The French Don't Shower That Much. And Neither Do I.

25% of French people don't bathe every day and I'm totally okay with that.
Publish date:
October 18, 2012
habits, hygiene, showering, bathing, I'm really not as disgusting as I now appear to be

Right before my last semester of graduate school, I decided the only way I could possibly finish my thesis was to pack up all of my belongings and move 3,000 miles away to a secluded cabin in the hills of Northern California.

I envisioned a charming life for myself. Writing all day. Wine with my new friends at night. I imagined intimate gatherings where my old friends from San Francisco would clink cocktails on the deck beneath the majestic redwoods. I would take meandering walks when writer’s block hit and, when the weather got warmer, hunt for the legendary swimming holes that were tucked away and hidden. At the end of my stay, I would be healthy, happy, and the author of a memoir about my time spent at a Mormon reform school. Everything would be perfect.

Um, yeah. Not so much.

Woodacre, CA has a population of about 1,350. The cabin was up such winding roads that even the mailman didn’t go there. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because leaving to go pick up my Netflix DVDs ended up being the one reason I found to leave the house at all. I didn’t make any friends. And no one in San Francisco came to visit me. In fact, I started picking up hitchhikers and taking them wherever they wanted to go just to have people to talk to. But the worse part? I basically stopped showering.

Hygiene and cleanliness have never been an issue in my life. I wake up each morning, take a shower, and then make my bed. That is my routine and without it, I feel incomplete. To this day, if my bed is unmade, it means something is very, very wrong: like I’ve been dragged out of my bed and I’m tied up and being held for ransom by really hot cowboy types with scruffy beards and shaggy hair and piercing blue eyes and… Wait, did I say very wrong? I think I meant very, very right.

Alas, I digress.

Oh, right. I’m clean. I wash my face, brush my teeth, bathe often, all that good stuff. Even when left to my own devices as kid at summer camp and boarding school, I was into showers. See, the thing about communal living is often the only place you can actually be alone for more than a minute at a time is in the shower. So I took a lot of them.

But that all changed in the cabin in the woods. Suddenly I felt I had no reason to shower. It poured every single day, the rain pelting onto the tin roof relentlessly. I couldn’t go outside, so I just pattered from my bed to my desk and then, every day at 5 p.m. exactly, to the couch where I’d drink wine and watch 90210 reruns. I changed my pajamas, but I saw no reason to shower. I wasn’t doing anything to get dirty, after all. Sure, every few days I’d force myself to strip down and rinse off, but for the most part, it seemed pointless.

This went on for four months. The book was being written, albeit it resentfully. I gave myself a minimum page requirement each day that, as I failed to meet it, grew by the hour. And then one night, as I stoked the wood burning stove that heated the little house, it hit me:

It was 9 p.m. and I was alone and drunk and playing with fire. Even worse, I hadn’t bathed in three days and, despite not having walked more than a few feet that entire time, I smelled. Badly. I hadn’t had human interaction in weeks and the highlight of my day was climbing into bed and watching "Lost" episodes until I scared myself out of any chance of sleep. Lastly, I’d truly started to believe that since I was in Endor territory -- if I just waited a little bit longer, the Ewoks would gather the courage to come over and hang out with me and we’d be fast friends forever.*

It was time to go home.

I hurried through the last two chapters, FedExed everything to my thesis advisor, and moved back to San Francisco. Even living at my mother’s house temporarily would be better than those woods, I thought. (I was, unfortunately, wrong.)

That was six years ago. I finished the book and it now sits apathetically on my hard drive. I rarely even think about those five months in the woods. When every day is like the one before it, they all run together. Unless of course you’re Thoreau, but whatever. It didn’t rain every single day at Walden, so he can shove it.

In fact, I’d sort of forgotten about Woodacre altogether until yesterday when I stumbled across an article about how one in every five people in France doesn’t shower every day. (One in 29 only shower once a week.) My initial reaction was, “Ew.” Then it was, “Well, that’s why we call throwing on deodorant and perfume in lieu of showering ‘taking a French bath,’” but then I realized that I couldn't even judge. After all, hadn’t I once been just like that?

And, even worse: wasn’t I kind of like that now?

You see: I work from home. And I’m not very social. Which means there are often days where I either don’t go outside at all, or my only trip is to the corner market to stock up on provisions (cookies and wine). However, this is a new thing for me, especially the part where I’ve turned into a total hermit. And with it, I’ve maybe sort of um -- FINE: I NO LONGER SHOWER EVERY DAY. There, I said it. Like yesterday, for example. I took a shower the day before and I knew I wasn’t doing anything yesterday except working and eventually crawling back into bed with a book. So what was the point? I slapped on some deodorant and clean pajamas, threw my hair in a ponytail, and that was that.

Or there’s the time a few weeks ago when I went camping. And then went straight to the bar and watched football. And was perhaps too tired to bathe at the end of the day and maybe climbed into bed with dirt on my feet and campfire smoke in my hair.

Or okay, last weekend. When I washed my hair on Friday and not again until -- if I say Tuesday just how disgusting am I going to sound?

So yeah, I’m not as into bathing as I apparently once was. But I don't feel like I’m dirty, per se. And anyway, I love everything else about the French, like their champagne, pastries, style, and butter, so why not emulate their bathing habits?

Also, let’s be honest: Would the results of that survey have been so different if taken in America? Sure, only bathing once a week seems a bit excessive, but I imagine there are a few of you who skip a shower every now and then.C’mon! Share your dirty bathing habits with me in the comments!

Oh, and follow me on Twitter @daisy because since I have no life, I depend on my Internet friends to keep me company.

P.S. Lest you’re concerned: I’m not depressed. Lazy as hell, but not depressed. Believe me, I spend enough money on professional help that someone would have informed me if that were the case.

*The Endor scenes in "Return of the Jedi" were filmed in the Redwood forests near Woodacre. Also: I hereby declare this as officially the dorkiest thing I’ve ever written on xoJane.