Hygenic conversion

2005.Aug.29 Monday · 3 comments

in Life

Buenos Aires – My sister commented last night that I’m not posting enough stuff about daily life here. A couple of other friends have said much the same. I guess touristy stuff isn’t enough – people want all those things like doing the laundry, washing dishes, grocery shopping, and other such exciting adventures. BidetSo, let’s start with… the bidet.

If you’ve travelled in Europe, Japan, or many parts of Latin America (especially Argentina), you’ve seen one. It’s there in your hotel room, or at your friend’s house, situated alongside the toilet. But as “Americans,” we know that it’s something that only old ladies use, or maybe a sissy from somewhere or other. Certainly not a “real man” or, for that matter, even a “real woman.” The bidet actually rates an article in the Wikipedia (not to mention more than 2 million google citations including 69,000 just for instructions on the usage of bidets)…

Bidets are principally used to wash and clean the external genitalia and the anus, as well as the skin near these areas. They may also be used to clean any other part of the body; they are convenient for cleaning the feet for example. Despite appearing similar to a toilet, it would be more accurate to compare it to the washbasin or bathtub. In fact, the bidet makes an excellent baby bath…

Users who are unfamiliar with bidets often confuse a bidet with a urinal, toilet, or even a drinking fountain. The user should use the toilet before using the bidet; its purpose is to wash afterwards.

Okay, my initial reaction is… well, ewww… Not because of the idea of using a bidet, but there’s something about combining its primary use of, to put it delicately, cleaning your backside, with the idea of washing your baby, as a tub for your cold soak laundry, or dipping your dainty little feet. Yes, yes, it gets rinsed out well after each use… assuming you’re using it right… but there’s still something that seems akin to doing the same activities in the adjoining toilet. I don’t even want to think about the folks who assume it’s a drinking fountain.

I admit to ignoring its existence for the first month or so I was here. I admit to having ignored the existence of all bidets in my past. I admit to having finally tried it out a couple of weeks ago. My friend Mickey kept insisting that anyone who doesn’t use one is just plain uncivilized; I began to feel that I was on the outside of society here.

It’s an odd sensation. It kind of tickles. It feels really good afterwards. There’s not that rough, raw, feeling of having had to use too much papel higiénico. Even if it’s double layered, aloe-impregnated, and quilted. If I can be gently graphic here… which is more civilized? Scraping yourself semi-clean with a handful of processed tree pulp or gently splashing yourself completely clean with warm water?

I’m a convert. But, umm, what are the social ethics when you use the bathroom at someone else’s house? Should I be providing small towels next to mine? Do I need a shelf?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mickey September 4, 2005 at 18:25

What you need a a roll of paper towels, a small, hotel size bar of soap and a wastepaper basket, all convenient to the bidet. Welcome to civilization

As for visiting, if they provide towls all the better. If not, don’t go.

Megen November 14, 2009 at 16:32

Thank you so much for the explanation! Really! As one of the ‘uncivilized’ North Americans who has never had the privilege of seeing (much less experiencing) a bidet, I’ve always wondered how it worked. If the future ever provides me such an opportunity, now I will know what to do!!
Perhaps this is a topic many consider rude, but how else can we learn?
Thanks again, Dan!

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