The Shame Game

Modern Love

Jul 20 2022 • 20 mins


The year was 2006, and Damon Young had just met a woman on MySpace. Their back-and-forth was witty, flirty and easy. They went on a first date at Barnes & Noble, where they browsed books and continued to vibe.

Things were going great, Damon thought. That is, until she called off their second date. Damon was confused, but he had a hunch about what fueled her sudden disinterest: his teeth.

Damon’s teeth had always been a source of shame and anxiety for him. “I know that in America, good, strong, bright, straight teeth signal good, strong, bright, straight money,” he wrote in his Modern Love essay. “My mouth is a memoir. Of canceled orthodontist appointments when my parents couldn’t afford the premium.”

Today, Damon shares his story about his complicated, evolving relationship with his teeth — and his self-worth. Then, we hear a Tiny Love Story about a woman who reflects on her mother’s ritual of doing her hair when she was a child, which she comes to realize was a sign of love.