That’s the topic of the latest episode of my “Margins of Error” podcast, where we go beyond the news cycle and tackle the issues we face every day.
Let’s face it: we live in a society where judging others is a favorite pastime. This is especially true when it comes to people’s appearance and presentation.
Just ask Dr. James Hamblin, who made waves a few years ago when he decided to quit taking cold showers. After his experience, he wrote a book called “Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less”.
“Hygiene practices are one of the last areas where people will openly call themselves rude or disgusting,” Hamblin told me. “We’ve made a lot of progress in many other areas, but that’s still just an area of unrepentant judgment, and we need to look at that.”
Still, we seemed to be surviving just fine. So I decided to dig a little deeper into the subject. Why do we bathe so much now and do we need it? Where do we draw the line between what is necessary for our hygiene… and what is only marketing?
According to Katherine Ashenburg, author of “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History,” humans have a complicated history with baths dating back to ancient Rome. While the Romans loved their baths, bathing became a dirty word for the next hundreds of years.
Perhaps most telling: French King Louis XIV is said to have rarely taken a bath. But he got a pass because he changed his linen shirts several times a day. Go figure.
Is cleaning too bad for us?
So what has changed? On the one hand, we learned a lot more about germ theory. We have much more access to drinking water sources, soap and bathrooms.
On the other hand, marketing has shifted into high gear. You can’t turn around without an advertisement trying to sell you a product to keep you clean. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
So tune in to this week’s podcast episode, where we’ll explore how often you really need to wash and why it’s important to understand the difference between hygiene and cleanliness. Additionally, I engage in my own grooming experience.
(I swear it’s not that gross.)