Lena Dunham has never been one to shy away from subjects that make people uncomfortable, and the internet has always been quick to respond.
Like clockwork, the cycle repeated itself Monday when the Girls creator and star wrote about a source of insecurity for her — her teeth — for Vogue. Over the course of the 1,800-word piece, titled “Lena Dunham Got the Message: The Internet Does Not Like Her Teeth,” she referred to her teeth as “cartoonish and mismatched,” said they give her a “jankity smile,” and compared her look to that of “a habitual meth user.”
Dunham noted that photos that show her mom when she was about Dunham’s age, 31, feature someone whose “buckteeth overshadowed the rest of her child-size.” While the actress finds her mom “chic” in those photos, she’s never enjoyed her similar smile.
“My baby teeth were straight enough. But around age six things got weird,” Dunham explained. “Rather than have big-kid teeth sprout up and usurp their predecessors, I simply grew an extra row, like some wayward shark. A dentist was forced to extract the baby teeth and insert a permanent retainer that would bring my adult teeth center stage. Meanwhile, my lower jaw maintained the look of a haunted graveyard, and on top, two giant teeth up front were flanked by miniaturized canines.”
Dunham’s mother eventually had her own teeth replaced with porcelain veneers, but Dunham wrote that she has always been hesitant to do the same. Still, she knows people talk about her smile, and she did a Twitter search that turned up 30 pages of comments … about her teeth, many of them unkind. People said things such as, “Not to pile on but Lena Dunham has gerbil teeth,” and “Is Lena Dunham against whitening her teeth?”
Dunham said a “former publicist once asked my creative partner to broach the subject of tooth-whitening with me,” which prompted her to look into the procedure. Dunham wrote that she made an appointment with cosmetic dentist Michael Apa, but then canceled after a friend told her the procedure would “freaking hurt.” After reassurance from Apa, Dunham decided that for someone who had “endured eleven abdominal surgeries, 24 hours of possible pain seems plenty doable.”
And yet, she couldn’t do it, a realization she came to while walking down her street in Brooklyn.
“I watch the people scurrying by, in various states of business casual, athleisure, and old lady–muumuu chic, like a walking episode of Barney & Friends. In that moment, I feel deeply that it is our differences that unite us; that it is the strange details of our faces that make us so totally human,” she wrote. “If the mouth is a third window to the soul, then I want mine to look like someone has punched their way through it in a mad rage.”
Ultimately, Dunham said she couldn’t make a decision “based solely on unsolicited outside input.” She decided, “I will continue on: beaver-toothed, yellowed, enraging the internet one post at a time with a smile only a mother could love.”
While Dunham’s piece was met with reassurance that her teeth are what makes her look unique, other responses weren’t quite as warm, and called her out for failing to acknowledge that not everyone can afford to improve her appearance or being vain.
Let’s just say Dunham will want to avoid searching herself on Twitter today.
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