Sunday, June 1, 2008

Goddamn dirty hippies

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time, but besides obviously never having any time, I keep turning back from the brink before completely alienating myself from polite society. Well, today it's friggin' 5 in the morning and my baby won't sleep or let me sleep so I'm just dumb enough right now to jump off the cliff.

Every time someone mentions conserving water by showering less often or cutting back on laundry or washing hair less and invites comments on what other people do, I always read a long string of, "Oh, I'm cutting back, I shower every other day, but I only wash my hair when it NEEDS it, like, 2 or three times a week..." sort of responses. I'm specifically thinking of this post at Crunchy Chicken's blog, but there have been others. She just straight up asked what people's habits were, and I'll give you the first response, because it is overwhelmingly representative:

"1. Shower every other day
2. Wash hair every other day
3. Brush teeth twice a day
4. Floss once a day
5. Haircut twice a year
6. Soap and toothfloss is natural, shampoo and toothpaste is conventional
7. I'm showering less"

Now, these are generally environmentally conscious people. These are the readers of a woman who uses and heavily promotes reuseable menstrual products, gardens seriously, and has buy-nothing and use-no-plastics type challenges. It's not a mainstream group. I'm kind of forced to assume that even among the water-saving set, this is the standard. It probably sounds quite reasonable to you, the theoretical reader.

Well, I've never responded before (in that case, not least because there were fricking dozens of responses before I even read the post) because clearly I am so beyond the pale that I wasn't sure what purpose responding would serve. But...

Dear fricking GOD people, why do you all spend so much time compulsively cleaning yourselves? I know it doesn't seem that way to you, but it sure as hell does to me.

Okay, okay, let's start this way. I'll just respond to the questions Crunchy asked.

1. How often do you shower/bathe?
In cool weather, maybe as little as every couple weeks. In hot weather, if I'm outside working, maybe every day. It depends on, you know, whether I got dirty, or if I smell bad, crazy stuff like that.

2. How often do you wash your hair?
Every few weeks. Seriously. At first it's really gross, but after a couple months...well, for the first week and a half or so I'm pretty sure if you handled it you'd assume I'd washed it the day keeps the just-washed frizzies that long. After that it tapers off until by the end, yeah, it's pretty greasy, mostly because it is impossible to wash over three feet of hair while holding an infant, so I don't get to do it as often as I'd like, which would probably be more like every two weeks. When it's dirty, I cover it. Simple enough. My hair is much healthier and more manageable for it. My mother follows a similar regime, and she swears she gets far more compliments on her hair than she did before.

3. How often do you brush your teeth?
Depends on if I'm on a kick. I really do think that I should brush them every day--currently I do--but plenty of times I don't. 'Course, I also eat very few sweets, so presumably that makes a difference.

4. How often do you floss?
Uhhhh...wildly irregularly? When I have stuff caught in my teeth, which is to say all the time? Or next to never, if you only count a full-mouth flossing.

5. How often do you get your hair cut?
Every year and a half or so I get around to having my mom trim the dead ends.

6. Do you use "natural" products or more conventional ones?
I use that crystal deodorant stuff (in the summer, none in the winter), Tom's toothpaste (when I use any), baking soda and vinegar on my hair, handmade soaps or Dr. Bronner's pretty much exclusively, oat flour and dilute vinegar on my face.

7. Have any of these habits changed as you've tried to live a greener lifestyle? If so, which ones and how?
I started using more natural products, but it's been quite a while now. Years, in all cases.

This is me, Jacob's actually a lot grubbier than me. He gets dirty more and washes less. I wish he washed his hair more, but he can't be bothered. I like that he smells like a human being. The time I ran out of detergent hand ended up using a scented detergent, the first time I hugged him and he smelled like Whisk I flipped out. (We never used the rest of the Whisk). When I can smell him without hugging him, I tell him so and he usually washes in short order. We also re-wear clothing fairly extensively compared to most.

So here's the thing: Obviously our habits are way, waaay beyond the pale for your average North American, though not by any means for everywhere. But we get sick at roughly the usual rate. We have as many friends as we want and more than we can keep track of, and neither of us has any trouble making friends. None of our (much more conventional) friends has ever taken either of us aside to quietly comment that we might consider a moment with the deodorant, and we don't get suddenly offered mint gum. Jacob has a good, white-collar job and routinely gets an above-average merit raise. Our teeth are in average/better than average condition. Our skin is average/better than average. Am I missing any of the dire tv-ad threats?

So what benefit, exactly, is everyone else getting from the hundreds more dollars, thousands more gallons of water, and god knows how many more minutes per day they're spending on personal hygiene? I don't think they're healthier, and I sure don't think they're happier. They might be closer to godliness. Who knows.

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