Screw The Hygienic Norm

Original date of writing: May 8th, 2020

A bathtub

Society has developed a solid hygienic norm that you’re expected to conform to. As soon as you deviate from that norm, you can expect scorn, ridicule, and unpleasant surprise. Even when the person you’re talking to hadn’t noticed anything about you up to that point, ever. So what’s the fuss about?

Social expectations of hygiene

One social norm I would really like to take a chisel to is hygiene.

The notion that women are culturally expected to do certain things to their bodies because ‘that’s what women are supposed to do’, while those things don’t make sense, is not particularly new.

But I’m still going to go off about it.

I’m probably not even going to be able to say half the shit that I want to say about this topic so there might just be more on the horizon somewhere in the future.

Leading poll questions

I have to say I don’t really like taking polls all that often. There are some I regularly fill in, because I know they’re used for demographic research and I want to represent myself and people like me.

All those silly polls on Facebook… only if I feel like my opinion should be heard, which is mostly only when it differs from the norm.

I just filled in a poll about how people’s hygiene has changed since the start of the corona crisis, and the way the questions were phrased kind of infuriated me.

I’ll admit, I see these kinds of flaws far sooner and far more often than would be good for my blood pressure. But I decided that saving my heart’s health and just letting it go also means that I’m silently condoning this shit.

Call me a drama queen, say that I’m overexaggerating, but it’s true. The reason that toxic cultural norms don’t change is because too few people speak up about them.

It’s all in the phrasing

One of the questions was whether or not I still wore perfume.

Still? Still?

My problem is not only that it’s assuming that I even wore perfume to begin with, but stating it like it’s a common thing to do perpetuates the norm for everyone who reads it.

Another was whether or not I did something with my hair, besides brushing it.

Mind you, this was a poll about how your hygiene had changed by the corona crisis.

For the record, I have long, straight hair, and it’s fine the way it is, and whether or not I braid it or put it in a bun or pull it back into a ponytail is by no means any measure of my hygiene.

Next question: do I still shave myself?

Again… “still”?

As a matter of fact, I don’t shave my legs at all. I’m blessed to be a blondie so my leg hair isn’t all that visible anyway, but I don’t feel like any less of a woman.

I feel less like a fashion magazine cover model, for sure, but I don’t aspire to be one, so I don’t care.

I shave my armpits because I don’t like the smells they gather, and I shave my bits for hygienic purposes too, but not because I feel like they should be shaved.

Not because I feel like, as a woman, I need to shave.

Why I usually don’t wear makeup

I virtually never put on makeup.

I used to do so in high school. Just mascara, sometimes a little eyeshadow or eyeliner, but no more than that. But whenever I had to hurry to school because I was a slow-ass idiot in the mornings, and I hadn’t had time to put anything on, people would say “oh, you look so tired, are you okay? Are you feeling well? You look a bit ill!”.

Fuck that. I decided never to wear makeup on a regular basis ever again.

My face is my face. And if I’m going out with my friends, or to a concert, yeah, I’ll deck myself out a little and put on some colors, but it’ll be an accessory. It’ll be extra. It’ll be decoration.

Fun fact: I purposefully don’t wear makeup on first dates. Unless the other person has already seen me without makeup.

The reason? I don’t want someone to fall for the way I could look with makeup on. I want someone to fall for my face. My own face. Not my painted face. If we’re gonna spend the night together, I don’t want there to be any surprises.

I’m not going to keep wearing makeup for that person just to keep up appearances. So they should get the opportunity to judge me the way I am, at face value so to speak.

And yeah, once they’ve seen me without any makeup and we’re going somewhere fancy, I like to dress up a little and I’ll put on some makeup, but they’ll know it’s extra. And maybe then they’ll love it even more.

Changing your underwear

Another question asked if I now keep my socks on for longer than one day.

And I’m just gonna come out and say it: no, I don’t change my socks every day. I wear them until they smell or feel icky.

Yes, I know about foot fungus, I know about infections, I know about all that crap. But I’ve been doing it like this for years and my feet are still happy and healthy and free of fungus, so clearly it’s fine.

Who decided that you should change out your socks every day? The goal is to promote good foot health and prevent other people smelling them, right?

So let that be the goal, instead of arbitrarily deciding that one day is fine and two days is wrong.

If I wear socks for three days, I don’t feel it. Because I don’t even sweat that much anyway. So my socks will be smelling fine a lot longer than just one day.

It’s my responsibility to keep track of my health. If my feet smell but nobody else is there to smell them, that’s my decision.

No one on earth has anything to fucking say about what you do when it doesn’t harm or impact anyone.

Of course you’re allowed to say something if you think someone’s behavior is harmful to them. But wearing your socks for longer than a day is not intrinsically harmful, so stop shaming people who do that.

Stop shaming deviations from the hygienic norm

Actually, stop shaming anyone whose hygiene doesn’t match your ideals.

What you do with your body is your decision.

And of course it’s nice to wash yourself and spray on some deodorant so you don’t force your body odor on anyone else. But if I’m at home for three days and I don’t see anyone, why should you care one bit about how often I change out my underwear?

So yeah, maybe I build up a little more body odor before I shower if I’m home alone all the time, maybe other people would find that disgusting, and they absolutely don’t need to agree with me or anything.

It’s fine if you say “oh, I don’t like it if I smell so much before I take a shower, I shower a bit sooner than you do”. Because then you keep the focus on yourself and your own opinion over what you find comfortable.

If I wait a bit longer to shower, that’s my choice. Especially if I don’t bother anyone with it. So stop fucking shaming people whose hygiene norms are a little more lax than yours are if they’re not bothering anyone with it.

My hygiene is not your problem

Of course, if I’m going out to see someone, I definitely make sure I wash up and put on some deodorant.

If I’m going to see my podiatrist, I make sure my feet and socks are clean. If I’m going on a job interview, I’ll make sure my hair is washed.

But what I do in my own time where no one notices is my problem and mine alone.

A few of you might be disgusted reading this, and you’re totally allowed to. But if I assure you that, were we ever to meet, I’d clean myself up and make sure there aren’t any nasty smells, what does it matter to you?

Am I any less clean after a shower depending on how long I went without a shower before that? If I just showered and put on fresh underwear, would you notice how long I didn’t shower before that?

Just think about that before you disapprove of someone of doing something that you don’t even notice just because you live your life differently. Because what they can and cannot handle is their own choice. And as long as they’re not bothering you with it, they’re not bothering you with it.

Lastly, don’t ask them “don’t you feel fucking gross all the time then?”. There’s so much judgment in that phrasing. And you know what, if you ask me that question, I’m gonna say “yeah, sometimes I do, but then when I can’t take the smell or just want to feel fresh I step under the shower and do something about it.”

It’s my decision. It’s my responsibility what I do with my body.

And certainly, if you ever meet me, I’ll be clean as a whistle.

I’ll likely not be wearing any makeup though.

Spread the love!