The intimacy of toothbrushes (and sex)


Kim looked steadily at the crowd of 200 kids. “Let me explain what holy is,” she said. “Holy means set apart for just one person’s use. It means its not for anyone else. Just for one person.”

She produced a toothbrush from her bag. “Like this toothbrush. This is my toothbrush. I used it this morning. You just had snack and probably need to brush your teeth. Would you like to use my toothbrush?”  The crowd erupted with a chorus of “no!!!” and “eeeew!” Not a single furry-toothed kid wanted to take her up on her offer.

Brilliant illustration, I thought. Even at a young age, kids know that toothbrushes are intimate things. You don’t just go around sharing toothbrushes: they are reserved for your mouth alone.

The toothbrush analogy came flooding back to mind this week while I was watching a TV show. As is the way of much entertainment, the story involved a (young, in-love, responsible, monogamous) dating couple. They were in bed together. Another show later that week depicted another couple waking up together – with different partners than they had woken up with a few weeks earlier in the season.

It got me thinking: how is it that we live in a world where we think that sharing toothbrushes is more intimate than sharing your body? Why does a crowd of children shy away from the thought of picking up a friend’s toothbrush and shoving it in their mouth, but we don’t bat an eyelid at the thought of someone picking up a friend and…. (well, you know.)

Is it the germs on a toothbrush? Sex involves more germs.

Is it the risk of disease? Sex has way more risk (and more reward, as I’ve written about here.)

Is it the intimacy of a toothbrush? Sex is more intimate.

And yet people seem to be willing to brush their bodies together long before they’ll brush with one another’s toothbrushes.

In the last few weeks of our engagement, I remember running an errand – and instead of taking my old-jaloppy of a car, I borrowed my soon-to-be-husband’s significantly nicer set of wheels. I dropped something off at a friend and she walked me out to the parking lot. “Wow,” she observed, “I’m impressed! He trusts you to drive his car!”

I was stunned. Of course he trusted me with his car. He was about to entrust his heart, his life, his pocket book, his most vulnerable self to me. What was a car in the scheme of things?

Entrusting yourself to someone is more intimate than entrusting your car to them. And sharing your body is more intimate than sharing a toothbrush. By an order of magnitude, in my opinion.

And it makes me wonder if, after an evening of flirting and good chemistry, if handsome guy was to sidle over to delightful girl and whisper, “so, you wanna go home and share my toothbrush?”, whether the response might not be a little different.

One-Minute Marriage Maintenance

We just bought an ancient old older gently-used car. The car has over 140,000 miles on it, which ordinarily might have made us fear that it would soon have something very terrible (and very expensive) go wrong with it. However, the car was regularly and carefully maintained: it had its scheduled services, regular oil changes, minor issues addressed as they came up. 140k later, and it’s humming along smoothly. Regular, small maintenance does a lot to avert big mechanical crises.

Done... In 60 Seconds

Done… In 60 Seconds

This got me thinking about our getting older gently-used marriage. We have not had the money or much time over the years to do big, radical relationship-repairing things: we have taken very few vacations, and probably have an average of less than two “date nights” a year. However, with nearly 4000 days of marriage under our belt, we’re humming along smoothly. Even in marriage, regular, small acts of marital maintenance can do a lot to avert crises.

Marital maintenance doesn’t require any money, and often takes less than a minute. Here are some 60-second habits which we have found make a difference:

One Minute of Listening

Life gets busy and there are lots of competing noises in our house. It is often easy to ask a question and half-listen to the answer. However, one minute of dedicated LISTENING to my spouse’s answer when I ask “how was your day?” goes a long way.

One Minute of Eye Contact

We spent so much time looking at things together (our kids, our dinner, our screens), that sometimes we forget to take time to look at each other long enough to read one another’s facial expressions, see the laughter or tiredness in their eyes. Taking the time to SEE each other is so important for feeling, well, SEEN.

One Minute of Restraint

When angry, my instincts are often to speak quickly, and my first instincts are seldom my best ones. If we are facing something and I find myself feeling particularly angry or frustrated, sometimes just a few moments of restraint before answering saves me hours of regret.

One Minute of Prayer

I confess I am not a very faithful pray-er. I know I should devote serious time and attention to lifting my spouse before God, and when I don’t have a chunk of time, I often don’t pray at all. However, just one minute of prayer that he would be encouraged, helped, grown, useful, and fruitful in life goes a long way.

One Minute of Touch

We are at a stage where we have more children than limbs, and usually my arms are engaged in elasto-girl type endeavours to restrain my children from certain death in the road/on a counter/in the bath tub. However, when we remember to hold hands for just a minute, to extend our greeting hug and kiss just slightly longer (with no expectation of it Going Somewhere, although sometimes that happens), it does a lot to keep us feeling connected. Literally. The few moments my husband holds my hand just before I drift off to sleep are often the most contented of my day.

Our marriages need maintenance, but life is demanding and our schedules are hectic. And I will get to that to-do list… in a minute. Those little investments in maintenance are needed if we are to go the distance.

Modesty: the protector of intimacy

It would seem that Modest(y) is (the) Hottest topic these days.

I have read some very thought-provoking articles on modesty in the past weeks: what it is, what it isn’t. I’ve read about whether it’s wrong for women to wear bikinis, about how much women are responsible for their dress as opposed to men being responsible for their lust, about how love should be the controlling principle in how we dress.

Against this backdrop, I have another thought on the topic of modesty to add to the discussion: that modesty is integrally related to intimacy. Modesty is, I believe, a protector of intimacy.

Intimacy involves “a close association with or detailed knowledge of” a person, subject or place. It includes the idea of privacy – something shielded from the ‘public’. Intimacy involves being close, familiar, sharing affectionately in a loving personal relationship. As such, intimacy is a word used for the closest of relationships: emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, “let me not to the marriage of true minds” intimacy.


I would suggest then that modesty is a word we can use to describe behavior which protects intimacy. If intimacy is about being known and revealing ourselves, then modesty is that behavior which shields the private, which keeps the intimate “covered”.

Physical intimacy involves seeing and touching one another’s bodies. It is private. The bible uses the word “knowing” as a verb to describe sexual intimacy. Modesty protects intimacy by keeping our bodies “unknown” and saving that knowledge for a privileged relationship.

Emotional intimacy involves knowing one another’s deepest thoughts and feelings. We use similar language to describe these relationships: we BARE our souls. We REVEAL our secrets. We EXPOSE ourselves. We UNCOVER truth. The process of building emotional intimacy involves letting down our guard and “letting someone in”.

There is a  corollary to this modesty-intimacy connection: that being that if we have “shown it all”, it is much harder to build true intimacy. If everyone knows my secret, then there is nothing truly special and “bonding” about me telling it to you. However, if there are things about me which no-one-but-you know, then you and I both know that that privileged and private information has forged intimacy between us.

Similarly, if everyone has seen Joe Bloggs naked because he is a well-renowned local streaker, then for Joe Bloggs to reveal himself to me would not build intimacy between us. However, the knowledge that I am the only person who has seen my husband in all his glory does add to the preciousness of intimacy.

I believe  modesty involves choosing behaviors which form a boundary to protect intimacy. The word modesty has fallen on hard and controversial times. Not many want “modesty”. But intimacy is something we all want: we want to be closely bonded, to know and be known. Not by everyone, but by a select loved and trusted few.

The way I see it is this: modesty is more than a clothing choice. Modesty involves choosing to protect what we reveal of our body, mind and soul; and by choosing modesty, we create a protected space for the true joys of  intimacy. 

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