I’m not referring to that uncomfortably wide space between a supermodel’s thighs that screams “anorexia!” I’m also not referring to the notorious conformational clothing chain you can find at the nearest mall, where you can dress yourself or your kids. No, I’m referring to the specific space between one’s front teeth that is either coveted or despised in our culture. Either way, I don’t have a choice: The Gap is simply a reality for me.
I’ve had a gap between my front teeth – technically termed “diastema” – since I was 8 years old, so it’s been a part of my identity for most of my life. I subscribe to almost every fashion and beauty magazine in circulation, so I was one of the first to realize when The Gap officially became fashionable a few years ago – with Victoria’s Secret model Lily Aldrige and Calvin Klein model Lara Stone catwalking their way to millions with, you guessed it, gapped teeth. Although I can appreciate the trend, my tooth gap seems so natural to my existence that it’s hard to imagine it qualifying as trendy.
Even though I had braces when I was 12, the gap between my front teeth only temporarily closed. While I couldn’t embrace wearing my retainer each night, I had no qualms about the slight gap that opened back up over time. By college, the gap had reached its fullest expression. Up until that point, no one had ever mentioned it to me.
Then, when I was 22, I saw a band play at a local bar. As I chattered to the lead guitarist over a hard cider – admiring his long, dark brown hair and Radiohead t-shirt – he said, “I love the gap between your front teeth. Never fix it – it gives you character.” I had never thought much about my gap until that moment, but the guitar player’s words affected me. At first I was shocked that he’d even noticed it, but then I felt pleased that he’d admired it. From that night on, I vowed to keep my gap for good.
Even when my new dentist mentioned my gap a few months ago, he said, “I can offer Invisalign to close it, if you want. But it reminds me of that sexy vampire on ‘True Blood’ (Anna Paquin).” I declined Invisalign, telling him I appreciated my gap. I’d go the sexy vampire route instead.
So when The Gap debuted in magazines as a “national beauty trend,” it was a humorous reminder of what my intuition had already known: gaps are beautiful. In some cultures, gaps are also considered fortunate. In Ghana, Namibia and Nigeria, gapped teeth are an attractive sign of fertility. In France, they are considered lucky, and in Australia, children with gapped front teeth are considered more likely to be wealthy later in life.
Well, I’m certainly not wealthy or trendy, but I do have a gap. And I plan to rock it – carrying the guitar player’s words with me into my ’30s and beyond, smiling more genuinely each day.