Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 15

#15 - "You don’t want to be too clean. If you are too clean, your body never has a chance to build up a resistance to germs."
I know there's some science at the bottom of this one of one hundred things my mom taught me a million times, but that doesn't keep it from feeling a little creepy. I've never been one of those gals that must bath twice a day, and have been known to go camping for a week without a real shower, so I guess this lesson of mom's stuck - and if I really think about it, it stuck a little too well. OK, brace yourself, because it is going to get real.

There is a fine line between a good people smell and a bad people smell. My friend Isabel in Mexico, who was probably the "realist" naturalists I've ever know, told me that work perspiration doesn't stink, but stress perspiration does, and she's right. Take a whiff of you pits after a fun workout, and then take a whiff after a stressful phone call - you'll see what I mean. Click on Read More Below...

I tell my husband that sometimes he smells a little "goat-y," and sometimes it turns me on. And then there are times that he is so rank the dogs want to roll on him. And that's the fine line. I'm sure he could say the same about me.

But mom's saying really wasn't about smell, it was about building up your body's resistance to germs, and gal howdy, when you consider that my mom lived to be 98, and as healthy as  my siblings and I are (all of us creeping into our 60's-70's and 80's), I think our natural resistance must be damn near atomic. You don't really want the gory details of our lifestyle from which those super-resistant genes evolved, but suffice it to say that mom wasn't a neat-nick.

OK, OK, a few details - I would clean our house before my friends came over - Palmolive dish soap also served as shampoo and bath soap (rinse hair with a little vinegar water to get the soap out) - If meat took on a funky odor Mom would just soak it in salt water for a couple of hours before she cooked it - A little Pine Sol in the pot after a pee was fine, no flushing – I have seen vines growing out from between the couch cushion (OK, the last one is a lie, but it could have happened with a little more sunlight).

For some reason though, mom was big on washing clothes, but when I was a child the old "wringer" washer was outdoors. There was an open tub, filled with cold water from a water hose, with an electric agitator that sloshed stuff around for a while. Then you had to put each piece of laundry through the wringer (about which I was constantly warned not to touch, and was therefore irrationally tempted to touch), then you put everything into another tub of cold water, again from the water hose, to rinse the soap out, then through the wringer again, and then to the clothes line.

I remember that at some point (before dad died and we became really poor), we had a mangle, which was a monstrosity of a machine that ironed stuff and was the size of a dining table. This was a status symbol of the times, and I remember mom serving as the mangle docent for admiring neighbors. I’m sure we were the envy of the town. I was pretty little, but I sensed that the mangle went away when mom decided that ironing sheets, which was pretty much all it was good for, was ridiculous, as was the name mangle. “Where was the branding in that name?” (Deb Harrington)

About the time I became a teen the washing machine was born, and although we weren't rich enough to own one (living on mom’s $300 a month school teacher paycheck), there were "washaterias." As if being seen in a washateria wasn't degrading enough, then my job was to hang the clothes on the clothesline (yep, no money for the dyer) - a soul-sucking chore that I think mom relished as punishment for my pubescent insolence. Actually I didn’t mind the chore, as long as none of my friends, or a cute guy saw me. I loved the smell of clean laundry, the simple mechanics of the clothespin, and I must say our beds, towels and clothes smelled like sunshine – a fragrance you can’t buy.

OK. So back to germs, I have no doubt that my personal community of germs is the fiercest in the world. When any invaders try to come around, they just kick the livin’ shit out of them. So mom was right, you don’t want to be too clean. If you are too clean, your body never has a chance to build up a resistance to germs. Give dirt a chance.



  1. This is just disgustingly funny. But, I wonder what your siblings will say about it. LOL Jane

  2. It can't be just a Southern thing, can it? Growing up in the South we always subscribed to your mother's #15. But I also wonder if it applies to food--other than funky meat. It seems to me that if you stop eating fried food for, oh, say a month, and then someone serves you fried chicken and you don't want to be rude so you eat it, it could cause some distress if your system isn't ready for it. I'm a firm believer in the regular ingestion of fried food (everything is better fried, anyway), and things like hot dogs that help with your resistance to chemicals and rodent parts.

  3. Absolutely. It's all part of maintaining a strong system!!!

  4. Research can back this up. CDC discourages the regular use of antibacterial soap. Also, as we get older our sking becomes more fragile and daily bathing is not recommended. Mommy sure was smart!