Letter: Clean it up!

My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother, who indulged in an old country habit of washing the sidewalk in front of her house in Forneydale (Lebanon) Pennsylvania, held to the simple hygienic standard that: “soap and water and a comb are cheap enough.”

There was no room for slovenly anything in Nana’s universe. In her world, you woke up in the morning and dressed for the day; for her, a clean cotton housedress, her hair brushed and clean, and an apron as required.

There was nothing compulsive or obsessive about it, it was rather the habit of the time, and of her Pennsylvania farmer’s daughter upbringing, to look one’s best regardless of one’s station in life.

Nana’s rules for men were simple: Clean, face shaved (beards were for the Amish) hair combed, collars and cuffs buttoned, shoes clean. These were farm people, and farms are a good place to get dirty; however, once the outside work was done it was back to the pump, the soap and the comb before stepping into the house.

Going to town, or just going out in public, being clean, curried and combed was the rule. No responsible, serious man would go off the farm looking like a bum, a hobo or a ne’er-do-well. To present one’s self in public as such was to seem to be ineffectual, unsuccessful, a slacker, a drinker or an indigent vagrant, having no sense of personal dignity.

Personal dignity, and looking one’s best regardless of station or condition seem to be values that have been replaced with a perverse kind of arrogance that presents itself in a lazy slovenliness that results in grown men going out in public — and into business situations — dressed and acting like 10-year-olds, or like the schlubby unkempt bit players in a ‘frat-house’ movie.

Far too many television commercials today feature disheveled, unshaved, pasty-faced ‘men’ who look as if they had just come out of a week-long bender; while oddly, the women in the same commercials are — as Nana would have had them — clean, well dressed and socially attractive, regardless of their comeliness or station in life.

Even in those commercials where the male involved is at least neatly dressed, the influence of the ‘grunge generation’ is evident in the affectatiously manicured scruffiness of the seemingly permanent week-long growth of whiskers.



After reading Norman Schell's self-righteous froth about keeping up appearances, I just have to say this: You know, I really think fat people should care more about how they look. They must not care much about being fat, and how awful that looks, or they would exercise, get on a diet or something to lose weight. I find it offensive, in public, to see these obviously uncaring fat people walking around. It says something about our society. And while I'm at it, I think ugly people should do something about being ugly- they could at least save up and pay a surgeon to do plastic surgery on them. Maybe health care could cover ugliness. See where your line of thinking goes, Norman? Are tatoos a problem for you, too? Nose rings? How about ethnic fashion? If you believe, contrary to the old axiom, "You can't judge a book by looking at the cover," then you can't say you didn't ask for this response. I happe to like the look, and the feel, sometimes, of my 3 or 4 or more days' whiskers, even if my wife would wish, rather, that I shave. But she rightly & diplomatically mostly keeps it to herself, bless her. And if you see me on Main St. in my dusty work clothes, too bad for you. I just didn't have the time or inclination to change into my church clothes. Walt Burnham Montague

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.