Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brushing the Teeth

There used to be no doubt in my mind: the manual toothbrush rocked. I had complete control of the vigrousness and angle of my stroke. There was not a tight little corner that escaped the relentless probing of my toothbrush. And the broad head of these toothbrushes with their dense and stiff bristles confidently signaled to me that no plaque or stain might hold out against their assaults for long. It was only a matter of time before the toothguard brigade found them, brushed and fluorided them. And there was the pleasure when you grooved the rhythmic rocking motion of brushing. As if in finding that elusive optimal rhythm, you too could be sure of the sheer efficiency and confidence of your brushing. And because it was the optimal rhythm, you felt you could just keep thrusting, withdrawing, caressing and probing forever, as long as the firmness of the bristles in your toothbrush held out.

But then I was seduced by scientific advancement: the electric toothbrush (what I call the 'e-toothbrush'). Its small, circular but potent head perched high above its long neck which threatened to flare out into a frock dress but then merely joins indiscreetly to a lower stately sober and fatter lower body prompted one to think of a slimmed down alien robot based on a toothbrush and an ostrich. That it lacked the simple elegance of the toothbrushes was obvious. The small head, quiet and inert when not in use, seem to say defensively, 'it's not the width or length that counts but how quickly it spins.' Its entirety seem to say, 'Do not pay attention to that, the e-toothbrush seemed to declare. I may be staid, dull and unsexy, but I will take care of you like a mother can.' And when it was turned on, the noisy robotic whirr declared its single-minded scientific efficiency, its intention to relentlessly and mercilessly eradicate plaque and stains. That was just the problem - it was too coldly efficient. The hand did little, it just stayed in place where the head was whirring, its job only to keep it in place. It was like being damned to watching someone pleasuring themselves with no hope of ever partaking in it. It felt distant. Though my teeth felt more secure with the electric whirr and vigorous one speed brushing, my hand felt neglected, useless and uninterested. 'If this is what it means to use an e-toothbrush, I don't want any part of it.' And so it became that even though it was so easy to now brush my teeth, I took no pleasure or interest in it. What used to be a pleasure looked forward to was now a chore. Done only at virtual gunpoint. I had to remind myself that no one would want to french a toothless guy, especially a young one.

So breaking out the paralysis that was threatening to affect my teeth brushing habits, I one day bought a manual toothbrush. Not those cheap ones either. No. You cannot do these things half-hearted. The one I bought claimed to have built in the latest technology into it. How a simple manual toothbrush had so much technology built into it escaped me. I mean, just look at it. It's really a stick with a brush at the end. But on closer inspection the bodies now looked better, sexier almost, like a model with her perfect body gracefully arching it, pushing out her breasts, as if it may help with the brushing of your teeth. And bristles now were multicoloured, went this way and that (better and more effecting brushing! it promised on its glitzy packaging). The heads were slightly longer and just that little wider. Come back to us, Mister! We promise to love you long time, the new manual brushes tempted and beckoned like sirens on sirenum scopuli.

And like a sailor, I had no choice and went back to them. Thankfully, there were no crashes against the cliffs or surrounding rocks. Instead, upon trying out that spanking new sexy manual toothbrush, I was hooked. My hand grew excited at the prospect of being, well if not directly at the centre, then at least having an important role to play. It relished the cut and thrust of the brush. Like a swashbuckler in battle freshly unleashed from prison, it parried, it advanced, it stabbed at the unwelcome invaders. Brushing became fun, exciting and almost an adventure again. And this toothbrush episode taught me one thing. Scientific advancement must never come at the expense of meaningful human involvement. For to do so would be putting science at our disservice. If brushing teeth be the music of love (and minuet of lust), brush on, good man, brush on!

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