Gap teeth run in my family. As a child I learned that I was able to poke my tongue through my gap just a tad bit. I also learned that Madonna had a gap. As did Lauren Hutton. Sure, they’re not gap toothed black women, but we all shared the same teeth. There were countless times when people asked if I was ever going to get braces for my teeth. I usually asked them why? It wasn’t like I had out of lined teeth, or crooked teeth. My gap was my signature. Unlike myself there are those who didn’t learn at an early age to love their gap. But grew fond of it as they got older. For a recent piece for Cosmo, Uzo Aduba, from Orange Is The New Black, explained her trials and gap tribulations:
When I was little, I didn’t smile much. Don’t get me wrong. I was a happy kid, but I couldn’t stand the space, dead center, in between my teeth. Yeah, I could whistle through it, but so what? That didn’t win me many points on the playground in Medfield, Massachusetts. To me, it was the greatest imperfection. Straight-up ugly. [..]
In the fifth grade, I thought my saving grace had arrived: braces. One by one, classmates would appear at school with a mouthful of metal. While I saw their pain (something about elastic bands that help shift your teeth into place just seems inhumane), I also saw possibility. This was my ticket.
I took the approach any 12-year-old girl would: I begged. My mother waved me off. I begged some more. My mother told me I was beautiful just the way I was (Liar!). I begged with tears thrown in, as an attempt at an encore (my career path was starting to take shape at this point).
Growing tired of my persistence, my mother sat me down. “Uzo, I will not close your gap and here’s why. You have an Anyaoku gap, my family’s gap.” She told me the history of her lineage and how much of her family, extended and immediate, had this gap. It’s a signature in the village she grew up in. People know the Anyaokus, in large part, by that gap. They also revered them for it. In Nigeria, my mom explained, a gap is a sign of beauty and intelligence (Take that, Chiclets!). People want it. My mother desperately wished she had the gap but wasn’t born with one. She continued to lay on the guilt, explaining that my gap was “history in my mouth” — but that if I asked for braces again she would concede with a heavy heart.
Although her mother’s words of wisdom weren’t enough Aduba eventually tried to go the route of getting a fake piece to place in her gap. She soon realized that it wasn’t worth the hassle. Click here to read the rest of Aduba’s piece. Clutchettes, was feature you were ashamed of as a kid that you changed, or learned to love as an adult?