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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Tuesday, May 30, 2006


If there were some kind of ceremony to recognize exceptional feats of oral hygiene and I happened to win an award, the first person I would thank in my acceptance speech would be my mom, the original monarch of oral hygiene. Then I’d have to thank Thomas McGuire, DDS, hippie dentist extraordinaire and author of the book that changed my mouth, The Tooth Trip.

My mom got me this book when I was twelve, and (as I detailed in my introductory post) Dr. McGuire’s vivid imagery of cavity-causing bacteria as skeezy little guys who shit and piss all over our teeth, thus causing decay, grodified me to such an extreme that I immediately began brushing and flossing religiously.

The book has a lot of really useful information on how to care for your teeth and why, but it’s also just a bizarre and quite hilarious read. The good doctor is apt to bust lines like “Flashlights are groovy and necessary to check out your own mouth,” “Dental floss is a trip to use, but a good one” and “Isn’t discovery far out?” Plus it’s full of photos of our hippie doctor, his hippie receptionist, all his hippie patients, and the many many plants in his office. And freaky illustrations of maniacal germs and happy anthropomorphic teeth.

In coming weeks, I’ll pick some choice excerpts of The Tooth Trip to share, and I’ll also attempt to track down Dr. McGuire and see if he’s still tripping on acid on the weekends and scraping plaque off the teeth of Bay Area hipsters during the week. If I can locate him, perhaps there will be a guest column. So let me know if you have any questions for the hippest, hippiest dentist in the history of publishing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Shampoo Horn

This is just a bit of gratuitous cuteness as I experiment with including an image in a post. Who can resist giving their kid a shampoo horn during a routine bath? Not me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anal Queen

I'm a little bit anal sometimes. This may come as no surprise, given that this blog centers around my obsession with keeping my teeth clean. But I'm not anal in all ways. As I confessed in my first real post , I am very fastidious in some ways and pretty easygoing (or slobby or disturbingly nonchalant or chronically tardy) in others.

One thing I'm anal about is pens. I care a lot about what color ink I'm writing with, the smoothness with which that ink flows from my pen, and the feel of the pen in my hand. I must have black ink, otherwise I feel that I am not really representing me as I write. Unless I am grading or doing other types of teacherly writing, in which case the ink must be green. Black or green, the ink in my pen must flow smoothly, not splotchily, from my pen, which means I have to have a certain brand of pen, and the point of my pen must be fine. (I've never met a medium point pen that wasn't a little sluttish in the distribution of its ink.) I also like a nice bit of cushion at the grip point, though not too much (spare me the pens that look and feel like they're wearing little down muffs). Lately, I've been on a good long run with Pentel RSVP fine point green pens and Pilot EasyTouch fine point black pens.

(I'm pausing to worry that Esereth is reading this thinking "Fucking feta cheese blogging! What is she going on about?")

Anyway, my anality with regard to pens is merely background for a little story that illustrates not how anal I am, but what a thoroughgoing scatterbrain I am.

It's the end of the school year. Stress levels are high. I am running around the building trying to perform three different roles at once, and somehow I have mislaid my pen. I must find my pen. I retrace my steps three times, looking everywhere, but it is nowhere, nowhere. One of my colleagues passes me in the hall and makes the mistake of asking how I am. Not one to forget my petty troubles and give a civil reply, I kvetch. "Aaargh! I lost my pen!" She gives me a look that's 15% sympathy and 85% amusement and walks on. A moment later I hear her call after me: "Hey, you have a pen in your back pocket."

Of course. I am 10% annoyed with myself for wasting my time searching all over Satan's briny backlot for an object that's been communing with my ass all the while and 90% grateful to have found my precious pen.

Which just goes to show: 1. If you bitch loudly enough, someone may come to your rescue and solve your problem for you, and 2. It pays to keep your ass in plain view.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lunch Duty Highlights

On school days, lunchtime usually finds me in my third floor office, eating while I read a book or browse through my favorite blogs. This past week, however, I had lunch duty and was stationed on the chaotic and challenging second floor, the domain of Freshmen and Sophomores. Here are the highlights of my week on the lunchtime beat:

Monday: It’s all Part of my Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy

I sit in my office, eating my lunch and misting up while looking at the Mother’s Day additions to Post Secret. The phone rings. “Oral Queen!” my coplike assistant principal barks out of the receiver, “You have lunch duty! Get down there!”

