Friday, April 8, 2011

To Bidet, or Not to Bidet: A Question That Needs To Be Asked.

The first night that Michael and Lewis were in Florence Leif and I made them dinner. So much nicer than getting dressed and finding a restaurant. It was fun to cook for them and listen to them talk while we worked. I asked how they had found this apartment, because it is a very nice, newly remodeled place. I mentioned that the bathroom was especially beautiful (because it is) and he said, “Oh! So you tried the bidet?” Yes, this was dinner table conversation. If you are squeamish stop reading now, because it just gets deeper into the bathroom topic from here.

Of course I didn’t use the bidet! I’m pretty sure social norms forbid the use of bidets when visiting, even with the closest of friends, even in Italy. I know I turned about five different shades of red as I shook my head and said no. I tell him that we even have one in our apartment but that I’m not really sure how they work so I haven’t tried it. In fact I try not to make eye contact with ours when I am in the bathroom. We use it as a drying rack for the cleaning bucket.

Now, Lewis is from the South. He has lived in Minnesota a long time, but when he becomes excited about something his vowels get broader and words become seconds longer to accommodate the extra vowels. Bidets excite him.

Owh my Gawd! You have a beedaaaay and you don’t use it?” His face is all scrunched up in confusion. He can’t understand why I don’t use it, and I am too much of a lady to try and explain in mixed company. “Everey time I seeee one I use it. I just feel so, soooo…fresh. It’s lovely, you must try it. It’s so eeeeasyyy! You just splash off, dry off and go!”

He went on like this for some time but thankfully Leif introduced a new topic and the conversation moved on. I think he didn’t want to start answering questions about his own bidet use, as that’s where the conversation was headed. It’s only a short leap from “Do they have bidets in Sweden?” to “When’s the last time you used one, Leif?” No one wants to answer that question if they can reasonably avoid it.

There are a number of reasons why I don’t use the bidet in our apartment. The biggest reason being that I have absolutely no idea how to use it. I don’t come from a bidet culture. In Minnesota you don’t want to have more fixtures in your bathroom than absolutely necessary. First there’s the risk of freezing pipes. We are too busy making sure the water continues to run to the essential fixtures, who wants to spend extra time on something like a bidet? Second, who wants to have yet another shiny porcelain surface to keep clean? And where, in this tiny farmhouse, do we find room for a luxury like a bidet? The living room? Better to hope the water filtering down from your shower does the job well enough.

Lewis sounded absolutely rapturous about his experiences with bidets. Minnesotans don’t wax rhapsodic about “down there”, it is a necessary evil that we deal with in a very matter of fact way. For all we know, the road to hell is paved with clean tushies. And anything that is that much fun must, in fact, be totally wrong. Period.

Truly, the reason I don’t use it is because I have no idea how to use it. There is no instruction manual and I don’t know who to ask. Or more to the point, if I ask, it implies that I might at some time actually use it. Then there is one person on the planet that knows I have the desire to try being squeaky clean. Kinda embarrassing. So, instead, I sit and look at it every time I use the toilet (they face each other in our bathroom) and feel like an unsophisticated country hick because I can’t even figure out a simple bathroom fixture.

The day after our dinner I went into our bathroom, determined to at least touch it, to try and figure out some part of how this thing works. I turned the handle for the cold water. Nothing happened. Hmmm. This could be a lot easier than I thought. It’s broken! I tried the handle for the hot water…damn, water slowly leaked out one of the holes in the back of the bowl. I turned it further and the leak became a tiny arch of water, nothing that promises a forceful cleaning experience but if your bottom is small (and if I am correct on which way to sit on this thing) it will at least get wet. If it is supposed to work like one of those “no touch” car washes then we are in trouble. But it would explain Lewis’s great affection for their use.

Lewis made the bidet experience sound like an exciting adventure, one that I should probably explore. But I am thinking that a nice piece of plywood, a small cloth and a basket for towels is the best use for our bidet. I can’t have it staring at me accusingly every time I sit down and I can’t have it removed, so giving it a new purpose in life is probably best for us both.

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