In recent times, Bwog members have been horrified to see various members of the Columbia community using the Butler bathrooms to brush their teeth. What’s wrong with them? An obsession with oral hygiene? Bwogger Gabbie Kloppers investigates, and comes to the defense of the Butler Toothbrusher.
It started with only one incidence, late one Sunday evening after a Bwog meeting. After a Diet Coke, coffee and Redbull infused study session, the urge came, and I valiantly made my way through the plethora of studiers in the Millstein library to the (usually overflowing) bathroom on the third floor. What I saw there astounded me; a middle-aged lady, perfectly respectable, brushing her teeth in plain view of everyone.
Now, the public brushing of teeth has always disturbed me a little bit. Brushing one’s teeth just takes an awkwardly long time, and whoever is in there is left with the sound of you almost gagging as you brave the back of your tongue. In short, it’s kind of gross.
Having seen it once, it was as if I was suddenly noticing it everywhere. The Butler Brusher refers not only to people who brush their teeth in Butler—although this is most common—but people who brush in any seemingly inappropriate public bathroom space.
I’ve seen Butler brushers in the bathroom on the first-floor of Hartley, in Kent, even in Avery, where I’d have thought the architecture students were above it all. It seems not. The Butler Brusher is endemic.
But beyond my initial disgust, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Why did they feel the compunction to brush? I talked to a compulsive brusher, who told me that it was his custom to brush after every meal. It suddenly seemed less strange, after all, the taste of onions is kind of gross. Note- some dentists don’t think brushing immediately after eating is a good idea, as the sugars in food soften your enamel and brushing can then brush off this softened enamel. Gross but valid food for thought.
Then I thought of my friends in GS and graduate students that didn’t have the luxury of our lovely, sometimes rat-infested guaranteed undergraduate housing. With no luxury of a dorm bathroom, their brushing must necessarily be public. Many of these students spend nights in Butler (as I have unwittingly done after a night of too much Dionysian indulgence) and have no option but to perform basic hygiene tasks in the Butler bathrooms.
It all seemed fair enough.
Then I went further to break down the assumptions that public brushing is awkward and gross. What defines a public bathroom? After all, the bathroom in my Hartley suite is fairly public. I have had to deal with awkward instances where my suitemate gels his hair for fifteen minutes while I cough up toothpaste and feel generally disgruntled by the presence of another being. Was that truly more private than some of the lesser-used Butler bathrooms? I guess not.
Consequently, I am sorry Butler Brushers for ever doubting you. I forgive you for the mild grossness of encountering you. You’re just being hygienic, and let’s be honest, Butler is at times more a home than Hartley is, so you may as well brush there.
Photo by David Hu SEAS ’13