The Picky Flosser

I visit the dentist twice a year to get my teeth cleaned. Twice a year, the hygienist pokes around my mouth with a sharp metal tool and notices that my gums are abnormally bleeding. Of course they are bleeding – you are stabbing my gums with a mini war scythe! At some point during the torture she asks how often I floss. Although I don’t like lying to the Grim Reaper, I give the exact same muffled response, “I try to floss every other day,” that prompts a short lecture about the importance of flossing. Twice a year after that un-motivating pep talk, I wonder how using a piece of string will prevent my gums from bleeding when the hygenist uses a war tool in a battle against my gums.

Then my dentist comes in. He continues to stress the importance of flossing and usually recommends that I invest in an electronic toothbrush. Twice a year, I completely disregard these suggestions and continue with my strict brush-twice-a-day routine.

The truth is, I don’t try to floss every day. In fact, the overflowing bin where I chuck all the free floss that the dentist gives me proves that I hate flossing. But as much as I avoid flossing, I actually do want to incorporate it into my teeth cleaning routine; I just don’t do it. Twice a year, I walk out of the dentist office and pledge to adjust my routine but by the time my evening brush comes around I am reminded why I don’t floss in the first place. It takes too much time. I slobber all over my fingers and I have to use a blue looped threader thing to floss around the metal bar in the bottom of my mouth. It’s a complete pain.

Picky eaters have a similar approach towards new foods. We hate trying new foods when we are pushed, bribed and lectured to do so. But as much as we avoid new foods, we actually do want to introduce new foods into our lives. We just don’t do it – until something clicks. Believe it or not, there are some picky eaters who want to like new food. Caprese salads, for example, was something that I desperately wanted to like for the longest time. The task was out of character and extremely ambitious for my picky conditions, but the complicated dish that would make most picky eaters squirm was something that I wanted my picky palate to approve.

At first, liking tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled in balsamic vinegar and topped with basil leaves was just a thought. I knew that incorporating it into my life would be good for me to do but I just didn’t want to do it. In time, I started cautiously taste-testing this Italian specialty whenever someone ordered it as an appetizer or salad option. Then I began taking a few bites when it was served at luncheons and eventually went so far to put it on my plate when my boyfriend’s mom served it for dinner. Almost two years later, something clicked and I was ready for caprese salads to have an active presence in my life. I boldly ordered the dish for myself when I was on a dinner date with my boyfriend and the rest is history.

I started flossing in a similar way that I started accepting caprese salads. Something clicked during my last trip to the dentist: I had enough of the lying and decided I was going to floss my teeth. I invested in an electronic toothbrush and challenged myself to floss (for real this time). To start, I placed the cartridge next to my toothpaste instead of chucking it into the floss bin. Then I began to make considerable efforts to floss my teeth each night before bead. Six weeks later, I can proudly say that I floss five times a week.

To put it simply, picky eaters want to incorporate new foods into our lives as much as non-flossers want to incorporate flossing into theirs. Some will never do it, others will do it with enough influence, and many will only do it on their own terms.

-MW