Last night my son got out of the shower (after a good 30 minutes of ensuring his complete and total cleanliness!) and joined his sister at the kitchen table to work on his homework. Seconds later, I hear hollering….not unusual when both kids are in the same room but I heard the words ‘It’s raining in the kitchen’ and I knew this was going to be bad. Sure enough, my husband and I ran into the kitchen to investigate and found water pouring down through the light fixture over the kitchen table. Of course, my husbands first response was to ask my son exactly WHAT he had been doing in the shower to cause such a problem! Boy child is well known for taking things apart, opening things that shouldn’t be opened and generally being WAY too inquisitive! But, the boy is off the hook….after calls to plumbers and some trial and error it has been determined that the shower drainage system is cracked. Now comes the fun of getting it FIXED.
Think About This Thursday
A Culture of Cleanliness
While we had the water shut off to the house and were talking to plumbers I was contemplating sending the girl child to the neighbor’s house to shower. Is that crazy? She hadn’t yet showered and for those of you who live with tween children they don’t smell particularly good if left to ripen for more than a day. Seems as if daily scrubbing is an absolute MUST unless you want to stand down wind of them all day. My obsessive need to scrub all dirt and odor from my child on a daily basis got me to thinking….why in the world do Americans find it so offensive to not bathe on a daily basis? And what is our obsession with cleanliness doing to the environment? Would we be a ‘greener’ society if we were just a tad bit dirtier?
NY Times ran a post called The Great Unwashed that discussed in detail the American’s need for bodily cleanliness. We Americans never USED to be so obsessed. Once houses started getting full baths built into them we decided that the human body should be scrubbed free of dirt and germs on a daily basis. In comes the adage that Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Apparently, scrubbing behind your ears is almost as important as saying your prayers.
So, what exactly happens during our daily scrubbing ritual? Our obsession with cleanliness isn’t so great for US or for the environment:
1. We use a lot of water...If you are taking a shower with a standard shower head you will be using about 5 gallons of water per minute. Taking a 10 minute shower (I am SO not that fast!) will use 50 gallons of water. Multiply that times 4 people in my family and 30 days in a month and you get WAY too much water being washed down the drain!
2. We expose ourselves to all sorts of unnatural product ingredients. While I am good about trying to choose natural products when I can, I admit I am not 100% green in my beauty routine. And since our skin is porous whatever is getting scrubbed ON is also getting absorbed into the skin. The common rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce it you probably don’t want it on your skin.
3. We are washing stuff down the drain. And I am not just talking about the stuff you just used to scrub your underarms with. What else is going down the drain? All of our skin’s natural oils. So, in an effort to replace them we buy expensive lotions to rub all over our newly cleansed skin. I admit, I love the lotions. I like smelling like orange blossoms or grapefruit. I like to think people standing near me would rather smell that than unwashed mom who worked out yesterday and didn’t bathe!
4. We are destroying our skin’s natural immunity. Scientists have discovered that healthy skin actually has colonies of good bacteria on it that prevent infections and irritation. When you attack your skin with soap and a loofah, however, all those friendly bacteria go right down the draining, leaving us more vulnerable to skin problems.
5. You may be ruining your sex appeal! Really! Apparently body odor is a natural aphrodisiac that can increase sexual arousal. Depending on your own personal scent (and your significant other’s sense of smell), it can be one of the major aphrodisiacs for the senses.
So, if there are so many not so great side effects of a hot shower, why do Americans feel the need to do it with such regularity? There are plenty of other perfectly civilized countries that don’t have the same need for cleanliness that Americans do. According to this poll, almost one fifth of all French people say they don’t bathe every day. And 3.5% say they only bathe once a week. I have only been to France once for a brief visit but don’t remember them being particularly smelly people. Anybody want to weigh in on the European bathing cultures compared to those of us uber clean Americans?
In some cultures, telling someone that they stink is a GOOD thing! Check out this article on the culture of smell and maybe you will be persuaded to skip the shower tomorrow. Or, maybe move to Mali, where the men like their women to smell like onions! I wonder if they make THAT in a body lotion?
Are you addicted to cleanliness?