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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Saturday, August 30, 2008

DoctorMama Mia, Part II

As DoctorMama headed off to the bathroom, I sat infused with midday light from two windows at a corner table in a nearly empty Mexican restaurant. I was actually sort of glad that DM had to pee, because it gave me a moment to be alone and regroup. I realized I was still a bit nervous, even though all the things I had to be nervous about (What will I wear? What if I'm late? What if she's late? How long will I wait? What if she's on time but has to drive around for an hour looking for parking due to the nearby street fair I neglected to take into account? What if the park is crowded and there are seventeen E. lookalikes to confuse her?) were now resolved. So I took a breath to dispel residual nervousness and began to look around me. Just as I was about to peruse the lengthy menu, I noticed not one, not two, but three fat flies dancing along the window and battering themselves against it. It didn't make for a pleasant nor appetizing mise en scene. I wished the flies would be gone, both because I didn't want their nasty, buzzy presence to be part of my lunch, and because I didn't want them to gross DoctorMama out.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. Acting quickly, I took aim at the flies, one by one, managing to kill all three with a few deft whacks. (The menu I was using as my fly swatter was huge, and that helped.) But then, of course, there were macerated fly carcasses smeared on the plate glass window next to our table. That was actually more disgusting than the live flies. So I unfurled the large napkin swaddling my cutlery, gave the window a firm and broad sweep, folded the fly guts into the center of the napkin, and strode to a nearby bus tub, chucking the napkin into it. Then I wiped my hands with a wet wipe from my purse stash and threw that away. Finally, I grabbed an intact napkin/silverware bundle from a nearby table and returned to my chair. Throughout all of this, I was sure DoctorMama was going to reappear at any moment, and I wasn't certain what I was going to say if she did. ("What am I doing? Oh, just killing flies and/or disposing of fly carcasses and/or hastily wiping any microscopic traces of fly guts off my hands. Let's eat!") Luckily, though, she came back to our table only after all the stages of my insecticide were complete.

Lunch was fun. I soon found out that DoctorMama loves avocados and cilantro. As she scoured the menu for a dish heavy on both, I felt a glow of shared proclivity. (I'm not sure why I get excited when someone I like is passionate about the same foods as me, but I do. I always feel broken up in some small, crazy way when I discover that a friend isn't that into chocolate. Or, less disheartening but still a wee drag, that they prefer milk chocolate to dark.) We easily filled the time between ordering and eating with a steady flow of entertaining conversation, DoctorMama filling me in on some of the astonishing habits and notions of her bad in-laws that haven't yet made her blog. One surprising thing about lunch was that we didn't talk about our blogs at all, nor really anything to do with blogging. (That came later.)

As we left the restaurant and walked to DoctorMama's car, I was struck by how petite she is. Her blog voice is bold and she doles out advice with great confidence, and somehow this led me unconsciously to expect her to be a larger physical presence. It then occurred to me that DoctorMama herself is not intimidating in the way I expected her to be. It dawned on me that some of my nervousness about this meet-up was occasioned by my perception of DoctorMama as supremely confident and in command (of herself and consenting others). This was a little exciting (I think I had the notion that at some point DM would set me straight on some essential point of living or thought), but also a bit scary. In person, however, DoctorMama is quite approachable and unassuming. She is recognizable as the author of her blog, certainly, a level-headed person with a clear self-perception and firm opinions, who is witty and articulate. But for all that, she's not the least intimidating. And thus, she is an excellent companion.

Though I found that she was not looking to advise or correct in a general sense, I did experience a DoctorMama moment when the topic of running came up. (Of course!) I mentioned that I was thinking of taking up running again, and described my history of running, which basically consists of a couple of brief spells of running, ending in one injury and then another. "You were running too fast," she said, with decision and a hint of constructive admonition. I felt an electric thrill run up my spine.

There's not a whole lot more to tell that's anecdote-worthy. We drove to a nearby state park and took a long walk, and talked and talked. I found DoctorMama unfailingly interesting and easy to converse with. She also proved herself exceptionally gracious by lending me her sunhat when mine kept blowing off. Hers had a chinstrap, which mine lacked, and my extreme paleness must have cried out for aid.

It was telling that when we ran into a snarl of construction-related traffic on the drive home and were stuck at a crawl for thirty minutes, we never ran out of things to say, even though we'd been talking for about four hours. I enjoyed hanging out with DoctorMama, liked her abundantly, and was not disappointed in any way by our meet-up.

