i stumbled across an article, “the shame of poor teeth in a rich world”, someone posted on my Facebook timeline and i was surprised by the response in me. here’s a link to the article and this is an expanded version of what i wrote:
“I learnt early and often that one doesn’t leave a place, class or culture and enter another, but rather holds the privilege and burden of many narratives simultaneously.”
Sometimes people formulate words in such a way that they leap from the page or the screen and punch one in the gut. Seemingly inert words alchemically transform and evoke an almost visceral, physical reaction.
It’s not essentially what the article is about, but I AM this quote.
I resonate so much with what this article articulates. In my extended family there is one doctor (well done, Dr Natalie Fielies). Most everyone else works at some kind of “manual” labor, some section of the economy that did not require years of study at some tertiary institution. There, but for the grace… My destiny could have been so different. I could be a cleaning lady, like my grandmother was, or be working in one of those Franschhoek gift shops, like one of my many cousins. And I might be, if it wasn’t for the foresight of my visionary mother, who when I insisted on working for a year before I went to university, put her foot down and insisted that I would not be a shop assistant, but a student. My education, I will always insist, opened the world to me and gave me access to a life I could never have imagined. (No, that arts degree didn’t translate into some fantastic financial gain, but it exposed me to other ways of thinking and in the life of the mind, I am rich). However, I am as much from that world of shop assistants, as I am from the world of books and international travel – they have both formed me and inform who I am. Even with 2 passports, I am as parochial, as cosmopolitan.
Also, having recently had a crown fall out and having to have new, expensive dental work which I cannot currently afford, I can relate to the discussion on “Poor teeth in a rich world”.
The one leftover from my marriage and my life in the U.S., are the gapless, relatively straight teeth I have from 18 months of braces when I was in my 30’s. When you look at pics of me from before, you’ll notice the gap between my front teeth and the gap on the side (which bothered me more) where a tooth didn’t grow in. There was no thought of, or money for braces when I was growing up.
Now, without the (expert) dental care, or cover, I had in the states, I struggle to maintain that hard-earned gaplessness. I wear my no longer perfectly fitting retainers to stop my teeth from reverting, to stop that gap from opening back up. But on mornings, after being careless and not wearing my overnight hardware, I spy in the mirror, the dark sliver that opens between my now no longer quite so pearly whites, and threatens to become a yawning chasm. And I long for my former unlimited dental coverage and I appreciate that once I had it.
Because man, that gap, at the same time so small, is yet so big.