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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Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Confession

I have many admirable qualities, chief among them that I am a daily flosser. Flossing is important, in that it promotes healthy teeth and gums, and it's socially responsible, in that it prevents bad breath. I am a daily flosser, but last night I did not floss.

I went out to a poetry reading with a friend. I drank some wine. I listened to some pretty good poetry. I drank some more wine. I came home feeling good. My Old Man was handsome, as he always is, and hot, as he always is, and never does a husband seem so hot and handsome as when he's been home with the kids on a Saturday night, allowing one to go off and do something adult. An amorous interlude ensued (with a break to put fresh sheets on the naked bed - ah, married love). It was half past midnight, the candles were flickering, and we were nestled in newly laundered flannel. Then suddenly I awoke to my man's groggy voice. "Holy shit, it's 3:30." I ran my tongue over the film of wine scum on my teeth and briefly considered just going back to sleep. But I am constitutionally incapable of that. I hauled my warm ass out of bed and into the chilly night air, stumbled to the bathroom, and brushed. But I did not floss.

It's not that big a deal. It's happened before. The last time was probably before O. was born. (O., who recently celebrated his fifth birthday.) I'm not anal retentive in a general sense. I let plenty of things go. I have been known to blow off a shower when I'm in a hurry. I can pick up a pair of jeans off the floor and pull them on, even as I silently acknowledge that they rightly belong in the hamper. But oral hygiene, as anyone close to me knows, is my one thing. It's a way of life, a philosophy, a cause. And last night I sinned against that cause.

My Catholic background tells me that when you sin, you must confess. But no priest would consider my transgression a real sin. So whom can I confess to? To you, dear reader. You can give me some penance if that's your thing. As for myself, this small sin against the tenets of good oral hygiene makes me realize that I've committed another sin of omission: not making sufficient use of this blog as a platform for spreading the good news of oral hygiene. It's been a long time since I've actually had an oral-hygiene-related post. And for that, I am truly sorry. So let me end with one of my favorite little truths of oral hygiene.

A favorite little truth of oral hygiene: when you can't brush, rinse. I've been told by more than one dentist that swishing your mouth with water is in most cases nearly as good as brushing. Unless you've been eating something really sticky, a good swish and spit or swish and swallow will do you 'til you can get to a toothbrush. When I die, if my children decide to grace my tombstone with the words that they've most often heard me speak, they'll probably choose "Swish and swallow, Sweetie."

So when you can't brush, swish. But when it comes time to retire for the night, my advice is to brush for two minutes with a soft toothbrush and floss every tooth in your head. And if you occasionally miss a night, say once every five years or so, don't beat yourself up. It happens to the best of us.

Monday, January 14, 2008

You Remind Me of Someone, Part II

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned the flight attendant who told us that our little Roo looks just like “Tom and Katie’s baby.” She definitely meant it as a compliment, and while I was not at all offended by the comparison, I wasn’t especially flattered either. After all, to me my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world, just as her brother O. was the reigning most beautiful baby when he was an infant.

I’ve never been especially flattered when random people have compared me to some famous face, either. Maybe it’s because I’m just not hot enough to garner comparisons to anyone really gorgeous. Very few of us are likely to inspire the exclamation “Wow, you look just like Haile Berry!” or “For a minute I mistook you for Angelina Jolie!” On the rare occasion when someone compares me to a celebrity, it’s always someone roundly average-looking, like Sarah Ferguson, former Duchess of York, or the band geek girl from American Pie, neither of whom are dogs, but neither of whom I’m really modeling my look on, either. (Then again, when you have red hair, you’re likely to be compared to any random redhead. We all look alike.)

To me, it’s more interesting to have someone notice a likeness that transcends physical resemblance and illuminates something ineffable. I confess that I’m secretly proud of having once been likened to a character in a Coen brothers’ movie.

When I was a Freshman in college, my roommate came home from a quirky film that one of the campus film societies was running that weekend. “You have to see it,” she said. “I think you’d love it. And one of the characters reminds me so much of you.” The film was Raising Arizona. I made plans to check it out the following night. “What’s the name of this character that reminds you of me?” I asked. She said “Hi.”

I saw the movie and indeed I did love it. But I was a little bewildered as to why I would remind anyone of H.I. McDunnough, the hapless but lovable outlaw played by Nick Cage.


The fact that he was a dude was the least of the differences between us. He was a scruffy Southerner with a checkered past, living in a trailer on the outskirts of Tempe. I was a clean-scrubbed Wisconsin girl living in a single-sex dorm. I admired his purchase on the English language, which was homely yet biblical in its eloquence, but it was a far cry from my own idiom. Hi is like a Faulkner character who wanders into a comedy; as a college Freshman, I was more along the lines of a goofy but articulate character from a John Hughes movie.

Confused, I asked my roommate what about Hi reminded her of me. “I don’t know,” she said, “There’s just something about him that’s very you. I can’t put my finger on it. ” Knowing her as I did, I knew I’d have to just accept this answer.

Over time, my confusion subsided, or perhaps just became irrelevant, and I eventually came to see the fact that someone who knew me well saw some Hi in me (or some me in Hi) as a great honor. I became an ardent Coen brothers fan as the years went on, and the more I saw Raising Arizona, the more I liked Hi. He’s the salt of the earth and always tries his level best (though lord knows it’s not easy with that sumbitch Reagan in the White House), he has the aforementioned facility with the English language, and like so many Coen brothers characters, he is funny and eccentric but still likable, at times poignantly so. There are other Coen characters I see more of myself in (I’m actually kind of a cross between Maude Lebowski and Marge Gunderson, if the two can possibly be crossed), but if someone else thinks I’m more akin to Hi, I’ll take him.

But more than the fact that I like Hi and the oeuvre of movies he emerges from, I just think it’s cool that a friend of mine came up with such an odd analogy for me. I guess it makes me feel that I’m complex and enigmatic, that despite my austere exterior, I’m a freak, and that those who know me well can see this.

I use a clip from Raising Arizona in my Creative Writing class every spring, to give my students an example of a great use of idiom in character development, and I can’t resist sharing the anecdote about me and Hi. I tell the story with an “isn’t that strange?” tone. But actually, in my own strange way, I’m bragging.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Five Years Old!

Happy birthday, O.! You are my favorite boy, and I love you ever so much.


(And happy birthday, Feral Mom ! You rock, you Irish bitch, you!)