And, let me add, she looked great. Her look was colorful, hip, and fun, but not fussy or overdone. She likely just threw on the first thing she saw in her closet. I know I did. (And I was very gratified to learn that she really likes the color orange, since the favorite tee-shirt I just happened to put on - without giving it any thought at all - happened to be a lovely shade of pumpkin.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

DoctorMama Mia, Part I

I am a real blogger now: I have had my first blogger meet-up. Not long ago I got an email in my oralhygienequeen account from the illustrious DoctorMama , completely out of the blue. She would be traveling near my town soon, she informed me, and if I was free, maybe she and I could actually, like, you know, meet up?

My first reaction was to be immensely flattered and excited. My second, to check the date of her email in a panic. Given that I hadn’t looked at my blog email account in a couple of weeks, I could well have missed or bumped dangerously close to the edge of her window. Nope, I lucked out. She had sent the email that very day, and so I pounced, replying forthwith that I would love to meet up. We sent a flurry of emails back and forth, setting up a time and place.

The prospect of meeting DoctorMama filled me with a giddy anticipation I rarely feel in my stable adult life. It was akin to figuring out some amazing person I’d had a crush on liked me back, or learning that my band had landed a gig opening up for a more established band whose music I adored. Of bloggers I regularly read, DoctorMama is without a doubt in the top three I most wanted to meet. She is witty, wise, and a great writer, and I love the perfect balance of bullshit-free self-confidence and humorous self-deprecation she strikes in her blog. She has a powerful voice, full of authority and insightfulness, but because she’s honest about her own doubts and the challenges of her life, she comes off as endearing rather than imperious.

As the date of our meet-up approached, I grew pleasantly nervous. I felt like I was going on a blind date, but with someone I already knew a ton about. The question of what to wear began to itch at the edges of my consciousness whenever I thought of our impending date, and I faced a dilemma that’s quite familiar to me: trying to find a combination of clothes that make me look cute, cool, and like I don’t give a shit how I look all at once. A couple of days before we were to meet, DoctorMama signed off an email saying “Now I just have to obsess over what to wear to create the illusion that I'm really, really hip but never think about what I should wear, just throw on the first thing I see in my closet.” I loved her already.

The day came. Because my in-laws (who don’t know I blog) were visiting, DoctorMama and I had arranged to meet at a park near several good lunch possibilities. I decided to walk, and left myself plenty of time to get there, so I ended up arriving about five minutes early. Anyone who knows me remotely well understands what a feat this is, me arriving somewhere early. I think I’ve been early twice in my adult life. (Five minutes late is more usual. Ten or fifteen minutes late is not unheard of.) So I sat and basked in the glow of being early. I people watched, and no one in the sparsely populated park looked like they could be DoctorMama. Then, five minutes or so after the time we’d arranged to meet, I saw a slim blonde figure approaching in my peripheral vision. I knew it must be her. I got up from my bench and met her halfway, and in the nervous energy of the moment, reached out and clasped her in that sort of bumpy hug that two skinny women hugging creates.

Walking to the restaurant, we made slightly awkward conversation, mostly revolving around parking tickets we’d gotten in various cities. That feeling of being on a blind date was in the air, but I sensed pretty quickly that it wouldn’t last long because we managed to keep the conversation going. It felt just a little bit manic, but we were making each other laugh here and there, and I could feel the social grease of talking doing its work on the gears of our little date. By the time we got to the restaurant, things were starting to feel more comfortable. As soon as we got our table, DoctorMama excused herself to go the can.

Next time: I am inspired to kill for DoctorMama, she lends me her hat, and we get stuck in traffic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school. Can you believe that? It's so early, and the summer has gone so fast.

Even after all these years of teaching, I'm still always nervous on the first day of school. I'm making a first impression, trying to get students excited about my classes, but also trying to remember to mention all the tedious nuts and bolts stuff they need to know to succeed in my classes. It's the one day of the year that I do most of the talking, and I don't like it. I can't wait for the second day, for the back and forth to begin.

On the first day, each class is a blank slate, and not in a good way. There's no rapport, yet. I almost always manage to create a good rapport with my students, but on the first day it's at zero. They don't get my sense of humor yet. I don't know who among them is funny, who's deep, who's strange in a way I will come to love, who's strange in a way I'll never quite figure out.

And, of course, it's a busy week. In addition to getting our shit together for our teaching gigs, the Old Man and I are getting childcare for Roo nailed down. And we're getting O. ready for kindgergarten. (Kindergarten!)

