When “Angels In Heaven” went viral in 2017, my life changed in a lot of ways. I started to get so many messages that I couldn’t come close to responding to all of them. I tried to keep up with my website, but so many visitors made it eventually crash. There was an outpouring of emotion coming from the emails too, folks writing to me telling me what they were doing when they heard the song, that it reminded them of someone close, that the spoons brought back memories, prayers… I was enveloped in love from all parts of the world.
There was the darker side of it too, though. Some comments were atrocious. I’d been making YouTube videos long enough to know that if I did not moderate the comments, my ad revenue could be affected… so I read through them. Many of my musician fans had told me to not read the comments.. but I felt like I had to. Some of my viewers were children, and I needed everything to be appropriate. Some of them were mean in a humorous kinda way, others would bring tears to my eyes no matter how detached I attempted to be from it all. Eventually, It got overwhelming.
The bad comments were centered around a few key things… my weight, my clothes, and my lack of teeth. Some folks would write stuff like “eat something” and others would go into rants calling me “white trash” or “drug addict”. There were even a few comments that were long and drawn out paragraphs about this that and the other, some rants spanning several comments long. Some were foreign, so I’d have to copy them into a translator before the insult would pop up. Eventually, I could hear a drum roll in my head every time I went to translate a comment and would flinch a little as I hit the enter button.
If you thought this was going to be a post about how I lost my teeth, sorry. You can read about my past in a great article that the Washington Post published RIGHT HERE if you are interested in finding out about that part of my life… But typing out here how I lost my teeth and why simply seems like it defeats the purpose of this chunk of writing – which is simple: It shouldn’t matter.
I didn’t post a video of musical spoon playing on YouTube to show off my fashion sense, or to be picked up by a modeling agency. I wanted to play some spoons. I didn’t put on overalls to show how “mountain folk” dress. I’m from Kansas. I wore the overalls I was wearing for a storytelling night I had booked, which was about freight train riding and hitching around the US. After the video was posted, we left directly to go to the storytelling show. I figured it only appropriate to wear some the same overalls I wore on trains while telling the stories, so I did. My lack of shoes does not mean I’m “uneducated mountain” folk, it means I love to be comfortable. Just the reason I am not wearing teeth. I’m fine just how I am.
By the way, mountain folk are neither uneducated and dumb. That’s another stereotype none of us need.
I lost my teeth young, so I’ve gotten very used to the judgments, and every day I practice shaking them off. The kind words of folks who find their way to me on the internet help. Just to be clear, I have thought about wearing dentures, but I can’t stand them. I love to make funny faces anyhow, and I make some great ones right now I am. I’m proud of my ability to choose my own comfort overall, and now I’m solid with it.
Let’s admit it though… I’m a bit simple. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t do my hair fancy… I just kinda do me. Not having teeth has actually brought me a good chunk of positivity, because I’m learning every day more and more that it’s what’s inside that counts, how you treat the folks around you, and what you bring to your community. Because of these judgments, I’ve learned to puff my chest out, which I’m hoping, in turn, will teach others to do the same. You can be you.
If folks look at me and make a bad assumption because of how I am dressed, or because of my toothless grin, I’m okay with it. I’ve learned to use that as a sort of “filter” to get through life. It’s also caused me to be very careful about how I view others. Although I’ve learned countless lessons about judgments throughout the years, I have to continue to learn and remind myself. You miss out on great friendships if you aren’t careful, and some of those folks could teach you something you never knew about life. Someone can always teach you something new about life.