When I was a young Adonis I regularly took a bath and washed my hair every Saturday in the late afternoon. Then I was ready to go carousing Saturday night (even though I was just twelve and still a couple of years away from driving). But as the years went by, I began taking regular showers … at least one a day.
When I went away to college I often found solace standing under the high-pressure spray of the dormitory showers. On some days I would take a shower in the morning to wake me up, a shower in the afternoon after sweaty inter-mural sports, and often a shower at night to relax and break the monotony of endless studying. Even when I moved into my own apartment, I still needed that wake-up shower in the morning.
However, there were a few residents on the dorm floor that were from Europe or the Near East or Cleveland who obviously had different bathing habits. I suspect they had different ideas about washing their clothes too. Now I read about how our mania for cleanliness is destroying the ultra-sexy smells that man has always relied on to attract a mate.
Have you noticed that modern advertising has gradually changed us, as human animals. There is a silly movie called Rock and Roll Highway that includes a retired couple, the husband having invented body odor when he was in advertising.
So I ran into this passage from Nabokov’s King, Queen, Knave which reminds us that things used to be different:
Acting upon impeccable Piffke’s delicately formulated suggests, Franz acquired sybarite habits of personal hygiene. He now washed his feet at least twice a week and changed his starched collar and cuffs practically every day. Every evening he brushed his suit and shined his shoes. He used all sorts of nice lotions, smelling of spring flowers and Piffke. He hardly ever skipped his Saturday bath He put on a clean shirt every Wednesday and Sunday. He made a point of changing his warm underwear at least once in ten days. How shocked his mother would be, he reflected, if she say his laundry bills!
I’m trying to remember the last time I polished my shoes. I also see where too many showers or baths can actually have a negative impact on the human body other than just wrinkly skin.