May 17, 2011

Love Thy Gummy Smile

Whenever I'm worried or stressed out about something, I like to ask myself the following to put it in perspective: Is this a First World Problem? And by that I mean, how does this problem compare to the issues faced by women in Afghanistan, or Sudan, or on a reservation in Canada? For example:
  • "My kid wakes me up at 6 a.m. but I want to sleep until 7 a.m.!" You're not getting up at 6 a.m. to go work in a factory for 14 hours while your 3-year-old chainsmokes and runs the drillpress beside you, so consider yourself lucky, princess.
  • "We live in a one-bedroom apartment with a kid, and sometimes I just really wish I had my own space!" So go outside, dummy. In many parts of the world, your parents, their parents, and probably 4 or 5 in-laws would be living with you too.
  • "Our apartment doesn't get enough quality daylight to keep plants alive!" Well, unless your family needs to eat those plants to survive, you should shut the hell up and go cook the asparagus rotting in your crisper right now.
  • "Nobody follows my blog!" In some villages, a "blog" is something you pray the Medicins Sans Frontieres doc removes before you are of marriageable age.
  •  "The stores are all sold out of OB Tampons!" What? You don't have other options? It's not like you have to rip up old towels for makeshift pads and be stoned in the streets for daring be near a man while menstruating. 
So unless my anxiety is related to paying our rent (a survival issue), my daughter's safety (again, a survival issue), or being attacked by a schizophrenic crackhead on the subway, the answer I usually give myself is "Just get over yourself."

And, I believe, the very definition of First World Problem is cankles.  If you are worried about your fat ankles, I hope you realize what a luxury it is to have that part of your brain whose job it is to worry about important, life-threatening things free to worry about a stupid, made-up body issue. At least you have ankles.

I don't care about my cankles. Mostly because I am not convinced anyone else ever looks at anybody's ankles, except for the starving magazine editors who invented them. And only then because they're hungry and jealous that I get to eat. HOWEVER, the one feature I have always had the luxury to obsess about is my gummy smile. Of course, as a kid I didn't know I should obsess over it, until all those school picture photographers told me to smile with my lips closed.

You know how people say things like "Growing up Korean, I never saw any women like me in the media." Or "Our culture is lacking in positive portrayals of lesbian lawyers." Well, I can honestly say that I have never seen a famous person with a gummy smile like mine. It's a bit anomalous, I admit. I've only known a few other people who had the degree of gum exposure that I do.

Think about it: if you're gap-toothed, you have Letterman and Madonna to look up to. Jug ears? There's no better role model than Barack Obama. Unibrow: Frida Kahlo (or Bert). But who do gummy-smiled people have? I searched the Google box:
One-hit-wonder Jon Heder

Jazz singer (and fellow Vancouver Islander) Diana Krall
   As I searched for the very few celebs who have been noted to have gummy smiles, I quickly learned something. There are things you can do to eliminate your gummy smile. (I had always thought my gummy smile was my cross to bear for otherwise being so awesome.) But apparently the lovely Jennifer Garner used to have a gummy smile, but then she had it fixed:

"Gummy smile correction treatment"? Are you kidding me? I'm hiding the Internet from my kid until she's 30 (by then, the Internet will be implanted in our brains and I won't be able to keep the sad fact that people have their gums lasered off from her any longer). Looking at this (totally made up!) analysis of gummy smiles, I'd say I have "advanced gummy smile" but not "severe gummy smile." Probably some lip injections and a little Botox in my upper lip to keep it from lifting when I grin would keep me from needing a "gingevectomy."

First. World. Freaking. Problem. Children in North Korea are eating weeds because they have no food, and you're going to spend thousands of dollars on making your teeth appear bigger? What are the aliens going to think when they come to earth and find that adults on one side of the planet are lasering their perfectly healthy gumlines just as children on the other side of the planet are losing their teeth due to malnutrition.

That is not the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where this girl here can smile as big as she wants for her school pictures.

Gummy and beautiful

Love thy gummy smile. And cankles. Save that part of your brain for worrying about something important. Like why aren't more people following my blog.


  1. FWIW I never noticed you had a gummy smile. But I did think you were Mormon.

  2. Your gummy smile is beautiful! xoxo

  3. This is soooo funny!!! You are a funny lady my friend :-)
    Is my hair a first word problem?

  4. Lizzi, that hair of yours definitely toes the know I love your 'fro

  5. A wonderful blog - "Love thy gummy smile" is a great & very thought provoking piece. x

  6. I was too distracted by your cute clothes and general (must be a Mormon) hotness to think gummy smile. Lucy will thank you for this post in 15 years. Make sure to add it to her hard drive when you have it implanted.

  7. Sue, your awesomeness rocks my socks.

  8. Why aren't more people following your blog? Seriously?! Why wasn't I following your blog before now? What have I missed? This is fecking brilliant and I am now idolising you just a teensy bit (okay, a bunch).

