Teen body image issues? This I know. Or thought I did.

One of the fallacies of youth is thinking that adults, especially parents, do not remember being young.  In fact, we remember being young better than we remember last year, but that is a topic that would take more than one blog post to explore.

My daughter is fourteen.  When I was fourteen, I very definitely felt my mother, who was only a couple years older than I am now, did not remember being young.  Or, if she did, her youth was nothing like mine.  She could not relate to any of my many insecurities, least of all ones regarding my appearance.  Whatever was troubling me was dismissed with, “You’re too sensitive,” or its cousin, “You’re so moody!”

I am not like that.  I remember.  I listen.  I try to reassure.

The trouble is that none of the things I was insecure about bother my daughter.  She doesn’t seem to worry about her weight, her thighs, her shoe size, her bra size, etc.   So all those reassuring words about body image I’ve been preparing for years, I never get to say them.  (So far, so good, right?)

She has her own worries, though.

Last week, she told me that her canine teeth are too pointy.

I explained that they are supposed to be pointy, etc. etc. and so forth.  She looked at me with the pained expression of a teenaged girl whose mother does not remember being young, rolled her eyes, sighed deeply, and walked away.

A few days later, she brought up the pointy teeth worry again.  I explained that the tongue exaggerates things, and her teeth really are not especially pointy.  She stuck her finger in her mouth, felt her teeth, and said, “No, my teeth are really pointy.”  She looked so sad as she walked away.  Sad and uncomforted and misunderstood.

Monday, she came home from school, and when I asked how her day went, she told me that her canine teeth are too pointy.  I replied that teeth wear down with age, and all young people have pointy teeth.  Mine, I offered, are dulled with age, because I am old.

She said none of her friends have teeth as pointy as hers.  Again, the troubled look of self doubt.

I said, “Your friends sound like freaks.  They are too young to have dull teeth.  They should have pointy canines at their age.  What do you think they are doing that they’ve damaged their teeth?”

She thought for a second and answered, “I don’t think they’d file their teeth down, but you never know.”  Then, she asked if I’d like anything to eat.

I declined, but told her we’d go shopping for shoes after she did.

Now, who would like to reassure me that my teeth are not moving in my sleep?  I am convinced they are.  My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I can feel and see the difference.


12 thoughts on “Teen body image issues? This I know. Or thought I did.

    • Okay, now I feel like a complete idiot, because it never occurred to me that she may be the target of teasing on account of her teeth, which do not look pointy to me. If she brings it up again, I’ll ask her about teasing.

  1. Isn’t it interesting the things our (perfect!) kids obsess over? My youngest daughter swore her nostrils were the shape of hearts. Crazy girl. But I did, indeed, remember (still do) how insecure girls feel, regardless of how silly that insecurity may seem to others. I feel your daughter’s pain. My teeth were always my worst feature—so crooked. Still are. :o(

  2. My teeth used to move also. Turns out I grind them at night. All of the stress that i blissfully ignore during the day evidently manifests itself while I sleep. I clenched and ground so thoroughly, that I actually loosened one of my bottom teeth and made the gum around it recede significantly. Now I have a nightguard. Not sexy–well, a little more sexy since the drooling stopped–but my teeth feel more intact now.

  3. It seems like no matter how much you prepare for these conversations your kids will still hit you out of left field. It’s never a worry you imagine them having, is it?

    • No, that is the thing about parenting. Our kids aren’t us. They’ll have their own issues and problems, and no matter how hard we try, there are times we just won’t get it.

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