. There’s some bad out there right now, but there’s also a whole lot of good.
Hello my lovelies!
It has recently come to my attention that I'm kind of a hypocrite. I don't quite practice what I preach. That is to say that I am the first person to remind people to love themselves and the last to actually love myself (most of the time). All that being said, I've been trying to look inside myself the way I look inside my friends and family.
A solid example might be the friends I've made here in college. I don't love Juneau, Kenai, Barrow, Spokane, Anchorage, Minnesota, A, and C because they look a certain way. In fact, I love them completely separate from their appearances. When I think about my favorite parts of K&A or Kansas & Colorado, their looks are not what pop into my mind. So, why is it so hard for me to apply the same thing to myself?
I love the way I express myself through makeup and fashion (side note; would any of you be interested in seeing some more of that kind of stuff?). But looking inside to love myself is hard because maybe I'm not sure yet. That's an odd statement, I'm very aware. But, I'm not sure yet if I'm at the point where I'm anything to be proud of.
Now that the heavy stuff is out of the way, let's get heavier!
I can't imagine how much more difficult that journey would be if my outsides and insides didn't match. I have a hard enough time being in a body that matches the person inside my head. Trans and agendered people need the same support (probably more) than I do on my journey. It seems so strange to me that people are more comfortable with the idea of changing their appearance for cosmetic or frivolous reasons than people metamorphosing into who they were meant to be all along.
Life is hard enough for all of us anyway, and if we choose to step back and look inside ourselves first, maybe we can remember how to support each other in all the ways we wish to be supported.
Maybe I just wasted your time with this rant, but I felt that it all really needed to be said. Or, at least onto the page and out of my brain.
Lots of love,
I'm going to level with you. I'm a flawed human like most (except Beyoncé and like, Michelle Obama). I have good days and bad days just like everyone else. It just so happens that today was one of the bad days.
The moment I woke up and didn't want to eat or get out of bed I knew it was going to be difficult. I find it hard not to push myself on this kind of a day, but I'm working on empathy for myself. I decided that I would eat whatever sounded good to me, since at least it was something. I ended up making myself pizza and having baked Camembert for dinner. I regret nothing, since I ate today. This might not seem like such a big thing for a lot of you, but just that little step felt like a leap.
I also got myself up and out of the dorm. Luckily I don't work Wednesdays, so I sat and finished Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff with a cup of rooibos tea before visiting some friends and getting licked by a dog on a porch swing. It was easier to set the dark clouds aside once I could feel the sunshine.
In this same mentality, I'm hoping to tackle something else. I think I've mentioned that I hope to do more on YouTube this summer, but probably not the big reason for that. I have a hard time listening to myself. Not my inner voice. Literally me, as in recordings of any kind make me extremely uncomfortable. My hope is that lots of exposure will make this seem like a really small thing. Of course, I'm also excited to experiment with a different sort of platform.
The next step is tackling the difference between what I see when I think of myself and what I see in the mirror. I'll tell you how that goes...
Here are some things that help me on days like today:
1) Reading a good book. (Preferably something with little to no grounding in my reality)
2) Contacting a friend. I have a group chat with my cousins, Colorado & Kansas, my ride or die friends, and Den, Mark, Finland, Switzerland, and Germany. Something as small as a heart emoticon or a silly picture reminds me that they care, or helps me remind them of the same thing.
3) Getting outside/ exercise. I love to exercise! Give me that lactic acid burning in my limbs! However, sometimes walking down the stairs and into some sunlight makes all the difference.
4) Talking to my mom. Self explanatory.
5) Stalking Chrissy Teigen on social media. Also self explanatory.
6) Spending time with animals. Their love is unconditional, especially if you have treats. Never underestimate the power of slobbery dog kisses in brightening a sorry day.
I try to keep things light and funny here for you guys, but I'm working on my own mental health right now. That means that sometimes putting on a smile is harder than other times. Just remember that this is a safe place and you're more than welcome to open up to me, a walnut on the interwebs if you feel the need.
Lots of love,
Everyday Acts of Activism