When all this start-of-school dust settles, I'll be much happier and more comfortable. The routine will begin to feel normal. The rapport will grow. And I'll have a time to tell you all about my recent blogger meet-up with the amazing DoctorMama.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Other People's Perfume. I am not down with it.

The eloquent Miss Manners once remarked that "a gentleman's cologne should never occupy a room that the gentleman is not occupying." Gentlemen, please take note. Guys, too. And ladies and women everywhere, be assured that this guideline need not be gender specific.

I myself do not wear perfume. I bathe regularly and wear deodorant. (Though even my deodorant - Tom's of Maine - is so mild mannered that I need to apply it several times a day to feel confident giving hugs to anyone but my intimates.) But back when I wore perfume, I tried to use discretion in applying it. I was always a fan of the "light spritz then step through it" school of perfume application.

Lately it seems like I'm beset by people who wear way too much perfume (or cologne). Kindly relatives who hold my baby for five minutes and leave her reeking of their favorite scent until her next bath. Men who make elevator rides an exercise in breath control. Female acquaintances who, when gathered in groups of two or more, create a war of the perfumes, leaving me a nauseated civilian casualty. I've decided that - short of hard core alcoholics or addicts (who tend to exude a toxic odor) or people who rarely bathe - I would rather smell someone's B.O. than their cologne or perfume, and I'm not exaggerating. At least people don't leave their B.O. behind after a hug. I'm aware, however, that mine is a minority opinion. We live in a culture where smelling like a human being is very scary for most people. Cologne, perfume, body spray, smelly hair products, and industrial strength deodorants are all here to stay.

Last week, though, someone went too far. It's bad enough when people douse themselves with too much perfume, thus compromising the air quality in shared space or leaving their mark after a consensual hug. But last week some woman I don't even know enacted a sneaky ploy to make me smell like her perfume.

I ordered a cool handmade necklace from Etsy, thinking to wear it when my Old Man and I went out for dinner on our anniversary. The necklace arrived on the very day of the celebration, just in time. When I opened it, I was momentarily delighted. It was beautiful, just what I wanted. But then I sniffed a funny smell. Perfume. Strong perfume, coming from the necklace. This skilled artisan had made a lovely necklace, then fouled it with a big dose of her perfume. Or some perfume of her choosing. The necklace was too stinky to wear that night. I hung it up on the back porch to air out and went out bare necked.

I can't be too pissed at the necklace maker. I'm sure spraying the piece with perfume was intended as a nice gesture. But it seems like a stupid one. Even if I liked her perfume (not a safe bet), I still might be annoyed that it was competing with my own, right? Assuming I wore perfume? Which I don't.

Lord, please guard and keep me from O.P.P.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Nine Years

Every year the Edge Foundation poses a question to an array of elite scientists and leading intellectuals, then publishes their answers. Reading through The Best American Nonrequired Reading for 2006, I came across the answers to the 2005 question: "What do you believe is true, even though you cannot prove it?" The answers were all engaging and stimulating, but the one that struck me the most came from David Buss, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Buss's reply? True love.

I've spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating. In that time, I've documented phenomena ranging from what men and women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual treachery. I've discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I've studied mate poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators, and spouse murderers. But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human mating, I've remained unwavering in my belief in true love.

While love is common, true love is rare, and I believe that few people are fortunate enough to experience it. The roads of regular love are well traveled and their markers are well understood by many—the mesmerizing attraction, the ideational obsession, the sexual afterglow, profound self-sacrifice, and the desire to combine DNA. But true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It's difficult to define, eludes modern measurement, and seems scientifically wooly. But I know true love exists. I just can't prove it.

I know that true love exists because I am lucky enough to have it. Whatever difficulties (fairly minor) that my Old Man and I have, and whatever ways (small and relatively trivial) I might wish he were different or he might wish I were, we have a deep, abiding, growing, and life-affirming love. There's no one I'd rather be with, no one whose opinion of me matters more, no one I enjoy talking to more, no one I feel more comfortable with, more "got" by. After all our years as a couple (thirteen and counting), I like him so completely, enjoy hanging out with him so much, feel such affection for him, crave to touch and be touched by him. And beyond all of these descriptions, beyond anything I can say to express my feelings for him, my love for my Old Man simply is, deep and pure hearted, vital and unquestionable. I see him from a distance and my heart still makes a little leap. I sometimes still smile involuntarily at the unexpected sound of his voice.

We got married nine years ago today, and I love him more and more. From being friends to becoming boyfriend/girlfriend, from being married to sharing the joyful and exasperating experience of being parents, this thing we have together has gotten cooler and cooler.


Happy anniversary, my dear.