  9. Jennifer Garner's new post-gummy-face smile is so odd. If you hit her in the face with a frying pan it would have the same effect. You and your daughter are beautiful. Now what about those of us without eyebrows? We only have Conan to look up to. What will I tell the children?

  10. I love this post and I think "is that a first world problem" should be our official family motto. Last week we wanted to find the perfect pediatric, board-certified dentist within a 30 block radius for Lucy. And I was really stressed out about it. But even that is a first world problem. So many kids will never get to go to a dentist (like British kids, for example) much less get to go to a dentist who gives them stickers and toys.

  11. Susie, you are hilarious!! Love your blog and I always loved your sense of humour.I have a feeling that you'll be famous some day.
    Lots of love,

  12. You just look awesome Suzanne.
    I worry sometimes about my boobs being flat after breatfeeding.
    Or my hips that I'd like just inexistant as I can't ever see anyone like me in any freakin' magazine's pictures.
    And my grey hair now ?
    Why can't we just be happy with what we have.. and why we care about other's look and comments on us..

  13. if your other blog entries are on the same level as this one then your blog is totally "follow worthy".

  14. Suzanne: you are a hoot! Keep smiling that gummy smile!

  15. I love your article! And you have a wonderful child I have to say. :)

  16. Your article really gives me confident, Suzanne! :)

    I have a gummy smile. At first, I couldn't smile freely because most of my friend think that my smile is ugly and gross. Some people also say whoever has a gummy smile as a horse-face.

    It messed me up at first, but than, I never give a damn about that thing anymore. As long as I smile sincerely and happily, I don't mind if my gum showing while I'm smiling.

    Moreover, it's also not the first world problem, is it? There are a lot of more important think to think about.

    Thank you very much for your article, Suzanne. it gives me more and more confidence to smile with my gummy smile... :))

    1. Plus Jessica Pare (the actress who plays Don Draper's new wife on Mad Men) has a gummy smile and she is GORGEOUS!

  17. I came across your article while looking for before and after pictures. I actually just came out of a consulation for having a gummy smile surgery. (I have my appointment in a few days). I don't disagree at all that this is a First World Problem haha. Being that I just came back from a 2 month stay in Africa a couple of days ago and that my mom is an immigrant of a third-world country I can't agree with you more. My gummy smile seems to only matter to me, but I have been going back and forth for years about the procedure and figured I would finally give it a try. Why do we spend thousands on braces? Why do we spend money on treating/cutting/dying/highlighting/ styling our hair? I'll admit, I have never dyed or highlighted my hair or for that matter I got a mani/pedi once for a wedding etc. Those things aren't important to me. For some reason I finally decided that I wanted an even smile and am glad to have finally done it. The idea is to feel good about you. Keep loving your smile because you look great! Your daughter is adorable, by the way :)

  18. Well hello there! In your blog article did you use the data from some researches or here are totally your personal conclusions? Thanks in advance for your answer.

  19. Hey! Thanks so so so much for posting this. I drive my bf nuts everyday asking him if I look gross with a gummy smile. To the commenter up above regarding gummy smiles and horse faces..ughh I KNOW! It's so brutal! Sometimes I don't even want to go out...mine is super bad. Your article really gave me a new perspective, although it's hard because mine shows whenever I smile and laugh. THANKS !

  20. I came across this because I'm pretty insecure about my gummy smile but the points you made were completely right! After trying for so long to "practice smiling in a way where my gums won't show as much", it really is a first world problem. I have way too much to smile about and we gummy mouths shouldn't be ashamed of smiling as big as we want :D. Thanks for this.

  21. Candice Swanepoel has a gummy smile, she is a Victoria Secret model and IMO one of the most beautiful women in the world.

  22. What about Katie Couric? Now THAT's a gummy smile - and with thin lips to boot.

  23. “I want to live in a world where this girl here can smile as big as she wants for her school pictures.” — That’s the spirit, Suzanne! Cliché it may seem, but the most beautiful thing a girl can wear is her smile. Sometimes, we seem to think that having perfect appearance can boost our confidence; however, while it really works, it still feels great when you love your flaws.

    Eric Burgess

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  25. I found your blog post googling gummy smiles because I was feeling self-conscious about mine. Thanks so much for writing this. You are so right! Next time I'm taking my life (and beauty) for granted I'll revisit this post.

    FWIW when I saw your photo I didn't see your gummy smile but rather your glowing smile. You and your daughter look beautiful and glowing. Maybe you can be the mini-celebrity who inspires us with her glowing gummy smile ;)

  26. Thanks for sharing, this really puts things into perspective. I came across the blog as I have only recently become aware of my gummy smile at the grand old age of 45!, recent photographs taken of me show it very much and I have just met someone who has a perfect smile so I began to become super aware of it. I tried some different ways to smile to lessen the appearance but looking back at those pics it is obvious that I am holding back and the usual lightness and openness in my smile is lessened. In fact I can see I look more open, real and attractive being myself and smiling with all of me gums n' all ! so I shall just keep on being all of me, no surgery required. Inspiring blog, thank you again and you and your daughter have beautiful smiles.



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