Discoveries in the medicine cabinet: My kids are chameleons

When Metro-North train service was cancelled because of a derailment, I stayed at my daughter’s apartment so it would be easier to get to work in the city, and that first night as I was about to brush my teeth, I made an amazing discovery when I opened the medicine cabinet. I realized how little we know about our family members.

I was angry. I was shocked. I realized medicine cabinets are the portals to the soul of humanity. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Let me state unequivocally that I’m not one of those people who is invited to stay at your house and then repays the kindness by rifling through the medicine cabinet in search of embarrassing little secrets I can reveal on Twitter. I’ll rifle through your medicine cabinet for a higher, more profound purpose. Frankly I don’t care what kind of pills you take or what kinky delights you have hidden there. My interests are purely clinical.

On this particular night, when I opened the medicine cabinet, I made a momentous discovery ... the toothpaste tube was capped. This might not seem like such an earth-shaking revelation, but it struck me like a lightning bolt, sort of like learning your spouse is leading a double life as homemaker by day and CIA assassin by night — or worse, a Vegas pole dancer.

This was a daughter who during the 25 years she lived at home NEVER capped the toothpaste, and every morning it would be dribbling out of the tube onto pill bottles and pimple cream. When I was getting ready for work, I’d rake it up with my toothbrush, which is neither pleasant nor hygenic.Then, I would shatter the morning silence with my angry and desperate screams: “Why is it so *#?!**@#% hard to cap the toothpaste??!!? Am I living with a bunch of barbarians?” The neighbors, I’m sure, were entertained. Because I consider myself a proactive problem-solver, I began buying toothpaste that had the cap attached to the tube, so all you had to do was snap it shut. How hard could that be? It made no difference. Dribble. Dribble.

However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, kids change when they leave home, and this same daughter has learned to cap the toothpaste ... even though she still leaves the cap off the tube when she visits us. Why is that? Is she so accustomed to having her mother pick up after her? Is she getting back at me for not letting her attend the Fashion Institute? Whatever reason, I got my sweet revenge for the years of indignity I suffered. I brushed my teeth and then hid the cap. I considered smearing toothpaste on the mirror that said, “REVENGE AT LAST!”

But that was too de classe even for me. Another daughter, who shall go unnamed, is about to get married. She and her fiancé. got a beautiful apartment with high ceilings and brick walls, and as they were fantasizing about their new life in their new home, she told him, “We’re not putting the heat on until December! We’ll wear sweaters.”

Clearly, she has my genes, and even though I never made my family wait until December to turn on the furnace, many times I considered locking the thermostat because this daughter along with the toothpaste culprit, had a tendency to crank up the heat to 76 even before summer officially ended. “Put on a darn sweater!” I’d yell as I lowered the thermostat to 68, but once I went to bed, they’d creep downstairs and raise it so high that by morning my throat felt as parched as Death Valley.

From these personal experiences, I’ve concluded that your children’s behavior changes when they go out on their own. They become instant experts, they become know-it-alls. Suddenly, they have all the answers, even if they’re the wrong ones.

Joe Pisani may be reached at