I went to the dentist today. My tendencies toward the melodramatic can catch people who don’t know me off guard, and so perhaps I should not have answered the question on the intake form “How do you feel about your smile?” by writing “Ick. It makes me unlovable.” Regarding my sociology-infamous bottom front teeth, the dentist asked me if I had ever contemplated braces. I told him that my parents had not been eager to spend their money on that when I was growing up (and I didn’t especially push them), and then I went through college and graduate school without any money to spring for it myself, and then by the time I was in a position where I had money, I felt too old. “You’re under 60. Anything under 60 is not too old,” he said.

Still, getting braces would seem just to further my suspicion that I am in the throes of the lamest midlife crisis ever. Worse than buying a large TV and starting to have opinions about American Idol. Worse even than if I had followed through with the urgings of a certain unsavory friend and gotten a mobius strip tattoo. Maybe I should just shell out now and buy a hot new Camry.

BTW, my dentist’s name is Doctor Dong, but I will pass on making any of the several million jokes that practically blog themselves about that. He’s in practice by himself, and his office, in its entirety, is smaller than my living room.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

14 thoughts on “crooked”

  1. i just went to the dentist and he too asked me if i had ever thought about braces… i HAD braces! my teeth are perfectly straight but i quit wearing my retainer in high school so one front tooth is a little crooked — i like to think it gives me character.

    with invisalign, apparently, braces have no social costs anymore so you could at least enact your mid-life crisis privately, albeit expensively. (says she of the two-camry household — they are awesome for fuddy-duddy status, i love chatting about the cup holders, the gas mileage, and my preference for the 4-banger model)


  2. For the sake of disclosure, I come from a family of dentists/orthodontists, but I am saying this with purely unselfish intentions (besides, not like you’re doing dental work in Orange County, CA) when I say: Jeremy, you deserve a smile that makes you feel confident and loveable.

    Of course, I think you’re loveable whatever the state of your teeth. But if you want to do this, man, go for it. My 45 year old sister immigrated from Vietnam at 17, so of course she never had braces (unlike me). She’s now wearing braces (real ones, not just invisalign) and is rocking them. It’s not so weird to have braces past your teens, and they’re temporary. But they would give you something you’ve wanted all your life, and that’s not for nothin’.

    I don’t mean to diminish the cost in financial/physical terms–I had braces twice in my life to correct my also icky teeth, and the second time was in college. I had four teeth pulled. It hurt. But I like the confidence I have now. So if you want to do it, go for it.

    But if you don’t, that’s cool too. I think people should make changes if they want for the sake of self-empowerment, but not feel compelled to make those changes just to conform to some standard. But without sounding too maudlin, Jeremy, I hope you will think of yourself as handsome and loveable no matter what you look like. You are a rock star! Someone created a Jeremy Freese, You are Mighty page just for you! You’re my hero. If you are a rogue sociologist, then I want to be a rogue law professor.

    Incidentally, aren’t you like only mid-thirties? Since when is mid-thirties middle aged?! Dude, don’t give me anticipatory neuroses.


  3. Also, Doctor Dong is a fine name. My brother’s name is Dung. See, in Vietnamese, a D without a little bar through the perpendicular part is a “z” or “y” sound. If he is Chinese though, then I have no clue how to pronounce his name.


  4. my smile used to be witchy from a certain angle and vampirish from another. then i had braces, between age 28 and 31 (yes that’s 3 years!). it was rather painful at the beginning and it involved gold chains, hooks, and pulled teeth, etc…. invisalign wasn’t an option for me because it’s only for teeth that are slightly crooked (or so i was told), so i had to endure a lot of cutting from the wires, which wasn’t hard to get used to, but flossing was always a pain.

    all that said, i’m glad i got braces and i’m indebted to my ex and his dental coverage. so yeah, don’t get the tattoo, get braces.

    re: your doctor’s name — if he’s chinese (very likely), the ‘o’ in dong is pronounced just like the letter ‘o’. there are worse funnier ones…


  5. Things always sound better in my head when I’m typing them. And then hours later I think, “man, that didn’t come off right.”

    But without sounding too maudlin, Jeremy, I hope you will think of yourself as handsome and loveable no matter what you look like

    is not to say whatever you look like is not handsome, but that I think you are. But hmm, now this sounds like 1) over-compensation (which it isn’t), or 2) like schoolgirly crushiness, which I am so trying to avoid in the blogosphere. Every time I do a glowing book review, someone calls it a “mash note.” Aw, man.

    Not to comment thread-jack, but it is tough out there for the female blogger, trying to achieve the right tone and balance of seriousness.


  6. I was told by someone who claimed to know all about this stuff that for adults, they’ll often just do veneers or caps or whatever thing they do where they give you new teeth. Huh. I guess that was wrong.

    Not that I’m advocating grinding your teeth down to pegs and putting temporary fake things over them, only to have to replace them in 10 or so years.

    Remember when Gwen Stefani had braces? She also rocked them.


  7. Oh my god — I have the best dentist steps away from you! And his name is Dr. Silberman. And, when I can see cavities in the mouth of the kids I work with in the breakfast program, he sees them free. And he does invisalign. But I love your teeth and don’t want you to change.


  8. When I lived in Illinois, my dentist was Dr. Butt. One of my colleagues here in New Mexico has a dentist named Dr. Paine. Herb Caen, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, often included those kinds of ironic coincidences of name and occupation in his column. I thought they were funny when I was about 11 years old, but for some reason I don’t find them that amusing anymore. (Although I would be smiling inside if I were to say “Good Morning, Dr. Dong” while lowering myself into the dentist’s chair).


  9. Jeremy – There’s a professor at my school – she’s a lovely woman in her forties. Bright, successful, pleasant, and very good at what she does. Oh, and she has braces. Full-on, top and bottom, not invisible. She taught a seminar I took last semester, and on the first day she made some light, airy comment about it and then we all promptly forgot about it. I suspect the same would be true for you, if you decided to do it!

    Regarding the funny doctor name thing, in Austin there is a doctor who does vasectomies named Dr. Richard Chopp. He goes by Dick. I’ve heard that a million times, it seems, and I only half believed it. However, I just googled it and it seems to be true!


  10. I wish we wouldn’t be that influenced by what other people think or say about our looks. I’d say, if your teeth really bother you then see what you can do about them. But if not really and the only reason you’d be doing this is to satisfy others then pass. (Of course, ironically, whether you will or will not get braces is likely also very much influenced by what others will think of you with braces on.) Did you ask if other than aesthetics there was a reason to do this?

    Plenty of people seem to be big Jeremy fans regardless of the state of your teeth so I wouldn’t let it get to you too much. But if it is getting to you and continues to do so then I’d try to work on a way to deal with it (whether by adjusting attitude or teeth). I know that’s easier said than done though.


  11. My guess would be that my bottom teeth are too out of line for invisalign.

    I should say that I don’t actually believe my teeth make me unlovable. I have a tendency to be a drama queen on staid-looking forms.


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