I arrive on the second floor, lunch half over. I have barely acclimated to the bright lights and chaotic soundscape when a wild-haired freshman boy comes up and thrusts a shitty electric guitar into my hand. “Ms. Queen! Play us one of your songs!” I strap on the guitar (which is plugged into a gnarly little amp), he hands me a pick, and I begin to play for an audience of three guitar-obsessed boys. Conscious of my rep as the rock and roll teacher, I attempt to play something relatively impressive. I keep my eyes on the strings both to avoid eye contact with my small audience and to keep from fucking up. I play for maybe five minutes, the bell rings, and when I look up there’s a crowd of thirty or so students, all eyes on me. Part of me is mortified. Part of me is totally psyched. Nothing like an audience of enthusiastic, easily impressed teenagers to make you feel like a star.

Tuesday: I Am Not Alone

Most days, I brush my teeth alone, either in the one-person bathroom near my office or in the first floor girls’ bathroom (with students filing past). Today at the end of lunch, I go to brush my teeth in the second-floor bathroom and find a group of three freshman girls there with toothbrushes in hand. I hold up my brush and smile, and they invite me to join in their oral hygiene party. Ah, the camaraderie. As I’m tapping the water out of my brush one of the girls says “We brush here every day at the end of lunch, Ms. Queen. Feel free to join us any time!” Oh, girls, you bring a song to my heart, a tear of happiness to my eye, and a twinkle of minty freshness to my teeth.

Wednesday: To Sit, Perchance to Read

There is a free all-school barbeque to celebrate the impending end of the school year. 90% of the student body is out on the lawn scarfing down the charred delicacies. I sit on a chair, hardly anyone to monitor, and read the last few chapters of Bee Season, a readable but ultimately fairly mediocre novel.

Thursday: Walmarted!

One of my students from British Lit comes by and cheerfully hands me a baggie with a small puffed pastry inside. “You can have my last cream puff,” she says. I politely take it, as I take all student offerings of food. But then I have to decide whether to actually eat it or throw it away. In a moment of whimsy, I pop the bite-sized cream puff into my mouth. It is amazing, light and buttery, sweet but not too sweet. I only wish I had another. For some reason I assume it’s homemade, and I marvel that someone in her household had the patience to make a batch of the tiny pastries. When I see the student in class I say “Thanks for the cream puff – it was delicious. Did you make those?” “No,” she smiles, “They’re from Walmart.” I feel disillusioned, a little dirty.

Friday: Sensai’s Got My Back

On Friday comes my first chance to actually intervene in a hallway altercation. I see a broad-shouldered sophomore basketball player smacking my wild-haired freshman guitar player. I step to basketball boy and give him a dressing down. “But he kissed me!” he protests. I explain that a smackdown is not an appropriate response to a kiss, however unwanted. I learn that the freshman in question has repeatedly given this sophomore boy kisses without his consent. My advice: ignore it and see if he gets bored and quits. Or, talk to our local cop, the Vice Principal. “That’s sexual harassment,” I tell him. I’m about to note that the Vice P. takes sexual harassment very seriously when the Japanese teacher, a diminutive, well dressed Asian woman, comes flying up and begins pounding vigorously on the sophomore basketball player. “You don’t sexually harass Ms. Queen!” she shouts, “Shame on you!”

It takes me a moment to figure out what’s going on. “No, Sensai, no! He didn’t sexually harass me. I was saying that someone sexually harassed him.” Sensai halts the pummeling and sheepishly begins to apologize to basketball boy. “I’m sorry! I misunderstood. I thought you were disrespectful of Ms. Queen.” While I should be concerned that my colleague has raised her hand to a student, I am actually kind of stoked. It’s good to know that I’ve got Sensai in my corner when shit starts to go down.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Setlist by DJ Monomaniac

I am in White Stripes withdrawal. Right now, the White Stripes are musica non grata with O, though not too long ago, they were the only band he ever wanted to hear. We’d get in the car and as soon as his car seat was buckled he’d exclaim “I want to listen to the White Stripes!” Luckily, the Old Man and I like the band a lot, so it wasn’t a problem. At first. After awhile, though, enough was enough. “How about Sebadoh?” We’d suggest cheerfully, over his tears of protest. “How about Jonathan Richman?” “How about Teagan and Sara?” “How about Modest Mouse. You used to love Modest Mouse!” How about any fucking thing but the fucking White Stripes?

