Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Oh! de Toillette

Titian'sI had to moan about something or else I'd moan about the pain. Life is really very good at the moment, but I'm frustrated today so there.

I'm really fed up with washing. It uses up more energy than any other activity and I am very precious about doing it by myself. On occasions when help has been essential, I have absolutely loathed it. I realise people get used to far more intimate assistance, but still.

Of course, the first thing you learn when you have difficulty washing is that it doesn't matter as much as you imagined. In our culture, we're taught that daily washing is hygienic, sweating is unhygienic and we all ought to smell like rose-bushes as opposed to human beings.

In reality, the only important things are clean hands and clean teeth; proper hand-washing saves lives and thorough teeth-brushing saves your teeth falling out. If you never ever wash your body or your clothes and you live in unsanitary conditions, then there are other health risks and a significant pong. But no great harm can come to you if you don't bathe for a few weeks.

The second thing you learn is that the more you wash, the more you need to. This is partly psychological; we've all got an idea of what it feels like to be clean, and for some people the only satisfactory state is the one they experience between getting out of the shower and the point they start moving about again. I know at least one relatively inactive person who showers twice a day, so appalled is she by the experience of sweating.

Venus at her toilet by the Fountainbleu SchoolAdded to this is biology. I'm not about to assert that washing is bad for anyone, and cosmetic companies make much of the creation of "imbalances" which only their products can put right. However, it is possible to wash so much that your sebaceous glands begin to over-compensate for the lack of moisture in your skin. What's more, many of the skin conditions association with a poor immune system - eczema, acne, fungal infections - are aggravated by vigorous washing and cosmetic products. So people who wash very often are more likely to experience itching than those who wash more rarely. I don't use soap at all, and whilst my skin is pretty crap, it is better than it used to be.

All this having said, I do want to be clean. I don't mind not washing every day. But I don't know, twice a week would be nice. Perhaps twice a week which didn't actually involve dedicating all the energy of two whole days to the act of simply keeping clean.

I have explored other ways of doing this. Unfortunately, it all seems to be a matter of replacing the water bit with tremendous physical vigour. You can apparently wash by rubbing yourself down with coarse salt or porridge (well, the recipe I've seen isn't described as porridge but it is dominated by the same ingredients). In parts of the world where warm water is not readily available folks use sand, dirt and even smoke to get clean. Perhaps that's the thing; every time I burn the toast I should take all my clothes off and keep the kitchen windows closed.


D Phoenix said...

You might be frustrated, but at least you are very eco friendly and don't use nearly as much water as I do. I am a huge fan of hot water and need it twice a day to deal with my pain. I wish i didn't have to be in hot water, as it were, so often because it does dry out the skin, but it's a way to help myself cope. I can't imagine I'd be too keen to have someone help me to bathe, so I don't doubt you'd rather muscle through it yourself... unless, of course, you were attended by winged nymphs.

Anonymous said...

I also think that washing takes up too much time. I've been getting sicker and sicker recently and suddenly showering every day seems like a horrible waste of water, time, and energy, since I'm not sweating nearly as much as I was when I used to work out every day.

I try to shower at least every three days during cooler weather. I don't sweat and the water tends to make me colder anyway. I'm with you on the handwashing and teeth brushing- I do that every day, multiple times. In the summer I shower onee a day, but that's because it gets really hot here and we have no air conditioning; showering actually gets rid of some of the lethargy 90+ degrees imposes.

The woman that I PA for has some serious issues with bathing, because her so-called accessable apartment doesn't have a shower that she can get into. So she washes her hair once every two weeks and does hands, armpits, and teeth every morning. And even she is usually fine, odor wise. I think people expect far too much clenliness out of themselves.

fluttertongue said...

Three words: unscented baby wipes.

Katie said...

I've just found a home help who will collect, clean and return my laundry for me on a weekly basis, and chuck in changing the bed sheets too.

£15 a time.

Naturally I hurried to check her references and they came back perfect a few days ago.

I almost cried with joy.


Anonymous said...

I'm with fluttertounge - babywipes are a godsend.

I would also suggest seeing your landlady/social services about at least a shower over your bath - with a high seat. Then you can just sit and let the water wash over you. Also, you can get most of you dry sitting.

Ideally, of course, it'd be a shower cubicle - no climbing over the bath edge.

I also have a towelling dressing gown and microfibre hair "turban" which I sometimes rest in after a shower - they do some of the drying for me to.

Tons of hugs

The Goldfish said...

Thanks everyone :-)

Domino - winged nymphs would be nice, yes, I hadn't thought of that. :-)

Hunter - My Granny has been in a similar position to your lady, since developing ulcers on her legs. But as you say, no smell at all.

Fluttertongue - Thanks for the tip.

Katie - that's great. :-)

Vic - We do actually have a shower, but whenever I've sat under a shower in recent years, I doze off - and unlike the bath, the water doesn't get any cooler so I can stay there for ages and waste gallons.

However, following this post I have actually had the very kind offer of a spare shower-seat by e-mail. :-) So I'll have to look into that.