Oral Hygiene Queen

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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

You Gotta Plan for Your Right to Paaarty

Saturday night my man and I had our first adults-only party since O. was born. We planned several weeks in advance so that our friends with kids would have plenty of time to wrangle babysitters. I called Feral Mom to give her a heads-up. “We’re having an adult party on February 25th, so get a babysitter,” I said. “An adult party?” she replied, “Are you going to have strippers?” We didn’t hire strippers, though we planned to remain open to any amateur stripping that our guests might want to engage in after a few glasses of wine.

Despite a rash of illness and injury among our set this weekend (one knee surgery, one toddler too sick to leave with a sitter, and one breast infection) the party was a success. No stripping and, alas, no spontaneous dancing, but plenty of eating, drinking, and amiability. I was just excited to be able to have conversations proceed without periodic interruptions to check on the whereabouts of a child, intervene in a sharing issue, or pull a climber off the bookshelves. I love watching O. in social situations, and I feel lucky that my friends have great kids I take true pleasure in hanging out with, but it’s nice for once to stay up late kicking back with the grown ups and swearing freely.

Our sweet but neurotic cat even made an appearance at the party, recalling the days when she would emerge when we had company to get some extra affection from our friends. Since the advent of O., she hides whenever we have people over, because there are always little children present and she wisely avoids the under-five set like the unpredictable tail pullers they are. Last night she lounged among our guests, mooching ear scratches and proudly displaying the pendulous belly she keeps bald through vigilant hypergrooming.

Anyway, parties. Fun. Now that we’re getting our party chops back we’ll hopefully be able to inspire some dancing at our next adults-only shindig. Maybe even some good-natured stripping among friends.

P.S You’ll be glad to know that even though I was quite toasted by the time I went to bed around 1:30 AM, I still remembered to brush and floss. No drunk tongue scraping though – that could be dangerous.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Fart or Butt Burp?

My little son O. farts, like the rest of us, and as anyone with kids knows the small folks’ farts can be almost as deadly as our own. Yesterday he let out a loud one and when I laughed (of course – what a role model) and asked if he farted he said “No, my butt burped.” I was beside myself. Later I told my husband about it and we both laughed. Then, last night, we were all in O’s room getting him ready for bed and suddenly the air was full of the evil stench of an ass-bomb. “Is that you?” my beloved partner asked me, face screwed up in disgust. “Not me,” I said. We turned to O. “Did your butt burp?” I asked. “No,” he said, “I farted.”

Then I saw the brilliant distinction our young prodigy had arrived at. It’s always been my contention that loud farts are innocent, while the silent ones are invariably noxious (hence the term “silent but deadly”). Really, we should have come up with two distinct terms by this point in the evolution of the English language. The loud, friendly fart is more of a “butt burp,” as O. terms it, while the quiet, burn-your-anus-hairs kind is worthy of the term fart. Or maybe worthy of a term that better reflects its insidious nature.

Any ideas? (And does anyone know of another language that provides diverse vocabulary to describe different kinds of farts, varied as Inuit snow?)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Piss on Pat Robertson’s Bible

My beloved husband had his first dental checkup in a year and a half today, only because I bugged him and bugged him and finally called and made the appointment for him. He’s had four dental checkups in his adult life, all at my urging. I am happy to report that he received a completely clean bill of oral health, with minimal plaque scraping. I admit that I am also a little jealous. He’s one of these people who never gets a cavity. Granted, he takes very good care of his teeth (he lives with me, so he kind of has to), but I visit the dentist twice yearly with a devotion that matches my dear departed grandmother’s daily trips to morning mass, and brush and floss with attendant zeal, and still every so often I turn up with a cavity. This is like a little death to me (and not the fun Renaissance kind of little death). And once you have a cavity filled, it’s only a matter of time before it breaks or falls out or gets loose, so one cavity could lead to any number of visits under the drill. Generally my semi-annual visit to the dentist is pleasant, and even kind of an ego boost. But every once in awhile, there’s bad news.

This actually rarely happens anymore. I’m what they call cavity-prone, but even cavity-prone folks usually stop getting cavities at some point during adulthood, provided that they take good care of their teeth. But I do so envy those lucky ones among us who never get cavities even when they take fairly indifferent care of their teeth and rarely visit the dentist. Still, I am happy for my dear and his good teeth. And I can only hope that O. has inherited them.

On another note entirely, I am currently teaching a gender studies class, and today we were discussing common misperceptions about feminists. I mentioned Pat Robertson’s famously insane comment that feminism is a “socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians,” and the whole class laughed in an implicit consensus that the old man is a raving loon. One of my male students, a good guy with a healthy contrarian streak, suggested that Robertson might have been joking, since we didn’t know the context of his remark. I respect the impulse to investigate the context of a quotation, but given Pat Robertson’s track record , I don’t think he really merits the benefit of the doubt. (Even still, I did some research after class. The quotation came from a fundraising letter Robertson wrote in 1992 on behalf of the Iowa Committee to Stop the ERA.) At any rate, when I shared my student's “maybe Robertson was joking” comment with my husband, he snorted. “Pat Robertson is incapable of an ironic remark,” he said. “He wouldn’t know irony if it came up and pissed on his Bible.”