When O’s obsession’s shifted from the White Stripes to Wilco, we were pleased. And we’ve had a good long run with Wilco. For awhile, we enjoyed indulging in the monomania with O. Wilco has a bunch of good records, and then there’s the new live double album. A lot of material to work though. But inevitably, we got sick of Wilco, too. Not O. Now we’re back to suggesting every other CD in our collection, over O’s whimpering. “Remember the Beatles? You really like the Beatles! How about Joni? How about Sleater Kinney? How about quitting whining and listening to something besides Wilco!

It’s not altogether dire, since any hip hop that O. is already familiar with seems to get a free pass most of the time. The Beastie Boys are always fine with him. Common or Kanye West he will cheerfully listen to, noting that they are “from Chicago” (like Wilco!) But if we want to listen to rock, we’d better make it Wilco or face the wrath of the three-year-old.

But really, I should count myself lucky. My kid is obsessed to the point of parental saturation with music I like. When O. was but a bump a friend gave us some excellent counsel: “No kids' music, man. There’s no reason for it. Play ‘em real music; they’ll dig it.” Thank God we followed that advice. Imagine if it was Raffi.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Do This

I did something this morning that I want you to try. It involves combining two pleasurable things to create a pleasure that is more than the sum of its parts. Now, a hot shower is a pleasure, and a nice piece of chocolate is another pleasure. This morning before I stepped into the shower, I impulsively broke off a piece of dark chocolate and let it melt in my mouth as I melted into my shower. It was an excellent way to start the day.

Just as you are stepping into a hot shower, take a large piece of good chocolate and rest it on your tongue, nestled snugly in the arch of your palate. As you let the hot water rush over your shoulders and cascade onto your head, soaking into your hair, resist the urge to chew the chocolate. Just enjoy the sensation of its dark loveliness melting on your tongue. You can suck, but don’t bite. Soak in the pleasure of the hot water streaming over your whole body, and the chocolate softening, yielding to your tongue, and offering up its creamy sweetness shot through with notes of bitterness. Once the chocolate is almost entirely soft, and once you are thoroughly wet and relaxed, you can begin to chew what’s left of the chocolate as you get down to the business of your shower (which I will leave up to you). You could even make your shower into a triple pleasure, since a shower goes well with other delights, as Lisa and her showerhead know well.

The chocolate I chose this morning was a sizable hunk of Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Bittersweet, a very respectable dark chocolate. With a really good chocolate (say, a bar of Green and Black’s smooth Maya Gold or anything dark and Belgian), a smaller piece might do the trick. But when the goal is pure pleasure, why limit yourself? Fill up that mouth. Enjoy. And remember: chocolate is good for your teeth.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Death and Toothpaste

Lately O. has been working on getting a basic handle on the concept of death. He’s known the word “die” for awhile, but only as it concerns birds and ladybugs. But recently he wondered where his adolescent cousin JD’s mama is, and I had to tell him that she died when JD was a little boy. The idea that a kid’s mama could die has understandably made the whole concept of death more pressing for O.

O. and I spend a lot of time with JD. As it happens, I’m the person who keeps track of his dental appointments and takes him to the dentist, often with O. in tow. A cavity-prone kid who brushes his teeth reluctantly, JD gets a lot of cavities, and I must cop to the fact that I use him as a cautionary example to O. sometimes when he fusses about brushing his teeth. O. often asks me to re-explain why JD’s mama died, and lately he almost always wants to talk about her with JD when we see him. (Luckily, JD doesn’t mind talking to O. about this somber subject. He’s very open about his ongoing grief over the loss of his mom.) But recently he made a weird jump of logic and began to worry about JD. The conversation went like this: “Mama, why does JD get cavities?” “Because sometimes he doesn’t brush his teeth when he should.” “Is JD gonna die soon from getting cavities?” “No, honey, people don’t die from cavities.” (At least I’ve never heard of such a case. Correct me if I’m overlooking some sensationalist dental story in recent news.)

