It was my semi-annual cleaning. As she left the room, the hygienist told the dentist that my gums weren’t bleeding as much as they did last time. “That’s great,” he smiled. “Flossing every day now?” Without missing a beat, I replied, “Well, not every day, probably three times a week.” It was an outright lie. OK, well maybe just a politician’s lie. I floss three times a week once, maybe twice a month. The truth is, absolutely nothing had changed in my routine since my last visit. It was merely coincidental that my gums were bleeding less.
Why did I lie to him? I like to think of myself as an honest person, and yet this falsehood popped out of my mouth like a jack-in-the-box. He talked to me as he did his exam, but all I could think about was my deception. I kept thinking that I should really come clean and tell him most weeks, I don’t floss at all. But what would this accomplish now, besides making me look like a lying nut-case?
It is now three weeks later, and I’m still bothered by it every time I look at my toothbrush. I realize it was my silly vanity, wanting to take credit for good behavior that I had not performed. Many years ago, a wise man taught me that all humans are obsessed with two things: Being right and looking good. I’d like to think I’m more evolved than that, yet here I am, flippantly lying to my dentist about something completely banal.
Thinking about it now, I laugh. Just when I start patting myself on the back for how far I’ve come in the last few years, something like this pops out of my mouth to reveal how far I have yet to go. On the deepest levels, I am still obsessed with being right and looking good.
Maybe I’ll just start flossing every day to make my comment prophetic. Then I can both be right and look good.
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