A man who doesn’t have any grandchildren yet, but who looks forward to telling bedtime stories one day, needs to be prepared. And dream…
“Grandpa Brian, tell me the Tale of Two Toothpastes. Oh, please, I love your stories so much!”
“Dear Grandchild, I just told you this story last night. Are you sure you want to hear it again?”
“Yes, yes, yes! I could hear it every night and never, ever get tired of it. Grandpa, I love your stories of the old days. And especially, especially about what you used to write about on your blogs. Did I tell you that my friends and me have started kindergarten blogs?”
“No, honey. But we can talk about you later. Bedtime is all about my stories, remember?
“Yes, Grandpa. Now, please tell me the Tale of Two Toothpastes. I can’t wait!”
“OK. Here we go…”
Once upon a time there was a man, a lot like me, who went to the dentist. The man didn’t like to go to the dentist, even for a teeth cleaning. He especially didn’t like to see the dentist’s black Porsche parked out back, because he knew that his crowns and cavities had helped pay for that very nice car. And that bugged him.
So the man wasn’t in a wonderful mood when, after his teeth had been x-rayed, and cleaned, and polished, and fluorided by a hygienist, which already had cost the man more money than he wanted to think about, the dentist who owned the very nice black Porsche came in to look at his teeth for a few seconds so he could call it an “exam” and add even more to the man’s already outrageous bill.
And then what the dentist said made the man even more upset. “You got the bad luck of the genetic draw when it comes to your saliva. Your mouth is a natural breeding ground for nasty tooth-destroying stuff.”
Now, the dentist talked more dentistly than this, but the man, who was a lot like me, stopped listening closely after he heard “bad luck,” because he knew that these words, when said by a dentist, meant that the man likely was going to be helping to buy an even nicer black Porsche.
“You’ve got several choices,” the dentist said. “You could brush your teeth many times a day. You could brush with Listerine mouthwash, like I do. Or, if you don’t want to have Listerine running down your arms and chest, like what happens to me [eew! the man thought, wondering if the dentist brushed his teeth in his very nice black Porsche and, if so, how this affected the leather seats], you should at least brush with Listerine toothpaste.”
The man, who had a razor-sharp logical mind, a lot like me, ran through the possibilities in a flash and picked the very best idea, meaning, the easiest idea, because the man wasn’t interested in letting increased teeth-maintenance take time away from all the much more important things the man had to do—like look on the Internet for photos of that cute blonde member of the Russian women’s curling team he had seen on TV.
So after he had written a check to the dentist’s receptionist for more money than a new car cost not so many years ago, the man went to his local Fred Meyer store and bought a tube of Listerine toothpaste. He liked the looks of it. The outside had words like “clinically proven,” “powerful,” and “kills germs.”
This toothpaste, thought the man, would help keep him from buying the rich dentist an even more expensive Porsche. Plus, it would help him keep his teeth healthy. But that was a secondary consideration.
He had a new friend. He would call him “Listy.”
The only problem was, the man already had a toothpaste friend, “Remy.” Remy was what he called his Rembrandt toothpaste that supposedly whitened his teeth—which the man believed with all his heart, because it said “whitening” on the tube, and he felt that the government wouldn’t let someone make a claim that wasn’t true, though when he thought about what was happening in Iraq he sometimes wondered if his teeth were really getting any whiter.
Anyway, the man had been told by his dentist to use Listy, so he reluctantly put Remy away on a bathroom shelf. He often thought that he could hear his old friend Remy crying at night when he used his new friend Listy instead. The man was happy that he had a new clinically proven powerful toothpaste that killed germs, but he was sad that his teeth weren’t getting whiter anymore.
He would think to himself during the two minutes that he timed on his atomic watch every time that he brushed his teeth, “I am going to have germ free ugly teeth soon.” And that made him even sadder, especially when he thought about what a nice Porsche the dentist was going to be able to buy if the man’s Aging Ego ever led him to want ceramic veneers.
Then, one day, the man had a epiphany. Suddenly he felt wonderful! He wasn’t sad any longer. For one thing, he knew that now, if he ever had grandchildren, he could tell them a story with the word “epiphany” in it, which would do a lot for their vocabulary.
But just as important, he knew that he didn’t have to choose between his old friend Remy and his new friend Listy. And he didn’t need to brush his teeth any more often either to spend time with his old friend. The epiphany was so, well, ephiphanous, the man felt like the cosmos had opened up and revealed a Great Truth to him.
He could have it all. He didn’t have to choose. He had been thinking of Remy and Listy as separate things who couldn’t be combined. Yet, they could. There could be two toothpastes on one brush. He had been caught in a dualistic dream from which he'd been awakened by Unity.
“Come together. Right now. On my toothbrush.” The man, who was a lot like me, could hear the Beatles singing. Which might have been a flashback (but that’s another story, dear grandchild).
“Tell me the moral, Grandpa! You forgot the moral!”
“All right. The moral is…don’t get caught in the Twosies Trap. It’s easy to believe that you have to choose between two things, two people, two ideas, two beliefs, two political parties, two religions, or two whatever. Our Twosies mind likes to divide stuff up, but Onesies is more how the world really works.”
“Thank you, Grandpa Brian. I love the Tale of Two Toothpastes. They’re really one toothpaste, aren’t they?”
“That’s right, dear grandchild. If you see them as Onesies, they are. Good night.”
[Next day update: as noted above, this is how I spent the time I saved by not brushing twice with two different kinds of toothpaste. Except, it took a lot longer than two minutes to find a photo of Ludmila Privivkova, skip (whatever that is) of the Russian women's curling team. If it weren't for hoos Mike, who asked, and Guy, who provided, I'd still be trying to prove to myself that anything can be found on the Internet if you search diligently enough.]