Getting Past Internet Snarking (or, My Crooked Teeth Made a Stranger Puke)
Last week, Jonny and I sent out the Save the Dates for our wedding. We’re very proud of them! We worked hard on them together, and we were able to come up with something that was cute and very ‘us’. My mom still requested that we send a more civilized version to certain family friends and relatives, but hey – you can’t win ‘em all. Here it is:
You probably notice that I have crooked teeth. It’s something I’ve gone back and forth between feeling very self-conscious about and feeling fine with. I even considered getting braces before the wedding, but ultimately decided it was too much to deal with this year and what was the big deal about some imperfect teeth in pictures? Hey, it works for Jewel!
Well, then one of our future wedding guests (we still don’t know who)(which is probably for the best) decided to share our Shave the Date on the Internet. It has now been viewed close to 400,000 times on Imgur and Reddit. I found out because my friend Jesyka in Atlanta was sent the link by a friend who thought it was funny, having no idea that Jesyka knew me. Whoa! Internet famous!
Then I read the comments. I am not the only person who is conscious of my orthodontic issues. Some strangers are actually… offended by them. And commented about it, repeatedly. Comments ranged from, “The guy can photoshop a date into a beard, but didn’t bother to touch up his fiancé’s dead tooth? So gross. Can’t that shit be bleached?” to “I can’t look away from her mouth, her single discoloured tooth is staring into my soul.” Into your soul?!!? How come no one ever told me my tooth could do that?! My dentist just said it was an overbite with crowding!
Getting Appearance Snarked Sucks
I immediately felt about sixteen years old. To quote Angela Chase from My So-Called Life, “The worst feeling is suddenly realizing that you don’t measure up. And that in the past when you thought you did, you were a fool.” I felt hideous and most of all, stupid for all the times that I thought I wasn’t hideous.
That’s the thing about getting appearance snarked. To be quickly slashed down into flawed parts of your whole self feels really… embarrassing. Every single time I ever strutted my stuff in a bar, thinking I looked cute, suddenly felt laughable. Internet appearance snarking tends to contain a lot of people saying they feel repulsed and nauseous, too, so then it’s like, great, my teeth are not just a physical flaw that I have to deal with, now they’re an actual menace to society that go around staring into souls and making people puke.
Not Just For Me! Appearance Snarking Sucks for Womankind!
The saddest part, to me, is not my apparently dangerous chompers; it’s the fact that it’s a part of our culture to rip women apart in this way. The Internet makes it easy to do it in a public, yet anonymous way. Remember when someone discovered that Megan Fox has short, wide thumbs? There were thousands of comments on pictures by people saying they were grossed out. This is an absolutely stunning woman, and a few inches on her body out of MANY are unusual looking and we’re all sick to our stomachs?
The bizarre thing is that though we’re incredibly critical of women’s natural imperfections, we can be twice as brutal in criticizing women who go about trying to fix them. If I HAD gotten my teeth fixed and that picture was of me with perfectly white and straight teeth, I just have this feeling that I could have just as easily been criticized for looking fake (And if not that, then I’m certain it would have been something, because they also convinced themselves that a stray strand of hair from my bangs stuck to my cheek was an eyebrow down to my chin).
Basically, ladies, if we take this shit on, we’re fucked no matter what.
Well.. what can we do about this, Ms. Chinbrow?
If you’ve gone through something similar, I’ve compiled a little first aid kit for you of what I’ve learned from healing my own appearance snarked wounds.
- DON'T READ IT. Appearance snarking is toxic and there is no valuable information to be had there, period. There’s a lot of discussion online that I agree with about how comment trolls, behind the meanness, have some solid constructive criticism to offer. I think that’s true in many cases, but NOT when someone is talking about your nose or zit or hangnail or weight gain. It’s just plain mean and doesn’t need your energy adding to its power.
- Take a look at any site that contains pictures of celebrities and see how they get ripped apart. Not that I’d want you to make a habit of this or anything, but you’re in a delicate I’ve-been-snarked state and seeing “OMG SHE GOT SO OLD” as a caption under the photo of a drop-dead gorgeous actress might give you some perspective on your large forehead, or whatever.
- Don't spend too much time hating on the people/person who snarked you. I say this because it doesn’t really go anywhere. Most people that I told about the comments I got said things like, “What kind of losers notice these things on strangers’ pictures and comment on them? I bet they feel so bad about themselves to pick someone else apart like that!” I tried to go there, but it didn’t really cheer me up much. No need to meet meanness with more meanness. Why people behave the way they do is a mystery, and you can not be affected by their bullshit without creating more of the snarkiness that hurt you in the first place. Telling yourself that these people are all obese and deformed rotting away in a basement somewhere might be good for a laugh, but don’t live there.
- Think of a younger woman that you love who you feel very protective over. Imagine that she gets snarked on for something she’s really insecure about. What would you say to her? How would you want her to react? For me, I imagined my niece Alia. I’d tell her how beautiful and perfect she is down to her little toes and how I would never ever change one single thing about her. And I’d want her to react by saying, “FUCK ‘EM! Who gives a shit what these people think?” (but not right now. She’s not even three yet). I drew strength from that.
- Understand your part in helping this to continue as a part of our culture. I’ve witnessed comments like this in the past about a blogger or a celebrity, and had thoughts of, “Well, that’s what you sign up for when you’re a celebrity,” or “She shouldn’t have posted a zillion pictures of herself all over her blog.. that’s why I don’t do that!” One of the first things I said when I saw people’s comments was, “What the fuck? This was a Save the Date sent to our family and friends, it wasn’t a modeling audition! I’m not on reality TV! It’s not about my beauty!” That’s just me perpetuating this crap by telling myself that other women deserve it. The truth is that being a celebrity, being a blogger with lots of self photos, or having the guts to try out modeling do NOT mean that a stranger has the right to pick any of us apart. When we take part because it’s what everyone else is doing, we ensure that this will continue for our daughters and granddaughters.
- Pump some good energy into the world by giving out some genuine compliments to people. Truly, it helps.
- Laugh it off. Lady GaGa taught me this one, when someone said, “I told you she didn’t have a dick!” in the Telephone video after people called her a hermaphrodite. Anytime I started to rip myself apart this weekend, I’d picture Austin Powers saying, "Here comes the bride, baby!", and die laughing.
And most importantly…
- DO NOT TAKE ON THAT CRAP. You are so much more than your appearance, and I bet your appearance is pretty damn gorgeous anyway… even your imperfect parts! If you let this make you hide away or dull your shine, you’re helping to further the idea that a woman is only beautiful if she fits to certain exact standards. And I don’t want to live in a society where people believe that bullshit, do you?
My teeth are what they are, and since they’re mine I might as well see them as unique and cute. Until I get some braces or veneers or something I’m just going to have to integrate funky teeth into my definition of beauty, and that’s fine with me.
If that gives some Reddit commenter nightmares, so be it (And seriously, commenter, actual nightmares? What were they, that you had to pay for my dental bills?!).
Marla Golde writes blog posts with salty language and cartoons to show busy women how to take excellent care of themselves in every single way over at Your Full Plate.