The image of irony personified sidling up to Pat Roberston and taking a leak on his Bible made my day, and I was already having a pretty good day.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Whither Pearl Drops?

Whatever happened to “Pearl Drops Tooth Polish”? Remember that commercial, with the maniacally happy sunny blond Scandinavian-looking woman with the breathy voice and an enthusiasm for suggestive tooth-licking? “Mmmm… It’s a great feel-ing!” I was a kid when this commercial was in heavy rotation, but I could tell that when she slowly ran her tongue over her big white front teeth it was sexual. And I also had an idea that someday, when I was old enough, I was going to try Pearl Drops Tooth Polish and see what all the fuss was about. Like it was a for-grownups-only toothpaste (tooth polish). But by the time I was an adult, the stuff seemed to have disappeared. Or maybe, like the holy grail of the cult of Tab, it’s still out there, but only for the very determined consumer.

Actually, this seems to be the case. Although Pearl Drops no longer advertises, a Google search reveals that the stuff is still available. The first hit I got for “Pearl Drops Tooth Polish” led me to a site called “Buy in Private,” which has a special sidebar link (alongside “Diet,” “Skincare,” and “Nifty Gifts”) entitled simply "Embarrassing". Here you can buy “embarrassing” products like Midol, Preparation H, the Hitatchi magic wand vibrator, “Coochy Shave Extra Gentle Shave Lotion for Sensitive Areas,” and my old pal the tongue cleaner. They even consider “Eyebrow Pluckin’ Tweezers” potentially embarrassing. (Maybe it’s the gratuitous dropped G that’s makin' them feel chagrin.)

I myself would be proud to be seen buying a Hitatchi magic wand (woo hoo!), Midol (it’s legal, unlike some other substances I’ve used to quell menstrual pain), Preparation H (some of the most charming people I know suffer from hemorrhoids), or "Cootchy Shave" (if I bothered to shave my coochie, I’d be damn proud to be using the most gentle shave lotion I could get my shaky little hands on).

Needless to say, I buy my tongue cleaners with the utmost pride.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

We're the Shit

My just-turned-three son O. has lately taken to exuberantly shouting “You’re the shit in the buttocks!” Thankfully so far he’s only directed this at me and my husband, but God only knows when he’ll bust it out at a social gathering or at Grandma’s. If he just stopped at “You’re the shit!” it would actually sound kind of complimentary, but he never does. He always adds the “in the buttocks.” Where did he get this?

It’s really hard not to laugh when he says this, but we don't want to encourage him. At first we tried simply ignoring it. That worked when he went through his phase of shouting “Fuck it!” (That one he picked up from his parents. Yes, it’s our answer to everything.) But the shit in the buttocks thing is more persistent. So finally I started trying to distract him by playfully answering him back:

O: You’re the shit in the buttocks!
Me: You’re a silly little monkey!
O: You’re the shit! In the buttocks!

Not really the effect I was hoping for. Then we got a book of Thomas the Tank Engine themed poems out of the library. In one poem we find a stanza (fraught with gender conflict) where Thomas teases Emily, the only girl engine on the Isle of Sodor crew, by calling her a “bossy little buffer,” but then concedes that “for her size no engine could be tougher.” (What, female engines are smaller? Why? What makes Emily a girl engine anyway? She has a face, Thomas has a face. Are there genitals hidden back there in those coal bins? Let’s not think too long on that…)

Anyway, after having us read him this book a few times, O. began telling us (in the same exuberant voice) “You’re a bossy little buffer!” Hey, I don’t mind being called a bossy little buffer. I think it makes me sound saucy, but hardworking. And anyway, it’s fairly accurate for O. to call me and his dad bossy – I mean, all we do all day is tell him what the hell to do, saying please when we damn well feel like it. So fine: we’re bossy little buffers.

And for some reason, this works as a distraction strategy. Now when the shit in the buttocks starts hitting the fan, here’s how it goes:

O: You’re the shit in the buttocks!
Me: You’re a bossy little buffer!
O: You’re a bossy little buffer!

Ah, much better.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day/Spit Take

Happy Valentine's day. Do yourself a favor and go read Jenny Traig's Obsessive-Compulsive Valentines. They will make you laugh hard.

Speaking of laughing, I almost had my first actual spit take today. One of my Creative Writing students, apropos of a conversation about legal drugs (i.e. sedatives administered for surgery), mentioned that his mom had a root canal yesterday and her oral surgeon was named Dr. Grody. I had a mouthful of water and had to struggle mightily to swallow rather than spitting it across the faces of several stunned students or breathing it in and having it squirt out my nose. Dr. Grody. The name touched a very powerful junior high humor nerve in me. My student added that just as the drugs Dr. Grody had administered were kicking in, his mom noticed that his oral hygienist had, in his words, “a hook for a hand.” The image of an oral hygienist with a prosthetic hook and a patient on nitrous oxide did not help me any in my efforts to take my water like an adult. But by an act of will, I swallowed before I busted out laughing.

