I’m just going to be upfront about this. This post includes information about vaginas and periods. If you don’t find it fascinating that cultures have different ways of maintaining healthy lady parts this might not be the post for you. If you’d like to debunk some Americanized vagina maintenance rhetoric then read on!
1. Why would you ever wear shoes in your house?
Alright, starting out this post pretty simple. I think it’s fairly common knowledge that many Asian households do not wear shoes in the house. My family wore our shoes everywhere – bedrooms, bathrooms, outside, inside. Now, you may be like, I can understand why an Asian family wouldn’t wear shoes in the house, it’s cleaner.
But it wasn’t until I was hanging out at Con’s grandma’s house that I totally grasped the concept of why it’s so important to keep the floor clean. At grandma’s house, everything happens on the floor. We’re talking eating, watching TV, prepping Kimchi. And in traditional style homes, even in some modern ones, the floor is the bed. Imagine walking on your bed with your sneakers and then sleeping there.
My Korean students even carried school shoes with them in an additional bag. These were slippers they wore inside that they changed into once they arrived to school. I get that American families typically sleep on raised beds and eat from a chair at a high table. But imagine the dirt you’re tracking through your house. How dusty your rug must be. Speaking of dust, which is mostly made up of dead skin cells, let’s move on to number 2.
2. Your body is covered in disgusting soap scum that you never even try to remove.
In Korean, there’s a word -때 Ddae (day) – and it means dead skin and other dirt that accumulate on your skin that comes off when you scrub your skin very hard after soaking in hot water. One of my favorite things to do in Korea was attending the public bath houses, kind of like a spa, that had hot and cold pools of water. Imagine my surprise when I realized these were not just for relaxing but also scrubbing the shit out of yourself so that you turn a bright pink color and are softer than the hairs on a chinchilla.
Con introduced me to the fact that, the Korean exfoliating towel, a long, less dense version of a pan scrubber, is the only proper way to rid your body of ddae. I mentioned, “Hey, white people have loofahs! Those work to exfoliate.” She looked at me deadpan. “Loofahs only hold soap.” Meaning they don’t do anything to help get you clean.
She proceeded to tell me a story of the time she went to a white friend’s house over night. She was given a washcloth to rinse down with during her shower. She looked at the limp, soft thing with disgust and was shocked that anyone could consider themselves clean after using it. If it doesn’t hurt and you don’t see rolled up, grimy pieces of dead skin after scrubbing, you’re not doing it right.
3. The “Vagina is self-cleaning” mantra is incredibly misleading.
If you’re a woman reading this you’re probably thinking, okay but the vagina totally is self cleaning. You’re right it is. But let’s think about when we were all taught this valuable piece of feminine hygiene. Probably during the 90s right? When douching was becoming a problem for some women? The whole point of teaching young girls that a vagina cleans itself was to get them to NOT use a douche. The vagina aka your internal lady parts clean themselves.
Con pointed out to me that some of her white girlfriends actually took this information to the extreme and made rules along the lines of no soap shall touch my nether regions. Shaking her head, Con exclaims, “What? Do scrubbing bubbles come out of your vagina at night?” That’s right, they don’t. You gotta clean the outside.
Con’s mom taught her when she was little that you have to wash your armpits and your downstairs once a day. Con might not shower or even wear clean underwear, but she dutifully takes her camper’s bath at night. There’s a rumor that Korean woman don’t get yeast infections because of all the probiotics in kimchi. I might have found another reason.
4. Period panties do not have to be a thing.
Every girl I’ve ever known has joked about having period panties. But one day I saw Con’s underwear hanging on the shower rod of our shared bathroom space. They’d been hand washed and were left to dry. Coming from my WASPy background I was scandalized that she was literally hanging her dirty laundry in public. So one day I asked her about it. I pointed out that I’d never hang my underwear out like that. Then my world got rocked.
She explained, whenever she soils her underwear – she immediately washes it. If some article of clothing is stained, it’s dirty. Even if you tried to get the stain out and then washed it in the washing machine, if that stain is still there, it’s dirty and should be disposed of. Myself and most other women I know feel that once they’re stained, they’re stained and there’s nothing you can do about it. So we just keep them. Everyone has period panties, right?
Here I was, shocked she’d hang hand washed underwear for everyone to see, but I still wore stained underwear to work. It was the definition of dirty. Ladies, you don’t have to have period panties. Never again ruin a pair of underwear and let them succumb to the period gods. You can avoid this by simply washing them out with hand soap and later putting them through the wash. It’s crazy how this piece of information has changed my life. And the state of my undergarments.
5. Wash the inside of your nose.
One day my youngest sister, who is training to become a physical therapist and studying anatomy, could still smell the cadaver that she had worked on during the day. “It’s like it’s singed into my nose hairs,” she exclaimed. Con looked at her and asked, have you washed the inside of your nose? My sister and I looked at each other and wondered what she could possibly mean. She seemed shocked we’re surprised and explained that smell is essentially little pieces of whatever we’re smelling and to get it out of our nose, we’d have to wash it, just like any other part of our bodies.
I’ve seen Con do this thing where when she washes her face she also takes her soapy fingers and swishes them around the inside of her nostrils. I just figured this was something she did – but nope! Another cultural difference. Not only does washing the inside of our nose help us get rid of residual smells, it helps us clear out bacteria, too. I guess that’s why the netty pot has become so popular.