Monday, April 09, 2007

Love Is Dental Hygiene

The legend goes that the toothbrush was not invented until the 1800's, many years after the widespread use of toothpaste. This is probably not true. I'm sure many toothbrush-like instruments and several toothpaste-ish concoctions were around millenia before someone decided to patent them. The fact is, though, that toothpaste and the toothbrush came about long after the need for keeping one's teeth clean was realized.

Nobody can accurately know when humans began to keep their teeth clean. I surmise it was around the time that we began to keep our hair tidy and gnaw our fingernails off. But whenever it happened, people began washing their teeth because, if they scraped gunk off the enamel or picked chunks out from between the molars or rinsed out their mouth, more of their teeth lasted longer and they were less prone to mouth infections. And people having more teeth and less disease later in life meant that they could eat more, and thus, they themselves would last longer. This is dental hygiene, but it wasn't called that then.

Fast forward many, many years later to the "invention" of the toothbrush. Here was a time when tooth care was made nearly obsolete by the miracles of the emerging field of dentistry. If someone found themselves lacking teeth, they could have a pair of dentures made and fitted. But original teeth were still valued, as well they should be, and the risk of loosing teeth was probably the same as it was many years before.

The toothbrush was "invented" not to advance tooth care, but to catch up to all the extra damage that was being done to human teeth by the increasingly corrosive and germ-attracting things people were putting in their mouths and eating. Civilization had allowed for humans to have easier access to more corrosive foods that could potentially cause more damage to their teeth. In order for a person to make their teeth last as long as they had previously, they had to take extra care of them. The toothbrush had become a necessity.

Then, sometime in the following century, it became not only necessary to keep all of your teeth, but also to keep all of your teeth looking good. Dental hygiene, as a term, was born.

But dental hygiene did not end there. Soon, it became not only necessary to have all of your teeth, but also to have all of your teeth be perfect. You had to keep them polished white as bleached bone to be considered to have good dental hygiene.

More recently, though, dental hygiene has given way to dental perfection. You must have perfectly aligned, spaced, shined, and white teeth in order to be considered to have good dental hygiene. The teeth you were born with are no longer good enough. You must straighten your teeth with retainers and braces and dye them unnatural shades of white. It is purely manufactured perfection, as fake as a porcelain white cap. This perfection means nothing, and the ideal exists only because people say it should. There is little practical advantage to having perfectly white, straight teeth, but if not striving for that goal means being ridiculed or shunned, most people opt to fit in.

There is and has always been a thing that, when applied to a relationship, makes it last better and longer. This is Love, but might not always be called that.

As civilization developed, society allowed for more caustic things to be applied to relationships: money, jobs, lifestyles, etc. A new form of bond was "invented." Love, as a term, was born.

More recently, though, Love has come to mean something inaccurately perfect, something fake and contrived. A relationship can be made to look better by being straightened and rearranged. This is what is now called Love. Love exists to the extent it does for its own sake, because people say it should. "All you need is love." "True love." "...but the greatest of these is love." "The greatest thing you'll ever learn / Is to love and be loved in return."

Love, now, is a fabrication. It has become something separate altogether from a relationship, something magical and mysterious and more desirable than the relationships it once enhanced. People now look for Love rather than a partner. It no longer matters how long the relationship lasts or how effective it is, just as long as it has the appearance of being perfect. Love, as it now defined, is a thin, brittle veneer covering a decaying tooth.


  1. oh so bitterly cynical from a man with such a big heart. we all know you know Love better than this. beneath the veneer of a curmudgeonly mcbastard there lies a fleshy, vulnerable nerve ending. and Love is your root canal to relieve the irritation being a cynical tooth.

  2. I think I gave Love a fair shake. It's the people who make Love out to be some mystical, magical, selfless, perfect, all-powerful force -- instead of the interesting, confusing, and pretty useful emotion that it is -- that I view bitterly.

    I think the only thing that "we all know I know" is that one shouldn't blindly accept someone else's ideas and definitions, no matter how fun they are to believe in and to wish on and to cross your fingers for and hope to be true.

    If thinking for myself makes me curmudgeonly, I'll take it. If being vulnerable -- I assume you mean showing who I really am as an individual -- means I have to think like everybody else, you can keep it.

  3. yeah, i didn't mean to throw some overly romanticized ideal of love at you. i was trying to be tongue-in-cheek; sometimes you are not cynical mcbastard by pragmatic mcbastard, and i think it serves you well.

  4. No but right now I seem to be afflicted with this mystical, magical, all-powerful force thing (and it's making my relationship with the um 'inflicter?' brilliant). Of course you can't be nice to people ONLY when you feel magic, you have to continue being nice even at times when you don't feel the magic, but the magic exists. Everytime I get enthusiastic and try to write about the person i love I end up using all those words... So I don't know if I blame the people who write like that, i identify.


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