Then I felt very badly for his mom. God, I hope I never need a root canal.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another Disgusting Thing I Do in the Name of Staying Clean and Sweet Smelling

This is a confession. My name is Oral Hygiene Queen (“Hi Oral Hygiene Queen!”), and I do unspeakable things in my bathroom. Yeah, I’ve admitted to flossing in public, but I do some much worse shit when I’m alone in what my husband and I euphemistically refer to as “the small room.” One of those things is cleaning my tongue.

Tongues need to be cleaned. I have a special instrument for the purpose, which looks like a small plastic tennis racket with no catgut. You brush your tongue a bit with a wet, pasteless toothbrush, and then stick the tongue out and scrape this device over it from front to back. It collects a thick, gummy substance akin to toe jam or smegma, which you then rinse down the sink. Repeat ‘til the tongue scraper comes up clean, or ‘til your tongue starts smarting like a sonofabitch (which for me usually happens after two scrapes). The tongue scum is off-white (unless of course you’ve been eating something especially rich in hue like chocolate or beets), and it smells like the matted hair under Satan’s scrotum. I’ve only smelled it once, out of a perverse curiosity (what did I expect it to smell like, a garden in spring?), but it was really an unhallowed odor. Actually, it smelled like the foul breath of an adult human, in a very concentrated form. And smelling it made me think “Damn! It’s a good thing I’m doing this!” and made me resolve to do it more regularly.

Supposedly, in addition to preventing bad breath, regular tongue scraping also reduces periodontal disease and tooth decay, and according to one ad I came across, it’s “700% more effective than tongue brushing” and “reduces bacteria that cause sore throats.” (I have no idea whether these claims have any merit, but I'll vouch for the fact that the thing takes the smell of Satan's ballsack off your tongue, a smell that can be so very incriminating.)

So, skip the minty-fresh breath strips and get yourself a tongue scraper. Doesn’t it sound like fun?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Sonicare and the Oral Hygiene Crank

I was pregnant with my son O. when I got my Sonicare spaceage toothbrush, and getting a Sonicare soon led to my encounter with an oral hygiene enthusiast of a less friendly stripe. I will call her the Oral Hygiene Crank.

Being pregnant had a lot to do with my decision to go out and spend more than $100 on a damn toothbrush. (I’m committed to my oral hygiene, but I’m also thrifty.) For whatever reason, pregnancy makes women more prone to gum disease and other dental problems. Early in my second trimester, my teeth were feeling weirdly sensitive. I was already a little concerned about the state of my teeth since I had sometimes forgone brushing during my ten weeks of 24-hour-a-day morning sickness. (Brushing my teeth caused me to ralph straight into the bathroom sink on several occasions.) Plus my mom, the original queen of oral hygiene, had recently gotten a Sonicare and was raving about its many benefits, including superior plaque removal and reduced chance of gingivitis and periodontal disease. How could I resist?

Soon after my Sonicare purchase, I traveled to New York State for a two-week summer writer’s institute. (The flight afforded me the opportunity to actually use an airsickness bag for the first time, my last hurrah of pregnancy-induced heaving. Those bags are too fucking small, so I actually used my own and my neighbor’s. Hi neighbor!) My hometown best friend was there, too, staying in the same dorm as me at a small upstate college. When she saw my Sonicare propped proudly on the fiberboard desk in my room she said “There’s another woman here with the same toothbrush, and she corrected my toothbrushing technique in the bathroom. She reprimanded me for brushing back and forth instead of in circles.” I felt pushy and eccentric by association. “Well, I’d never do that,” I said, tucking my weird electric toothbrush under my arm and making for the communal bathroom.

I encountered this dental critic in the bathroom a couple days later. She actually had a Braun spaceage toothbrush, not a Sonicare, but I could tell it was her by the dour look on her face. As I did my morning ablutions (sans Sonicare – for some reason I only use it at night), she struck up some small talk, asking me if I’d ever been to the institute before and how I liked it. (This makes her sound nice, but she asked in the most weary tone of voice imaginable.) When I mentioned that I missed my husband she let out a loud, huffing laugh: “Hah! Really? How long have you been married?” I told her we'd been married three years, expecting her to say “Well, kid, talk to me when you’ve been together ten,” or something along those lines. Instead, she looked surprised, but responded with a dismissive smirk: “You must be a couple of romantics.” At least she didn’t criticize my style of flossing.

The next day she caught me at my evening hygiene routine and I experienced a totally different side of her. She saw my Sonicare and animatedly asked me about it, detailing her satisfaction with her Braun and telling me that her sister had the Sonicare and had gotten so many compliments on her white teeth ever since she started using it. I listened politely, then told her I really hadn’t had it long enough to notice any appreciable effects, worrying all the while that someone would come in and find me in the midst of this maniac conversation.

I tell this story to distance myself and other reasonable oral hygiene enthusiasts from electric-toothbrush-wielding cranks and oral hygiene police. Oral hygiene is for everyone, and only your dentist (and maybe your mom) has the right to school you on the proper way to brush. Do not lead me in brushing; I may not follow. Do not brush behind me; I may get nervous, spit, and split. Just brush beside me, and be my friend.