When I Was Confused About “Sexy” Toothpaste

When I was at Target a couple weeks ago, I stopped in the toothpaste aisle and quickly scanned for the lowest price. On the bottom shelf, I saw that Aqua Fresh was on sale (I can’t remember now — maybe $1 or $1.50 per tube?), and I picked up a double pack.

As I stood in the checkout line I had a memory run through my head: for most of my childhood, I was under the impression that Aqua Fresh toothpaste had something to do with sex. I didn’t really know what sex was and had never been given the birds and bees lecture, so I’m not sure what I thought Aqua Fresh did exactly. I just thought of it in the sex category — and understood that it should make me blush in the same way other words I didn’t understand, but knew were sex-related (like orgasm or erection), made me blush.

Like, if I had been at the grocery store with my mom, and there had been Aqua Fresh in our cart, and we had stopped to talk with a friend (with the Aqua Fresh just sitting there!! visible in our cart!!!), I would have been mortified. Luckily, Aqua Fresh was never in our grocery cart — I assume because it was too expensive or too fancy or just not my mom’s preferred brand — so I never had to face that particular humiliation. : )

Why did I think Aqua Fresh was a sex product? I can only imagine it was because there was some sexy Aqua Fresh commercial I’d seen as a kid. Though I did a quick search for 80’s Aqua Fresh commercials and they all seem to be family-focused, so… who knows where I actually got this weird idea from? (By the way, if you’re in the mood for a dose of nostalgia, try this 80’s advertisement Pinterest board.)

The Aqua Fresh memory got me thinking about other misconceptions or misunderstandings or just general-lack-of-knowledge I had as a kid.

Another example: When I was five, we moved from California to St. George, Utah, and I grew up there. It’s at the very southwest corner of the state and the Mormon Pioneers who settled the area, and attempted to grow cotton there, called it Utah’s Dixie. Because of this, the local college is Dixie College. My high school was Dixie High School. “Dixie” is proudly painted in white on the Red Rock hill in town. I grew up singing the song “I wish I was in Dixie“.

And the whole time I was under the impression that Dixie was a Mormon/St. George word. I did not understand that the song, the word Dixie, the cotton — all of it — was a direct reference to the American South and the Confederacy.

I swear I was a good student in high school — but I did not get the very clear Confederate connection of Dixie until I was in college. Yikes. As you can imagine, I was stunned and embarrassed to have been so oblivious. I suppose the Mormon culture was so strong when I was growing up in St. George, that it simply superseded everything else.

How about you? Do you have any memories of being confused about a product? Or have you ever thought something was sexual that definitely wasn’t? Or had an “a ha!” moment about something you’d totally misunderstood before? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — Our local Target is undergoing huge renovations right now — but is still open. Every time I go in, there’s a new maze of shelves. The dairy aisle might be next to the throw pillows. The toilet paper over by the electronics. I admit, I’ve found it kind of charming — at least when I’m not in a hurry. It feels like an adventure. : )

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