I have a thing about people with nasty teeth. It started back when I was a reporter in South Carolina. I covered an antique tractor show (clichéd, I know, but it’s really where it happened.) I met a farmer from Lugoff, South Carolina, with a front tooth so nasty it was shaped almost like a crescent. The rest of his teeth were either missing or grossly misshapen. That man and his teeth are now permanently tattooed on my brain and I am mildy squicked just imagining the guy. Maybe it’s unfair. No doubt it’s sort of a classism thing, though I am unfazed by a lot of other symbols of a working class upbringing, but my brain does it whether I like it or not. People with really gross teeth are sort of scary to me. I don’t really want to be around them.
To be frank, I don’t know that I’m ever going to get over this tooth thing when it comes to meeting someone new. I can grow to love (and indeed have grown to love before) someone with ugly teeth, but it is an uphill battle.
Put charitably, I have a thing about teeth that I get over with time when it comes to individuals.
Put uncharitably, I’m a toothist.
I think that if someone with nasty teeth were in a job interview with me, I would work doubly hard to give them a fair shake because I know my problem is not theirs. At the same time, I don’t know that hiring someone with bad teeth for a job like mine where schmoozing is an important aspect would be a good idea at all. Even people who aren’t totally turned off by gross teeth would likely consider gross teeth unprofessional-looking.
We all have stupid biases.
My favorite college roommate swears that all girls named “Amy” hate her. If their waitress’ name is Amy, Melani says it is a dead certainty that waitress Amy will spill coffee on Melani and flirt with her husband.
All kinds of people, I might venture to say most people, would rather deal with a native speaker of American English with an American accent than someone with a strong foreign accent. Lots of people don’t like fat people. Or women who don’t wear makeup. Or women who wear too much makeup.
We all have these stupid biases.
When it comes to sexual attraction, we don't bat an eyelash if someone says "I really don't like blondes," though we may be uncomfortable telling the truth if we prefer to date whites . (Though we might tell ourselves that if someone were raised close-knit Italian Catholic, that's one more cultural difference the relationship would have to overcome and that being raised in a Hispanic family is likely to pressent similar issues.)
I’m tempted to write off the tooth thing as a quirk of my personality and ignore it. I’m NICE to people with gross teeth, after all.
But if we rewrite my paragraphs and replace the references to teeth with ones to race, I find myself instantly turned off by the person I’m describing. Judging people on race just seems so evil!
If racism was down to the point where it was just a quirk of a few people, then it wouldn’t be an issue any more than toothism is, I suppose. But it highlights that toothism really is something I should get over. (But how does one get over something like that?)
I think about my issue about teeth and our societal issues about race, and I just find the waters of fairness still muddier.