Hang out with me long enough and sooner or later I'll start asking you about your grooming habits.
Maybe it just makes me feel better about some of my own cleansing quirks, but I love knowing the details of my nearest and dearest's personal hygiene regimens. I'm that kind of nosy. You wouldn't believe the tips you pick up about ingrown hairs, exfoliating, and earwax when you pour your pal another glass of wine and ask them to really explain all the ways they use dental floss. (Possible post? 25 Uses for Dental Floss That Don't Involve Your Teeth?)
Somehow we always circle back to showering. I feel like every few years, the Internet, media, celebrities, mommy bloggers — whoever — get all uppity about showering. Who showers daily? Who doesn't? How often SHOULD we as civilized Americans shower? Are you gross? Are you? Are you? ARE YOU?
In some circles I'm "gross." In some circles I'm very "not gross." For me, I'm just the right amount of "gross."
You see, I'm one of those people who doesn't shower daily.
I shower between every other day or every two days . . . or longer. Don't worry, if I catch a whiff of my own stink I hop right in.
Now I know, as someone who works from home and doesn't generally work up a "stink" running to catch my train or accumulating odors from the outside world, my body cleansing needs might be different than yours. When I was slinging 30 pound bags of dog food or chasing second-graders around, showering was certainly more of a daily occurrence.
I will say that I do make sure that if I'm especially sweaty from an at-home yoga session, or if I've been percolating in my own "essence" for a couple days and I'm going to be hanging out with other humans, I'll most certainly shower. Even if I did so the day before. The only thing that really trumps my somewhat "casual" shower schedule, is the comfort of humans forced to be in close proximity to me.
And I should mention that my husband, whom I share a very tiny apartment with, is delightfully upfront about smell. If I start to get lazy and stinky, he's not shy about "reminding" me about that little room available to us in our home that keeps both water and soap at the ready in one convenient place. Likewise, he doesn't get cranky when I remind him. We're a disgustingly adorable duo that way.
However, this rarely happens. I'm pretty good about knowing when I've crossed that line from "inoffensive eau de Louise" to "who hid cheese in my pants? Oh . . ."
And I have to say that moving to Japan has made me that much more rigorous about my extracurricular (extra-showericular?) personal hygiene habits.
Because our bathroom is a joke — a sink/tub combo with only a handheld shower head and a dual purpose faucet— and showering plus hair-washing plus leg-shaving (whenever that happens) requires intermediate contortion abilities, showering can be a pain in the ass. So I take additional maintenance measures.
Despite the fact that my "office" is less than 10 feet from my bed, I make it a point to change my clothes and underwear daily. Not only does it tell my brain that, "Okay, we're starting the day!" but I recently read somewhere (okay fine, here) that "we shed far more dirt and oil in our clothes than we do in the shower."
I also am no stranger to quick "maintenance baths" or, as some like to call them, "whore baths." I have an army of washcloths (from my devotion to the Oil Cleansing Method — and yes I wash my face twice a day, every day) and will wash my pits, boob region, back of my neck, crotch, and sometimes feet with some warm water and a dash of soap. If I've been engaging in something like a weekend binge-watching session (I've been revisiting Twin Peaks lately), this is a great way to freshen up. And save water to boot!
So that's me. When getting into one of my great "Wash cloth, loofah, or hands?" washing enquiries, the question of "How often do you shower?" will inevitably come up.
Most of the time, the company I keep is cool and takes either a "you do you" attitude or "me too!" way of looking at my showering habits. A few times I've gotten a dubious "Really? You don't feel dirty?," and once or twice I've gotten an "Ew. Gross. Don't tell people that about yourself."
Fun Fact: Saying to me, "Don't tell people that about yourself," after I've just told you something about myself is one of the few ways to incite immediate rage in me. Fast track to permanent deletion from my life, (ex) friend.
Honestly, I don't think I'm gross. I'd wager to say most everyone who's met me and come to know me would not identify me as gross or dirty. I'm actually quite in tune to what's going on with my body.
As Americans, we really do have an obsession with being clean. While most Americans would not say that they are a germaphobe, our obsession with being "squeaky clean" appears to point to the contrary.
And while most people are at least peripherally up to date on what "science" says about the hygienic need, or lack thereof, for daily bathing or showering, many continue to NEED to shower daily (or twice daily) to feel clean. As much as has been written on the topic of excessive cleansing, it seems that we're still much more willing to listen and believe soap or shampoo marketing than what health-care experts or professionals say.
We're not getting dirty the way we used to. We've never had less reason to wash beyond our wrists . . . we still need to wash our hands . . . but we've never had less reason to [wash beyond our wrists] because we have cars and public transit and labor saving devices and vacuum cleaners and most of us are sitting in front of computers all day . . . and yet we've never washed more. And more obsessively . . . There's no resting point, there's never a place where we can feel comfortable in our own skin for more than a few hours after our last shower. And there's something really wrong with that, psychologically.
It does all come down to feeling comfortable in your own skin.
I'm not saying everyone should be like me. I'm not advocating really one way or the other, I just think it's interesting how we got here. Shower once a week or once a day, let's face it: Most Americans with running water are very, very clean. Maybe TOO clean? We're all walking around in the same cleanliness spectrum.
The reason I always ask my friends about how they conduct their lives is because I find it genuinely interesting — how everybody finds comfort in their own way. But in thinking about this whole "Do we shower too much?" debate, I wonder how much of our comfort is OUR actual comfort, and how much of it is TOLD to us? Are we brainwashed? Are we an army of obsessively clean zombies?
At the end of the day, I will always defend your right to do what is right for you. Shower, don't shower, scrub your skin with turnips — as long as you're not infringing on my well-being or the well-being of others, we're good.
But I'm curious, how did you come to your cleansing and hygiene regimen? How often do you shower or bathe?
Was it how your family always did it? The exact opposite of how your family did it? Is your body-cleansing regimen just "how it's done" and you've never thought twice about it? Do you fear germs (oddly enough, I do)?
Or do you just do what feels right to you?
Let's be pals, I've told you mine, you tell me yours. And while you're at it, tell me another amazing use you have for dental floss.