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  • Writer's pictureTalia Cooper

My Teeth, My Choice

When I was 3 years old my teeth started to come in, full of gaps and with a prominent underbite. My parents quickly realized that orthodonture would be a thing for me. So my mom took me to the orthodontist. I sat down in the chair and then-- "Okay Talia, open up!" The orthodontist said. I took a look around the room at the tools and this strange man in front me. "Mmm mmm," I said, my jaw firmly shut. "I won't do anything yet, I just want to have a look," he said. "Mmm mmm," I said again, in absolute refusal.

This is what I would look like if I was a cat at the orthodontist: mouth shut, shaking my head no. The orthodontist tried his bag of tricks, but quickly lost steam and appealed to my mom for help. "Talia honey, what would you need to open your mouth?" My mom asked me. I paused, realizing she meant this as a real question, and not a scheme. Keeping my lips as closed as I could I responded, "When I'm 4." "Okay then," my mom said helping me up, "We are leaving and will be returning when Talia is 4 years old." That was my first lesson in body autonomy. I've been thinking about this story since the news that Roe v. Wade was officially overturned. How I got to grow up not only in a family that supported my bodily autonomy, but in a country that affirmed that value with the law. Throughout my life I have felt empowered to make decisions about my body due to my privilege but also because my parents taught me trust myself within the backdrop of a legal system that also believed I could make my own decisions. It was that trust that helped find intuitive eating and dive into body liberation work, and it was that trust that led me to choosing parenthood on my own timeline. At age 3 I knew I wouldn't be ready for orthodonture until I was 4. And I was right. My mom and I returned the next year and though I was still afraid, I bravely opened up (and continued to for the next decade, which is how long the Talia Teeth Project took).

Image: Talia flashing her pearly whites. Thank you to my parents for this *actual* thousand+ dollar smile. I am heartbroken that my kid will not grow up with the same institutional level of choice that I did. Which is why I will work to give them all the tools of self-trust that I can, while continuing to try to change the system. Because it's not just about me and my kid. We know that ending the right to abortion will disproportionately impact low-income folks of color. And Virgie Tovar recently wrote about how this could disproportionately impact plus-size folks as well. This is not what I want for anyone. I am grateful to my elders who fought for Roe v. Wade and gave me so many years of choice. I will do my best to carry forward the torch.

Image: Talia at an abortion rally holding a sign that says "Pregnant & Pro-Choice," baby bump on display. With love and body sovereignty, Talia P.S. Join me in donating to support the National Network of Abortion Funds.


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