Spoofs & Satire

Time to Floss

He told everyone what it stood for before, but this week nobody’s buying a single detail about James Frey’s life—or his tattoo. The true story behind contemporary literature’s most in-your-face symbol.

The news just gets worse and worse for James Frey.

He has been accused of writing a bestselling “memoir” that was in fact, fiction, his legions of devoted fans are turning on him, and it’s only a matter of time before Oprah demands he makes a return appearance on her show so she can deliver a Singapore-style caning.

Now, an in-depth investigation has revealed that even his signature tattoo, “FTBSITTTD” is not what it purports to be.

According to Frey, the tattoo reflects his “take-no-prisoners” attitude about his “brutally honest” writing. He claims it stands for “Fuck the Bullshit It’s Time to Throw Down.”

As one whose credibility has long been under siege, I felt some investigation was in order, and my digging around has revealed that the tattoo’s origins and meaning are considerably more mundane and consistent with Frey’s upper-middle-class upbringing in suburban Ohio and Michigan.

Rather than indicating a devotion to bringing his prose hard-core style, Frey’s tattoo reveals that he was mostly concerned about cavities.

That’s right, “FTBSITTTD” really stands for “Forgetting to Brush Slowly Is the Trail (to) Tooth Decay.”

Frey’s obsession with dental hygiene was confirmed by some of his Denison University SAE frat brothers. “We’d be like ready to go out and booze it up, but Jimmy was always making us late with all the brushing and flossing,” reported one college buddy.

When she asked him what it meant, he replied, “Everything in the world that is important.”Another friend indicates that Frey’s tooth-maintenance routine bordered on the obsessive. “When his Sonicare broke he cried like a baby, got a bloody nose, and threw up on himself. We were about to take a flight to South Padre for spring break, but they weren’t going to let him on the plane. Fortunately, his mom Fed-Ex’d him a new one right away.”

A deeper investigation reveals that Frey’s interest in healthy teeth and gums was instilled in him at an early age. Apparently, his grandfather had dentures and used to take them out of his mouth to scare young James. Frey vowed to himself that he would do whatever was necessary to keep his real teeth in his mouth. Thus, FTBSITTTD began.

Jennifer Ludwig, an eighth-grade classmate, said that Frey used to write “FTBSITTTD” over and over in his notebook and even carve it into the school’s desks. When she asked him what it meant, he replied, “Everything in the world that is important.”

When the news of the tattoo’s real origins was posted on a Frey fan internet discussion board, reaction was mixed, but the most common sentiment can be seen in a posting by “jimmyforpres”: “At least it’s a real tat. its not like he drew it on with a sharpie or anything.”

Frey’s attorney, Martin Singer, noted that “Forgetting to Brush Slowly Is the Trail (to) Tooth Decay” has an extra T in it but that the tattoo means only what Frey says it does. “And if you say different, we’ll find some kind of ridiculous way to threaten you with a lawsuit that will backfire and make our client look like a weasely lying sack.”

But William Page, owner of Page’s Tats and Piercings, explains the discrepancy. “He was having trouble with the pain and said that we could drop the ‘t’ for ‘to.’ He said it was ‘implied.’ He said it doesn’t really matter if it’s exactly accurate, as long as it’s still ‘true,’ whatever the hell that means.”


TMN contributing writer John Warner’s first novel, The Funny Man was recently published by Soho Press. He teaches at the College of Charleston and is co-color commentator for The Morning News Tournament of Books. More by John Warner