Smiling With Purple Gums

I will never forget that day.

I was going to church as a bright, cheery 7 years old ready for Sabbath School. My mom, as always, put me in a beautiful outfit. Lovely dress, cute typical Haitian church hair-do, and a gorgeous little girl. As I sat in the Sabbath School class, I smile with all my confidence beaming through my body. In my head, saying, “I know I’m cute!”.

Then, a little girl turns around with yellow go-go’s in her braided pigtails with long ribbons at each end. She looked at me, confused and with disgust. “EWWWWWWW! Why are your gums BLACK? Did you brush your teeth?” She screeches in terror.

I looked back at her, mirroring her puzzled face. I was soooo confused. I am not sure what she’s talking about. I never noticed my gums until that day. I closed my mouth in shame and replied, “I brush my teeth twice a day, and my gums are not black.”
“Yes, they are! It looks like you don’t brush. If I were you, I wouldn’t smile.” The little girl responded.

From that point on, I decided to smile without showing my gums. WILD RIGHT? There I was with all the confidence in the world. Smiling and shining, happy… AT CHURCH! Then, in this conversation, I changed the way I looked at myself (CardiB voice).
As children, we have all the self-esteem in the world. It is not until external viewers change what we already affirmed within us. It’s like feeling like a peacock with its feathers getting pulled out. one by one with each opinion they have of you. You start to see a whole different person in the mirror.

I spent the rest of my childhood through my early twenty’s smiling without. I have picture proof of how long it took me to get my smile perfect to the point that my gums did not while smiling. I tried so hard not to look like a chipmunk in most pictures, but there were times that I was unsuccessful.

But what I noticed in those pictures was that I never looked truly happy. My expressions show true happiness when I smile FULLY. At 23 years old, I decided to smile, showing purple gums (and my gums are not black like the little girl said; they are actually purple, so ha).

I speak out on this story today because we all have had times where we were insecure about something. Body, facial features, intelligence, anything. But how long are we going to let it get to us? I have more than a damn decade of fucked up pictures after listening to someone’s comment. We shouldn’t live our lives concealing who we are to appease others. We should live our lives unapologetically.

I am a beautiful black woman with some purple gums… and you’ll see them if you make me smile or laugh! And that’s fine with me. So imma smile how I want to!

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