Blaming Dad for my crooked teeth

Recently, I came across the dreaded school photos of myself. The photos below are from ages six, eight, nine and ten. (Not sure what happened to my second grade photo.) In them, my poor teeth, crooked and with big gaps, are clearly on display. I wasn’t really self-conscious about my teeth until some little bully in my fifth grade math class started calling me, “Bucky.” I remember my face glowing a crimson red and fighting back the tears that threatened to overflow.

When you are a little kid, it’s easy to redirect your anger. (Well, some people never grow out of that phase.) One only had to take a glance at a photo of Dad and I to see that we had been blessed (cursed?) with the same kind of teeth. It’s the reason Dad looks like he’s at a funeral for many of our family photos. Back when he was young, cosmetic dentistry was essentially non-existant. His family was too busy just trying to survive World War II in Belfast. So poor dental care, combined with poor genetics and a lifelong cigarette and coffee habit meant my dad’s teeth were not going to win any beauty contests.

I didn’t have to endure being called “Bucky” for long. I was fitted for braces that same year and wore them throughout middle school. While some kids got picked on for wearing braces (“metal face,” etc.) I don’t remember having to deal with that. It was pretty common in my class to have braces.

Over time (and the fact that I stopped wearing my retainer before it was advisable) my front teeth have moved forward a bit. Sometimes when I smile for photos, my front teeth get “stuck” over my lips slightly. It makes me cringe a bit, but in the grander scheme of things, I know it’s not a big deal. And it reminds me of Dad, which is important.

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