Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hygiene and Tolerance

Well, absolutely nothing interesting has happened to me recently, which is not so very surprising considering as I have been staying in my room doing homework and studying for finals next week. So this is going to be a totally random post, and it's going to be about hygiene. (Don't ask why...please, don't ask why...there is no why.)
Now, the thing that has always interested me about hygenic standards is how totally random they are (not unlike this post, in fact. And if I use random one more time, I think I may have to shoot myself). Mostly, of course, they are determined by upbringing, but they can vary so much within people of roughly the same cultural and socio-economic background. Take, for example, eating something that has fallen on the ground. Some people think nothing of it, some people are repulsed at the very idea. Or the number of times that a person showers (per week, that is, not per lifetime). Or the amount of dirt they are willing to ingest with their produce. Or how well they wash their dishes. Or sharing straws. Or how often they brush their teeth. Or taking food with their hands. Or eating things little children have touched. Or whether they use deodorant. (okay, that is more cultural.)
The thing is, everybody has a whole bunch of opinions on every one of those issues and these opinions have some pretty fascinating traits. 1)They do not necessarily correspond. At all. There are people who will do things you find disgusting and find things that you do disgusting. There are, sometimes, vague trends of finickiness, but what seminary life taught me is that others simply do not have the same set of disgust reflexes. 2) They are beyond the pall of tolerance. Which is to say, they are so deeply engrained that they create automatic aversion in ways that even moral decisions don't. I think that there are a lot more people who can contemplate the cultural difference that lead to different moral structures, but they're still going to have an automatic "ew!" if they hear about eating bugs. Or people who are really into individuality and you being unique and special, but are going to give you mighty funny looks if you tell them that you only shower once a month. (Okay, even I am going "ew" there). And the funniest thing is that your hygienic decisions are quite unlikely to affect them in any way, unless you are noticeably smelly or paw their food or something.
And this is about where I should wind up in some deep sounding point, but it's kind of late, and I have class tomorrow, and I have to go shower (ironic, isn't it?) and so I guess I am just going to leave it with the observation that hygiene standards are very arbitrary, very firmly held, and really rather funny, if you think about it.

1 comment:

Irina Tsukerman said...

Eating bugs? Yum, anytime! : )