The intimacy of toothbrushes (and sex)

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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.

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14 thoughts on “The intimacy of toothbrushes (and sex)”

  1. One thing a toothbrush has never done is shoot my adrenaline levels through the roof and bathe my brain cells in endorphins. That’s why even back in my college days I found it quite easy to refrain from sharing a toothbrush. 😉

  2. What politician would lose the love of wife, children, and constituents to borrow another’s toothbrush? Or tweet naked pics of his Oral-B?

    1. You got me chuckling with that one, Jamie! (Good thing I don’t have anyone’s desk near enough to hear me.)

    1. I totally agree. I remember on our first camping trip together realizing that we only had one toothbrush between us and saying something like “well I suppose if we’re one flesh, we could have just one toothbrush.” (Cute for the camping trip, but at home we reverted to two 🙂

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  4. I really enjoyed this article! I’ve never heard the intimacy of sex be compared to the intimacy of using another’s toothbrush! Love it! This article is both funny and makes the wise point that our culture is too flippant about the intimacy it shares in the most vulnerable area of our life.

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