It’s no secret to people who have seen me smile or laugh: I have a crooked mouth. I was born with it, and I tend to call it my “birth defect” (it is some kind of defect and there’s a name for it, but I don’t remember). It does not affect me in any such way, other than it making my face a little lopsided. My eyes are a little uneven because of my mouth being crooked, so when I’m laughing or smiling one eye is almost closed. But besides that, I am completely 100% fine.
When I was a kid, I absolutely hated my smile. It didn’t matter at all when I was a baby until I was about four. I smiled as much as I could and as big as my crooked face would let me. Then I would see pictures of myself smiling. And I didn’t like what I was seeing. I looked weird. Funny. Not normal at all. So I stopped smiling with my teeth. I figured out that if I did a closed-mouth smile, you couldn’t even tell my face was crooked. I never smiled with my teeth when people took pictures. My school pictures were closed-mouth, my smiling face at a birthday party made it look forced, and I covered my mouth when I laughed. That was the only time I couldn’t prevent people from finding out about my smile. When I laughed, the whole world knew my mouth was crooked.
Throughout elementary school and middle school, my other classmates didn’t understand my smile. I was told many times that I looked weird or asked why my mouth looked like that. I didn’t like having that “defect”. I didn’t feel normal. I wanted to be normal desperately, and having a crooked smile didn’t help. I wondered if I could get surgery later on in life to correct it. (Mind you, I wasn’t even a teenager yet and I was thinking these things!!!!!)
Then something in me changed. A friend of mine told me I should smile with my teeth for our 8th grade pictures, since that was when they would be in the yearbook individually. I was hesitant to do so. But I practiced in the mirror and tested it out and eventually I went for it. And you know what? That picture is my favorite one out of all twelve years of school. Ever since then, I started smiling with my teeth.
I realized that this crooked mouth makes me, well, me. I’m different, and I finally learned to accept it. I rarely ever smile without my teeth (unless I’m trying to look weird in a selfie). I make faces at myself in the mirror and embrace the crooked mouth. Yeah, I still have people ask me about my smile. Someone once asked me if I had Bell’s palsy because my face was crooked. I make jokes about it, like when people ask me if something looks straight, I say I can’t tell them because my face is crooked. I’ve been asked online by people who try to word it very carefully not to offend me. But I’m not really offended anymore. I love my crooked mouth.
In a way, this was my character development. Like all characters in a book, they start out with some kind of issue. They don’t like something about themselves or they’re trying to be better, etc. Along the way, the characters figure out for themselves what they want to do and they become a better person. Loving my crooked smile was a huge thing for me to overcome, and by liking it, I developed my character. I became known as Danie with the crooked smile, but it wasn’t negative. It meant that this was me, and I wasn’t going to change.
Basically what I’m saying here is that everyone is different. I’m not normal because my face is a little crooked. Everyone in this world has something strange about them. Maybe it’s a birthmark, or a scar, or curved in toes, or a face like mine. Whatever it is, it makes a person who they are. And everyone should embrace their uniqueness, no matter how long it takes them to figure it out.