Sunday, September 30, 2012

3627 Baths and Showers

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures;
but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot." 
--  Mark Twain --


So, how often do YOU bathe or shower?  And does one feel less need to bathe as one gets older?  The question came up on another blogger's post.

The myth is that all Americans bathe every day, but judging from the responses on the referenced post, every other day seems more common.
  • Folks on online dating sites always want people who shower at least once or twice a day.  I wonder how many of them actually do.  
  • Jay showered every morning.  
  • My mother complained that one of my brothers showered three times a day.  
  • Ex#2 would bathe only when I told him to.  When we visited his parents, if even if we were there two weeks, he didn't shower or brush his teeth once the entire time we were there.  Not once.  Daughter says he still avoids washing.  When she visits him she has to tell him he stinks and push him into the bathroom.  
  • "The Man" showers every day, possibly twice.  I have to assume that just from what I know of him, because when we've been together he showers (or takes a bubble bath if there's a Jacuzzi available) morning and evening.  I have often tried to talk him out of the evening shower - I love his natural scent, I prefer it to his soap, but he seems to cringe at the very thought of going to bed unwashed.  When he's sweaty after bowling, I'm not allowed to snuggle until after he's showered.  He refuses to believe that I love the smell of his sweat.  I DO!  I do do do !  He seems to have a great fear of offending.
  • Me, I take a bath or shower whenever I plan to leave the house and be around people - anything beyond like a trip to the post office or the quick-shop.  Going to the grocery store will call for a small bath.  If I don't plan to be around people, I don't bother.  I never go more than three days, though, even if I'm playing hermit. I wash my hair about every four days.
Now, the question asked was after 50, does one bathe less?

Babies don't get adult-style body odor.  When they have a clean diaper on, they smell wonderful, even without powders or soaps.  Kids don't get body odor problems, either, until they start adolescence.  That's when they start needing deodorants.

It's hormones.  Adult sexual hormones change the skin, oils, and sweat so that they produce distinctive odors (pheromones, the sexual signals), and when left on the skin the richer exudates foster the growth of odor-causing organisms. 

Really quite simple.

Just as we start life with a bean-shaped body, we end life with a bean-shaped body.  In our first ten years we gain a lot of abilities, and in our last 30 years we lose those same abilities - in pretty much the same order.  If we live long enough, we even end up bedridden or in a "stroller", wearing a diaper and eating soft foods.

As we age, our sexual hormones weaken.  For men, it happens over time (the reverse of their youth), and for women it happens more suddenly (also the reverse of their youth).  So our body odors also change.  We get like kids again.  If older men and women smell bad, it's usually, uh, diaper scents, due to a bit of a control problem, similar to their babyhood.

So yeah, older folks feel less need to bathe.   We instinctively know we aren't "putting out" as much in the way of interesting scents and organism-buffets as we used to.  Even our sweat is less interesting.


When I was in high school I lived in an area where houses were heated by wood stoves, water came from a hand pump, to be heated on the wood stove, and the "bathroom" was out back, and had nothing to do with baths.  That was true for most of my classmates.  Baths were once a week, in a galvanized tub in the kitchen in water pumped from the well, carried to the house, and heated on the wood stove.  My classmates considered me rich because we had a bathroom, a furnace, and hot water that came out of a faucet.

But back then, even for those of us who had all the conveniences, one took a full bath maybe once or twice a week.  Except for people with exceptionally dirty jobs, the daily wash was hands, face, underarms, and crotch, standing at the washbowl.  We'd have thought that anyone who felt it necessary to take a full bath or shower every day had something wrong with them. 

And nobody stank.  Maybe we were used to it.  Or maybe we expected people to smell like people, not like soap.

I don't know where this fear of being natural came from.  I think it was Madison Avenue.  Make us afraid of being too real, too natural.  Buy soap!  Rinse and repeat!  You are not acceptable unless you buy our stuff to cover your disgustingness. 

Wanna know how bad it's gotten?  People now think it's necessary to bathe cats!


rockygrace said...

Since you asked ...

I shower and wash my hair every morning. I feel kind of gross if I don't. And standing in the nice hot shower is how I wake up. I'm not a morning person by any means.

My Dad would only bathe if my Mom ordered him to. That said, he never smelled "bad" ... he just smelled like "Dad".

I have noticed there is a certain "old people smell" that some seem to get ... it's not stinky so much as stale.

And as your resident crazy cat lady commenter, I feel I need to say that I have NEVER bathed a cat. Well, okay, once, when Rocky got sprayed by a skunk, but even then, it was more of a sponge bath.

~~Silk said...

Many elderly folks have a musty odor. My opinion is that as the immune system slows down, fungi can grow. Many have a systemic candida albicans infection. C. albicans is a normal constituent of the gastrointestinal tract, and overgrowth and systemic invasion can give one a musty or yeasty odor that can't be "washed off".

rockygrace said...

Ewwwwwwww ...

little red said...

In my 20's, working in an office, I showered and washed my hair every day. Once I started working for myself in my 30's, I only showered and washed my hair every other day, which I still do now. Except on weekends when I might go 2 days between showers, but only if I'm not going anywhere important.

When I was in Jr. High and High School, kids were CRAZY about showering every day. I don't have a problem with the natural smell of people. I would actually prefer the smell of the human being to the artificial scents of all of the soap, body wash and cologne people feel the need to put all over their body. I don't even use scented laundry detergent though.