‘Can I talk to you about something?’ my mother-in-law’s voice dropped to a raspy whisper, ‘It’s quite personal.’ She beckoned me to her side.

‘Sure,’ I said, thinking that this could be our breakthrough, our chance to finally connect. What was she was about disclose about herself?

‘Have you ever considered fixing your teeth?’

I was speechless. Well actually, I wanted to speak, to voice my objection, but I didn’t want to open my mouth for her to judge further! It turned out that her own crooked smile had impacted on her own self-confidence. She was hoping to help and save me from such shame, though perhaps her delivery had been a less like a velvet glove and more like a knockout punch.

Later that evening I asked my husband what she meant. I was a child from the fluoride generation, my husband on the other hand just missed out – clearly evident by his metal filled, picket-fence smile. I had never been self-conscious about my teeth before, but I noticed that I was speaking to him from behind my hand.


A few months ago my daughter got braces. She grinned at me after her orthodontic appointment and I smiled back (while internally recoiling in horror). The haunting image of Johnny Depp as a young Willy Wonker came to mind.


‘Honey, it suits you, it really does.’

A thirteen year-old’s ego is a cruel, younger mistress and as her mother it was my duty to lie.

Now we are all used to her metallic mouth, I have actually come to think it actually suits her. In fact almost every one of her friends now has them. It seems that a perfect smile will be compulsory in the future.

Me, I’m happy with my slightly crooked one. My mother-in-law will have to live with it. After all, it’s our imperfections that make us unique.