For some reason, O’s concern about JD’s cavities and their potentially lethal effect really struck me. It was funny at the time because the idea is so improbable. But it’s also quite poignant in all sorts of ways. The very fact that my little boy is thinking so much about death and trying to wrap his mind around losing someone he loves breaks my heart. I think it must for every parent, seeing their baby come in contact with the most difficult reality of human life. And the fact that right now it seems to him like any number of relatively harmless things might plausibly cause death, and he feels like he needs to ask to find out, that’s really sad. It’s also just sweet that he’s worried about JD's wellbeing.

It occurs to me that, while I know JD won’t die of his cavities, I worry quite a bit about the deplorable state of his teeth, and feel helpless that I can’t do more to keep them healthy. His dad (my uncle by marriage) comes from a whole different culture than me, oral-hygiene-wise, and it’s hard to get him on board with my campaign to keep JD’s teeth healthy when his own teeth are literally falling out of his head from neglect. So, while O’s question about cavities and death seems funny and out of left field, I wonder if he might not be picking up on a deeper concern I have about JD and his teeth.

But all I can do is continue to bug JD to brush often and well, and keep taking him for regular visits to the dentist. And, of course, witness the good news of the faith of oral hygiene to my own kid.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Storage Solutions by O.

The other day I came into the bathroom and found O. assiduously stuffing all his bath toys into his shiny red kiddie toilet. “Whoa! Stop! You shouldn’t put your toys in there, honey!” I said.

“But there was no poop or pee in it,” he explained. (O. has recently developed the ability to present simple reasoned arguments, though sometimes their basic assumptions are, in my view, flawed.)

“Well, I’m glad there was no poop or pee in it. But you still shouldn’t put your toys in there. Never put toys in your toilet.”

O. looked pensive. “Then why is the toilet’s first name toy?” He asked, a wondering expression on his little face.

That’s a logic I cannot argue with. Or rather I can, but I just don’t want to. (It's too delightfully silly, not to mention true.) “That is a very good point, O. Now take your toys out of the crapper and don’t put them in there again. And don’t put anything else in there, either.”

“But I can put poop and pee.” Of course. Always the stickler for details.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Toothy Mug, Porch Chair, No New War, May Day...

After months of attempting off and on to figure out how to post a picture up near my profile, I finally managed it via much trial and error. I feel more than a little victorious.

The picture I chose has all kinds of crap in the background because it was taken on my front porch. You can see some mustard yellow off over my shoulder to the left. That's my Old Man's favorite chair, a horribly skanky old thing we've had forever, inherited from one of his grad school roommates. When we bought our house last spring after years of renting, we finally found a way to compromise on the ongoing "is that chair getting too nasty to keep?" debate: we put it out on the porch. (I actually intended at one time to spend money to get a slipcover made for it, because my man loves it and I love my man. But it finally got too saggy and sad to even warrant that.) To the left of the little patch of mustard yellow you'll see some red, white, and blue. That's our "End the War Now. Bring the Troops Home." sign, which got knocked over in a Midwestern winter storm a couple months back. It's all dirty and needs to be cleaned off and put back up, because God knows the war is still with us. And it looks like it's about to spread, what with Bush starting the "weapons of mass destruction" spiel with Iran. (He claims to want to work things out diplomatically, but we know he's a lying sack of shit.) Do you think it's possible that the American people could rise up and stop this catastrophic war from spreading to yet another nation? I fucking hope so. If you're not already fully abreast of these ominous new developments and want to find out why expanding the war to Iran would be a horribly stupid and counterproductive move, check out the Stop War on Iran blog and find out what Seymour Hersh and others have to say about it. You can sign a petition to voice your opposition to war against Iran and find out about more active things you can do to oppose the spread of war at stopwaroniran.org.

And happy May Day! If you love weekends and prefer not to work more than eight hours a day, you have much to thank the labor movement for. Check out Bughouse Square for some news on how the recently reinvigorated immigrant rights movement is reviving May Day in the US this year.