When you were young, your mother affronted you with very specific pieces of advice, on repeat, a perfect metronome of maternal nagging. She is like the bizarre retro plastic Mickey Mouse toy you and your siblings occasionally picked up as children: an invisible string along her spine pulled taut, and, instead of high-pitched squeals about cheese or being your best friend, an automated advisory claim burst forth. The tips took many shape, but many had to do with hygiene, comb your hair, wash your face, scrub your feet in the shower, use strong soap that actually kills those germs, brush your teeth. There were, of course, more specific qualifiers in each category. Comb your hair right after the shower, then you will not have intense knots later, the kind that seem to require hours of delicate picking and teasing before they are disengaged. You should brush your teeth before you put on make-up. You should brush your teeth before you don a nice jacket or blouse or even clothes at all, so you do not spill toothpaste and stain. You laughed, ran outside, played, romped, laughed some more, and mostly tried to ignore. As you entered adolescence, these hygiene tips were often consolidated, an all encompassing yet surprisingly vague request: do your skin care.
Your alarm rings, you hit snooze, it rings again. Then again. A quick shower and then too many minutes with the lackluster hair-dryer and your damp hair. A charcoal suit, mostly free from wrinkles, your nemesis, an inevitable foe. Days of concern and frustration for your mother's incessant nagging seem infinitely small and remote, as you dash about to get to an early morning meeting. For a second, vaguely recalling some maternal insights, reaching for your toothbrush, you wonder if you should take the brief time to remove your suit, brush your teeth in your underwear, and then put it back on once again. You laugh; this is ludicrous, and surely a waste. Moments after the accidental eruption, the collapse, the tainting, you realize you should have listened to her all along, about everything: a white smear of the fluoride and peppermint variety on your skirt, the toothbrush on the ground, the tiny tube culprit laying innocently near the sink. You then realize that the entire reason for this debacle, the tiny tube that forces you to use the sharp point cowering in the cap to open the foil, a puncture too small for a too small tube to even allow a pinch of valuable cleansing paste onto your brush, is because you left your own, normal, store-purchased travel toothpaste tube at home. Another tip from your mother: always have travel-sized toiletry items with you, even going to the office, or grocery store. Leave them in your purse.
Hastily, you splash the stain with a bit of warm water, use a stain-remover pen, an ever fascinating and obvious innovation in the modern world. The white morphs into a geographic land mass across your thigh, near the hem of the skirt. Again, the lackluster hair-dryer, though, this time, despite being late and wanting a quick fix, you thank the higher powers it will, hopefully, not burn your skin. As it all dries, the seeping foolishness, you scan the ingredients on the dropped tube; saccharin appears in the midst. Brushing your teeth with sugar; what a waste.
(image taken from That Kind of Woman)