US news host Pete Hegseth announced recently that he hadn’t washed his hands for 10 years, and everyone got on their collective high horse – not before checking they had some hand sanitiser about their person first – to express their outrage.
Because it is disgusting isn’t it, having such a complete disregard for basic hygiene principles and potentially putting others at risk? According to Hegseth, ‘Germs are not a real thing’. Hmmmm. This man is a Harvard and Princeton graduate, by the way.
But then I’m sitting here typing with hands that are red and chapped and look like they belong to the world’s oldest woman, and part of me is the tiniest bit envious of Hegseth’s brazen flouting of standard rules. And of his presumably soft and smooth hands.
I don’t know if Mr. Gross-Hands has kids, but I assume (and hope) that he does not. Not little ones, anyway. I recall how, in the confusing, knackering first months of motherhood, my entire body felt done in – yet it was my sore hands that often gave me the most jip.
The problem with handwashing as a parent
Because you end up washing them constantly, don’t you? After every nappy change. Wash and sanitise. After every administering of lotion and potion for every newborn ailment going: cradle cap, colic, constipation. And that’s not even taking into account bottle-washing and/or the constant faff of sterilising breast pumps.
Applying hand cream after this endless rigmarole was always an afterthought, and probably a bit symbolic of putting self-care to the bottom of the (washing) pile. Not that I’m a martyr, of course.
Now my son is nearly two, I no longer have to ensure I’m never more than a few feet from a bottle of Milton. Thank heavens.
But I’m still quite obsessed with handwashing, and still have the cracked digits to prove it.
Because now we go to the park and he jumps in puddles that are probably full of duck poo and I’m sure I read somewhere that duck poo can cause awful diseases. And he caught a sickness bug before Christmas and we can definitely do without that again. And well, just because toddlers are dirty and covered in god-knows-what…and I know it’s likely to get worse.
Partly, I agree with those who say it probably isn’t doing our kids’ immune systems any good to be doused in anti-bac spray 24/7. I know I could be a bit more relaxed about cleanliness. My sore old-lady hands would be so very grateful, if nothing else.
But then there’s common sense, and basic hygiene standards and definitely a middle ground between taking shares out in Dettol and being Pete Hegseth.
It’s all well and good to say, ‘A bit of dirt never hurt anyone’ but it did, actually, and I’m sure that if Hegseth had a weakened immune system, or picked up a nasty bug as a result of someone’s laziness/pig-headedness then he wouldn’t be so quick to boast about his dirty hands.
Now where did I put my hand sanitiser?
What do you think? Is Hegseth being foolish or is there something to his philosophy?