The Toothpaste Story

Even if you’ve never watched Everyone Loves Raymond, there is an episode called Baggage that rings true for every married couple.  The premise of the episode is this….Ray and his wife Debra wind up in a two-week standoff over a suitcase. When Ray’s brother Robert asks Ray if he can borrow a suitcase sitting on the stairway landing for his honeymoon, Ray explains he and Debra have been locked in an “unspoken” battle of wills since a weekend trip over who is responsible for putting the suitcase away. Although Robert thinks Ray and Debra are insane, Ray’s parents Frank and Marie can easily relate and offer their own words of wisdom – with Frank counseling Ray and Marie advising Debra on how to resolve their marital differences.  It is this episode that leads us to my toothpaste story. 

We were visiting my daughter at college and as we were driving to dinner she mentioned that she had watched a really funny rerun of Everyone Loves Raymond.  She then proceeded to describe the above mentioned suitcase episode.  I started to laugh and said, “Oh yeah…..your mother and I have had our own version of that going on with the toothpaste for years.”  She then said, “Oh my God, you two are still at it?”  I was a bit surprised that she knew what I was talking about so I asked, “How do you know about this?”  Before I tell you her answer let me explain what I was referring to when I mentioned the toothpaste. 

My wife likes to get her money’s worth out of products she buys.  She will squeeze the last drop out of the ketchup, the shampoo, the mustard and yes, even the toothpaste.  She’s not cheap or eccentric. It is just something she does.  And sometimes it can make you crazy with bottles turned upside down so that the last drop slides down to the cap. 

I’m guessing it was about 10 years ago (maybe a bit more, who remembers at this point?) that I went to brush my teeth and found a twisted mess of a toothpaste tube that she was working to get the last drop out of.  I looked at it and said to myself, “For the love of God can’t we afford to throw it out when it is this close to being done?”  So I proceeded to get something with a flat edge (probably the case my razor is in) and I flattened out the tube pushing whatever was left to the end.  (It amazed me how much was still left!)  It is important to note that my motivation was to show her two can play at this game.  She however, is still convinced to this day that I was too lazy to bend down and get the toothpaste out of the vanity under the sink.  This went on until it was finally empty and she replaced it and nothing was ever said.  I walked away thinking, “maybe now she’ll just throw stuff out” and she walked away thinking, “what a lazy bastard!”  And never a word was spoken.  Until the next time the toothpaste was running out…… 

Here we go again.  Twisted and mangled and squeezed beyond belief.  I figured I’ll just flatten it again.  And she just figured that again I was being lazy.  And so it began…..the great toothpaste war.   

Over the next ten or so years, every time the toothpaste was running out we would engage in this little ritual and never say a word to each other.  Oh of course there would be the occasional, “did you brush your teeth yet” or “did you pick up toothpaste at the store” but never an acknowledgement of what was going on. 

Since I was using the razor case to flatten the tube out, most of the time she was the one it would finally just run out on.  Or she had less patience with it.  I’m not sure.  She had to keep starting the new tube.  So this one time it finally worked out that it ran out on me and at that point I was even ready to call a truce.  Until I reached for the new tube in the box and realized it had a dent in it.  That’s right folks, she was using the new tube and putting it back in the box and leaving me with the dregs!  I was appalled (and never laughed so hard in my life!) 

This of course necessitated a confrontation as the unspoken war would now be discussed.  I told her I couldn’t believe she would stoop so low as to keep using the new tube while I was using the old one.  She countered with the fact that she couldn’t believe I was so lazy that I wouldn’t bend down and get the new tube and I countered that by saying it had nothing to do with me being lazy and everything to do with her wringing the last drop out of the tube.  And on and on it went.  And did that stop us the next time the tube ran out?  No.  (Although it was less of a silent war now with me saying things like, “Are you going to cheat again?”)

Which brings us back to my daughter knowing about this whole thing.  When I asked her how she knew about it she replied that one time, a long time ago, (in a galaxy far, far, away) my wife came into her bathroom and when she asked her what she was doing she said, “Give me your toothpaste and don’t tell your father!”