Posted by Kate on July 11, 1997 at 09:59:40:
In reply to Long Post on keeping clean, and a couple of questions posted by Caroline on July 11, 1997 at 00:15:01
This is really interesting Caroline, however I have some questions...
Yes keeping clean feels good. But would you be quite so keen on it if it meant washing in an out house in freezing cold water in the middle of winter, or if you had to carry all your water a longish distance? I suspect being clean was a lot easier if you had servants to carry and heat the water.
Also, how many little boys (and girls for that matter) have to be absolutely FORCED to wash their face and hands before coming to the dinner table - perhaps we like cleanliness because we know how much it relates to good health.
Also, it is not all that long ago that fresh air and clean water were regarded as positively unhealthy. I was watching a fascinating doco on the plague last night which talked about how people stopped washing because they thought they might catch the plague from the water...
Although I think you're right to say that it makes sense that people kept clean, we have incredibly high standards of cleanliness that would simply have been impossible to meet in generations past. For example, I wash my hair every day, or every second day at the least. I can do that because (1) I have a shower, and can do it myself, rather than having to have someone ladle water over my hair, (2) I have short hair, so it doesn't take too long to dry, and (3) I have a hair dryer so ditto. When I used to have long hair that I allowed to dry naturally, I would only wash my hair once a week because (1) I used to wear it up and I didn't need that "fresh washed" look and (2) it would take nearly half a day to dry!
It's interesting too how standards of cleanliness, or at least customs of washing differ between countries. In Australia, which of course is hot, I would never go a day without showering, and sometimes twice a day. When I was in Europe however, I found that a lot of people would only shower every second day and would have a stand up at the basin wash in betweeen - they didn't feel the need to get water on every part of their body every day.
I must look for a book on the history of hygiene...
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