One of the less discussed consequences of corona is the hygienic neglect of the body. That is the conclusion of the English newspaper The Guardian under the headline, “I wash my hands and genitals – gave up the rest.” It was an interesting summary of the article, although the headline “I Washed My Hands – I Gave Up The Rest” would have been even more explosive. (‘Brisant’ means explosive and is, even more than ‘sensitizing’, the favorite word of Wopke Hoekstra, who is repeatedly brought into extremely high-explosive situations by his high-explosive party colleague Pieter Omtzigt.)
I don’t know if the NRCreaders should care, but off The Guardian, also a so-called quality newspaper, it appears that readers of such newspapers are not necessarily more hygienic than other readers or non-readers. Quality may make you wiser, but not cleaner.
The Guardian had called on his own readers to talk about the hygienic experiences with their bodies. The NRCI can reassure readers in this respect: I will not take up this call, if only because then I am morally obliged to write about my own washes as well, which would produce overly brisk passages in this column.
One of those readers of The Guardian was one Simon Clifford, an electronics designer, who confessed to putting his underwear in the laundry after two days and his socks after three days. Showering? Every other day. He didn’t know if he smelled, because he lived alone.
Another reader responded equally candidly that he brushed his teeth only once a day, bathed less than three times a week, and used little deodorant. Evie from Essex, who for understandable reasons did not want to be called by her last name, revealed that she only bathed every other day. Jack, from a high-risk group, hadn’t washed his hair since February 2020, “and I only take a shower when I leave the building.” I would have liked to see his haircut immortalized in a photo.
According to a broader survey of UK citizens in February, 17 percent of Britons showered less often than before and a third wore their clothes longer. The use of deodorants and toothbrushes also declined. Why this remarkable hygienic deterioration?
The culprits are said to be working from home and isolation, both caused by corona. When the lockdown is over, many will no doubt return to their old ways, but there are also British women who found that their hair became firmer and less greasy if you wash it once a week instead of every day. I’ll just pass it on for the female readers.
The filth outside the body itself occupies me more than that on the body. Amsterdam has become an empty city due to corona, but the filth on the streets only seems to have increased. Mattresses, cardboard and food scraps are ubiquitous. This to the great enthusiasm of the rats that have been besieging the Rivierenbuurt lately. The fact that the human-in-lockdown is starting to look more and more like those rats is a fact of experience that, with the permission of Wopke Hoekstra, I dare to call high-explosive.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of April 23, 2021