Monday, September 13, 2010

Looking at Imperfections

In the midst of the most solemn ten days of the Jewish calendar--the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when only fervent prayers, giving charity and repentance can affect God's plan for us over the coming year--newspapers remind us that most everybody else is still obsessed with the superficial and mundane.  Like whether space between front teeth is the latest rage in sexy looks.

OK, that and New York's Fashion Week, which seems to be just as important as politics, natural disasters and financial crises.

But the front page story in the Wall Street Journal about gap-toothed models being the new fad because their frontal lapse gives them "authenticity" did bring a close-mouthed smirk.  How about the authenticity of really yellow teeth?  Or the authenticity of wrinkles?  "I think people want to see something different, something off," said a casting director choosing models for designers. The editor of W Magazine said younger generations eschew the photoshopped perfection of the digital age: "It's a love for the imperfect and the authentic," he opined.

The article goes on to talk about various models and celebrities with spaces between their front teeth--most of whom are otherwise perfect.  Admittedly, embracing dental abnormalities consoles me, since my parents could not afford orthodontia, and, though my front incisors are solidly together, my lower teeth are staggered and my canines only fashionable with the popularity of Twilight.

With snaggle-teeth trendy, I can now focus on less apparent but more serious imperfections.  Like recalling and righting the many affronts and missteps in my behavior over the past year.  Like incorporating more uplifting and giving activities in my daily routine; not just promising to do them and conveniently allowing other "urgent" events to intervene.  Like developing discipline so that I maximize productivity instead of succumbing to easy and undemanding stuff, like internet browsing and email.

Models' smile-styles and the Ten Days of Repentance form the ideal juxtaposition. Makes me grin--gap-teeth or no.


  1. Great post...!

    If a lesson can be drawn from the article, it is perhaps that yes, we are all imperfect. But there's another aspect of looking at our imperfections:

    Jessica Hart, a 24-year-old Australian model, used to oblige when clients asked her to wear a prosthetic insert to cover up her wide gap. But as she gets more work because of her teeth, not in spite of them, she refuses to cover it up. "If [clients] don't like my gap, I don't want to work for them," she says.

    There's something to be said for showing our imperfections, and certainly, some imperfections are more than ok: It does not reflect on a person negatively to have gap teeth, or even to have certain characteristics or aspects of personality. (My wife likes to say similar to Dr. Seuss on being one's self - the people who care don't matter and the people who matter don't care.) On the flip side, should there be imperfections one wishes to 'cover up', that is quite often a sign of a trait that perhaps should be worked on, rather than covered up.

    We should all wish to put our whole selves forward at all times - and when there are pieces which we don't like and don't wish to put forward, that is where we should be concentrating our efforts to improve ourselves. It's easy to try and avoid this by hiding pieces of ourselves and putting forth a 'perfect' face, but nobody is perfect, and we only end up hurting ourselves by not working on what we need to.

    Thanks for the reminder, and g'mar chasima tova to your family!! :)

  2. You're a wise man, Ezzie.

    I might add, though, that we view many types of transgressions done privately less harshly than those same sins done publicly, where they can influence others and lower the caliber of a group/neighborhood/nation. You made a great related point that when one wants to cover up a trait/act, that's a sign it may need to be confronted or eliminated.

    Still, we all wish to be as perfect and beautiful and loved as possible; I'm conflicted over whether that's a bad thing. I don't like wearing makeup, but on the other hand would rather cover up a zit; I think I look healthier not pasty-white, so I use Jergen's moisturizer that includes a little self-tanner. Is it less "authentic" and perhaps deceptive to wear an uncomfortable suit to the office rather than the sweats that are the "real you," to enhance your credibility?

    Perhaps one of the tasks of life is differentiating our motives and the level of significance of our choices.

    Thanks, Ezzie for your thought-provoking comment.

  3. Oh, absolutely agreed - someone talked over Yom Tov about how people have different customs over these 10 days vs. the rest of the year. The question is: Why? Are we trying to 'fake out' God? They answered that no - we are simply trying to put our best foot forward, by showing our potential: Look, we really can work on ourselves, we can improve. So of course, covering a pimple or the like is fine; we just should be careful to still take care of ourselves and not only cover it up, hoping nobody can see.