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, May 22, 2010

R.I.P. Sonicare

Well, my good old space age toothbrush finally died, after eight good years. Actually, it didn't technically die; I put it down. I won't go into too much detail because it's a fairly disgusting tale, but suffice to say it got too gross to keep. This eight-year-old version of the Sonicare had an empty chamber in the area where the replaceable head attached. It seems that small amounts of water began to find their way into this chamber, and after awhile things began to grow in there. I tried a regular cleaning with a Q-tip and tea tree oil, but little bits of mold kept returning. So finally I stopped using it, and just let my Old Man use it exclusively so that we wouldn't have to switch the heads and the dastardly material could be sealed away within until a new electric toothbrush could be purchased. In the mean time, I just used an old fashioned toothbrush with bristles powered by me and me alone.

When I finally got a bit of time to go out and buy a new electric toothbrush I decided that, rather than get a new Sonicare, I would make a bold move and defect to the Braun-Oral B camp. I'd been fascinated by Braun electric toothbrushes for awhile because, while the Sonicare's bristles just vibrate back and forth really really really fast, the bristles of the Braun electric brushes actually whirl in circles really really really fast. This reminds me more of having my teeth cleaned at the dentist, which kind of excites me. In a totally non-sexual way (as far as I'm consciously aware.)

I had planned to go out, bite the bullet, and buy one of the nice expensive Braun-Oral Bs, which run between $70.00 and $100.00. This is in the neighborhood of what I paid for the Sonicare way back when. (I would never in a million years pay $100 for a pair of jeans, but an electric toothbrush is another story.) When I got to the dental care aisle at Walgreens, however, they had a $20 Braun out there for anyone to grab, but the really expensive toothbrushes were in a locked plexiglass case. (Weird. Who shoplifts an electric toothbrush?) Because I have a full-time job and two small children, I run any and all errands within a window much too small to actually take care of the task in a considered and thorough way. The five minutes it would've taken me to find a clerk would have put me behind my schedule, and so I made a quick decision to try the $20 toothbrush. I elected not to buy extra heads for it though, in case I hated it and wanted to return it.

When I got it home and tried it, I regretted my decision to go for the Braun Vitality, the cheap version. It was really loud, even louder than the fairly noisy Sonicare, and it was rough. Its action reminded me a bit of the grinder attachment on a dentist's drill. (And however much I may love going to the dentist, I do not love the drill in any form.) The first time I used it, it made my gums hurt, which seemed bad (even though the accompanying material noted that this might happen, and suggested that it would be a temporary effect). I planned to repackage the toothbrush and return it at my next opportunity, opting for the more expensive version, which I assumed would be more suave.

The receipt was inadvertently thrown away, though, and a scramble to find it in the dumpster ended in frustration. And so I ended up keeping the cheap Braun, and I continued to use it, and over time began to get used to its loud, rough ways. After a few days my gums stopped hurting. But since I hadn't gotten extra heads for the Braun, my Old Man had to keep using the Sonicare. I figured I'd eventually go out and either get more heads for the Braun Vitality or spring for one of the more pricey Brauns. (I also entertained scenarios where I tried to parlay my Oral Hygiene blog brand into a free pricey Braun, but a woman who does not have time to go out and buy a new toothbrush has no time to write letters trying to weasel a free toothbrush out of corporate America. So far none of my free oral hygiene swag has included an electric brush.)

The other day, though, I grabbed my old Sonicare out of habit, twisted open the replaceable head, and was met with a horror show inside. Yech. Not just a bit of something shadowing the edges, but a full on mini-zoo of fungal disgustingness. I chucked the thing immediately in the trash, feeling guilty that I'd let my husband use a toothbrush that had that horrible stew slowly brewing within.

So now it's time to either buy an additional head for my rough and ready new toothbrush so I can share it with the Old Man, or shell out for the expensive version of it. Or I could go back to the Sonicare family. What's an oral hygiene queen to do?

Monday, May 03, 2010

"Fat" Is Not a Dirty Word

Have you seen Joy Nash's "Fat Rant"? If you haven't, you should. It's funny, it's brilliant, and for the majority of the American public, it's crucially educational.

There are so many important things the beautiful and talented Joy Nash has to say here. But one of the most radical things I realized when I first saw her rant is that "fat" is not an insult. Well, not necessarily an insult. As used in our culture, it usually is an insult. But when used in a neutral way, it's simply a descriptive word, as Joy points out.

But most of my life, I think I've been afraid to use the word. What other word should I use? Describing people is part of life, and we call people "tall," "short," "skinny," "petite," etc. all the time. But for many people "fat" seems like an insult. What's a better word? "Overweight" probably seems more socially acceptable to some people, but it's terrible, implying that the person being described is the wrong weight. Would I rather be called "skinny" or "underweight"? Um, I'll take "skinny," thanks.

(I am, full disclosure, skinny by most people's measure, and have always been skinny except when I was a kid and was, objectively speaking, scrawny.)

Without a word that's not an inherent judgment ("overweight") or a patronizing euphemism ("plump"), it's hard to talk about body size in a way that's not charged with the fat phobia that runs rampant through our culture. I'm not saying I'm the enlightened one who is leading the way. Introducing Joy Nash's "Fat Rant" to my Gender Studies class today, I was struck by the fact that even though as a teacher I'm actively trying to promote body acceptance for people of all sizes (and as anyone who's suffered through adolescence can attest, feeling good about your body can be a challenge no matter where you fall on the body size spectrum), I still find myself at a loss for words sometimes in real life situations that involve talking about actual people's body size. I realized today that I don't use the word "fat" because it carries with it so much negative baggage. But is this a word that only fat people can use positively? I think if I actually used the word, it would help me to better live the values that I espouse, and to teach my kids to accept people's body size and not feel like they have the right to make assumptions about how people live based on their body size. I want to start using the word "fat" in a way that is free of judgment. But I'm still a little afraid to use it at all.