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What some call a necessity, others consider a luxury. Growing up in a big family, we often couldn't afford some luxuries my friends considered necessary.
Simple things, home remedies, often worked as well, or better, than their more expensive manufactured alternatives. But unfortunately, large marketing firms create an image of necessity for products such as toothpaste.
When I was a kid, times were different. We didn't have toothpaste. Instead, we had little Tupperware containers shaped like shot glasses. They were about twice the size and had a lid with the famous Tupperware Seal. These handy little containers came in very cool colors; yellow, blue, green, pink, orange, and white for the person with a limited desire for flair.
We kept the Tupperware container in the bathroom medicine cabinet filled with baking soda. You would open the container; sprinkle a little soda into the palm of your hand, then press the bristles of your wetted toothbrush into the soda. You were now prepared to begin the daily dental cleansing process.
We brushed our teeth in the morning and again before going to bed. I didn't seem to have any more or fewer cavities than my friends, who enjoyed the luxury of "cavity-fighting – tooth whitening" toothpaste. If you wanted a whitening agent, you added a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to the soda.
On occasion, when K-Mart offered a blue light special, Dad would come home with Pepsodent: a complete care toothpaste. But, of course, with toothpaste came responsibility and rules.
In the TV commercials, they would run a thick bead of paste from one end of the bristles to the other. The actor always put a wavy, sweeping hump in the toothpaste, leaving a curly tip - like a soft serve ice cream cone. Dad always said, "They do that to sell more toothpaste!" He insisted, "Just a dot; the size of a pea, that's all you need. The rest is just wasteful." But there were more rules than just the amount used.
"Don't let the tip of the tube touch your toothbrush bristles," Dad would say. That was equally gross to double dipping in the chip dip. There was a right and wrong way to dispense the product. You had to put pressure on the tube so that when you had your drop of toothpaste, there would be a slight vacuum action within the tube. Almost like inhaling, the toothpaste would recede slightly back inside the tube, leaving a nice clean tip for the next person – not a gunky mess. "If you can't replace the cap, don't use the toothpaste," Dad would warn.
Finally, we were required to squeeze from the flat end of the tube. As the toothpaste decreased in quantity, the tube would stay nice and neat, maintaining its sleek shape. Rolling up the foil tube as needed would also keep a nice-looking tube of toothpaste. Never, under any circumstances, was it acceptable to squeeze the middle of the tube. Never!
Squeezing the middle disturbed the natural shape and distribution of the product. It resulted in an untidy, unattractive tube of toothpaste. Lt also caused the wasted product to be trapped inside, which would lead to an investigation by Dad. ,
The violator, who dared to squeeze from the middle, would be sought out, caught, and punished. Then, losing all rights to the family tube of toothpaste, the convicted child would be banished from the toothpaste and sent back to using baking soda."
The older kids who had jobs found a way around Dad's rules; they bought their own toothpaste. Still, Dad would preach his rules to them, "You're just wasting your money when you waste toothpaste."
If we ran out of toothpaste and K-mart didn't have a special, Dad would say, "There's nothing wrong with using baking soda."
"But Dad, all my friends have toothpaste," I argued.
"If all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you jump off, too," He asked. But then, he reassured me, "There's nothing wrong with using baking soda."
Dad felt his position on dental hygiene products was proven correct when the "New and Improved Crest – Now with Baking Soda and Peroxide" was introduced. Maybe Dad knew more than we gave him credit.
I thought about Dad and his rules on toothpaste while standing at the sink this morning. Dad always used to say, "You'll follow my rules if you're living under my roof. You can make your own rules when you get your own house." I was in my house now.
I picked up my toothbrush and laughed as I squeezed the middle of the tube. I spread a thick bead of paste from one end of the bristles to the other. Naturally, I included the little wavy, sweeping hump in the middle, leaving a curly tip - just like in the commercials.
As I began brushing my teeth, it occurred to me I had used way too much toothpaste. I spit the excess into the sink, thinking, "What an expensive waste!" I went to the bedroom to get dressed. Before I left the house, I returned to the bathroom.
Applying pressure between my thumb and the tip of my index finger, I smoothed the tube from the bottom up. I made several passes pushing the paste toward the top, returning the natural shape to the damaged center where I'd squeezed it. Then, I smoothed out all the wrinkles I could. "There. That looks better," I said.
After all, I did not want to be the violator who caused the launch of an investigation. Such an investigation could lead to my conviction. I could lose all rights to the family tube of toothpaste; I would return to using baking soda, and I don't even own any of those little Tupperware containers.