I saw her comment about the origin of her dental problems, and remembered mine. A first grade recess resulted in me leaving the playground with a bloodied hole in the front of my mouth where my upper central incisors had been. What followed, over 26 years, were very few smiles. The plastic lumps shaped mostly like teeth that i ended up with routinely discolored from the metal pins they were anchored to, and broke frequently as well until ten years later. When they finally stopped breaking, the color was no better. But largely I could just not smile and pretty much forget it as long as I was around people who didn't already know.
I sympathized. But it wasn't the trauma of that first grade day that was the burden I'd carried. It was the conception that I was disfigured that I lived with, that was hammered into me for years. Ten years out since I finally got crowns, I'd practically forgotten about it. But in that moment, I considered the anatomy of what had transpired, and realized why things had played out as they did. We'd done the best we could with what we had.
I've had comments of late on my smile. A common one is the frequency with which it's observed. Another, one that shocked me for a moment, was how bright and white it was. But the last, one from my spouse when I ask her to take a picture of my outfit, is how often I manage to look goofy when I am trying intentionally to smile. When trying to smile is never a thing you do, you don't know how to do it. It only happens subconsciously. And so here we were. Finally happy, I am readily able to let that joy be a beacon, but the scars of my life meant it only shone when I wasn't trying.