A Story of Trauma: How Britney Spears Ruined My Smile

Age 7: a time ripe for trauma and the start of our journey seeking for society’s approval, a journey with no arrival. 

Britney Spears was becoming an icon, and soon we would all emulate her overly sexualized behaviors subconsciously calling for abuse over women. 

That part with the lyrics, I didn’t know. Being French-Canadian, there are a lot of things I didn’t get… Like that genie in the bottle line, and no I’m not "a slave for you", unless we have an agreement and a safe word. I digress… 

So, my friend Louis (who was clearly gay, but he didn’t admit it then, the hormones were still manageable), commented on how nice Britney’s smile was. 

“She has such a nice smile, wow!” 

“It’s not that nice”, I said, with my fading critical sense still seeking for authenticity yet slowly giving into the desire to fit in.  

And he said, get ready, it’s quite heavy…

(cue overly emotional music)

A half-smile-full-of-makeup selfie from my self-conscious days in LA. Classic.

A half-smile-full-of-makeup selfie from my self-conscious days in LA. Classic.

“Do you think yours is better?”

Dun dun dun! Yeah, that’s it, and that’s all. Sorry, I wish I had a better line to make sense of that trauma. 

To your mature mind, it surely sounds innocent. But to me then, God damn it it wasn’t. You know, life coaches didn’t exist back in the 90’s. 

Somehow, it made me believe that my smile was awful. Yeah, blow it up times ten and obsess over a little comment, that’s easy. Trauma doesn’t always makes sense. 

How this five word sentence shaped my life is pretty sad:

I hid my mouth with my hand every time I laughed, and I never smiled with my teeth. I often looked half-happy, and it made me look standoffish or arrogant at times, and/or girly and super shy. “You’re so cute”, I often heard, well hiding my dragon self. 

On top of that, some dudes in school made fun of me because I was hiding my mouth (yay, layers of trauma!) and they made a concerted effort to making me laugh because they thought that was funny. Although it is fun to have people committed to making you laugh, blocking its full expression sucks. It’s like holding back on a screaming orgasm, it sucks. 

I dropped thousands on invisible braces, to open my mouth, which hadn’t fully developed because of that tiny moment. I practiced smiling on my own with my friend the mirror, simply to learn how to smile for when they’d ask: “come on, give me a real smile!”, which ironically would piss me off and really ruin chances of it happening. 

Don’t tell a woman to calm down, unless you want her to freak out. And don’t ask her to orgasm either, unless you want her to fake it. 

The good news is that I’m more and more showing my pearly whites! But it’s good to understand the origin of our pain, to be kind with ourselves, to love back these parts of us which need it the most.

And, to be aware that our words can and do mark people for too long sometimes. Words are powerful, so to “cast spells” with compassion is essential to build a better world where all can smile big and wide, live happy and trauma free.