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A Culture of Last-Minute Cramming

I had a good hard laugh at myself the other day, prior to my dentist appointment.

I’m not a regular flosser. I know I’m not a regular flosser, and I know the Dr. and the hygienist will know I am not a regular flosser. Once they open my mouth and poke around, they will know. They are professionals. I am not. They will know and they will tell me. And I will be ashamed for my negligence to my dear gums.

But prior to my appointment, I was looking for floss. I was brushing my teeth and my tongue with vigor.

Luckily, I didn’t have any cavities, but they hygienist told me I needed to floss, everyday. No exceptions. My gums were slightly sensitive and bleeding a bit, but I needed to do this to save my perfect teeth.

When I got in my car, I realized the last-ditch efforts we do to make ourselves feel better for not doing what we are supposed to all along. Or to just make ourselves look better when someone has to look at something in our lives a bit closer than normal.

Prior to dates, or sex or an obgyn appointment… most women try to groom their lady parts. Some physicians laugh that some patients go through the trouble of spraying perfume or putting on baby powder down there to “freshen it up.”

But it doesn’t bother medical professionals when a person actually bathed before the grooming…their gripe is when they didn’t bathe at all. The person left out the water and soap part, and only spritzed themselves in some fruity Bath and Body Works concoction, hence making the entire encounter offensive.

I remember rushing to shave my legs before a date, because I had a feeling he was going to see my legs, and trying to sneak and wipe off a dot of blood I noticed, left behind from the rush hack job I did to my gams. Last minute cramming…

I remember recently making an impromptu emergency massage appointment and then having a momentary freak out because I had a little stubble on my legs and hadn’t shaved in a while. I didn’t want the masseuse to think I was an unkept, hairy beast. But that’s not their job to think it, or let me know they think it. So I shouldn’t care. I want to be clean, but a little stubble on my legs is not going to send them out of the room, refusing me service. I had a silly panic moment.

And once I let that go, I managed to have a wonderful massage.

When we have to expose ourselves to others, a lot of us, panic and worry about the outside reaction and then “cram.”

Me and one of my friends have a saying from an old rap song. “If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.”

With that simple mantra, you don’t have to worry about being unprepared or caught unaware if you are constantly handling your business, maintaining your health, car maintenance, financial business, personal grooming, etc. And other motivational gurus also talk about the importance of being ready for an opportunity, because they often come at random, unexpected times.

But the need to cram, I think, happens to everyone. And I think it’s a natural reaction to pending evaluation-related events or people who have to evaluate us or a situation created by us.

The same thing happens for people who clean their homes right before company comes over, or does a pre clean prior to having a hired person clean their house. We don’t want folks to think we are nasty, we say. Yet, we don’t accept the real reason we needed help in the first place. We either didn’t have time, or we are lazy, or the house is to big or too messy for us to tackle alone and we want a simple solution.

There’s nothing wrong with that in that instance. If you can afford it, I say do it. Don’t even think about the judgement you think the person you are paying has. They probably don’t. And if they think you are nasty, they’ve agreed to help you anyway. Move on.

These actions are like the kids who don’t study for exams and may have studied the material the night before, and yet have their book out scrambling moments before the teacher says, put the book away, let’s begin.

It reminds me of the friend who would say, “If you are five minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. So if you are already late, why are you still running? Even if you show up a half-hour later, it still makes you no worse than the person who is five minutes late to someone who values time. Showing up a half hour late, you just really, really pissed them off. If you are a minute late, you are late.”

Then I’d say, “being a minute late is still a lot better than, five, ten or twenty minutes late.” I still think a minute late is way better than twenty, but my friend still had a valid point.

What is it that makes us do this?

Why do we think these last-ditch efforts make a difference? Why is this an automatic reaction?

Why did I really think breaking out the floss twenty minutes before my dental appointment was going to erase all of the days I’ve skipped it?

Because, we are a culture of crammers. Sometimes we do just enough or we slapped together something at the very.last.minute  and we want to be rewarded for that.

So we trick ourselves into thinking that these things work, especially when we actually do pass the test, or don’t get a cavity or we get a compliment about how lovely our homes are.

We breathe a sigh of relief, and we continue our trifling ways, until we are called to the carpet once more for an outside inspection or assessment, yet again.

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