Germs and Tap Water

There’s nothing more soul-satisfying than having your deepseated prejudices confirmed.  I’m talking, of course, about germs and plastic bottles of designer water.

First, the germs.  I guess you could say my husband and I have always maintained a pretty loose ship.  I was known as the little slob in my family of origin, always cleaning my room by stashing everything under the bed or talking my little sister into buying it from me.

My mother, a housewife with what Florence King would call a “scrubber” mentality, periodically had long, emotional talks with me about my failures.  I was on track to grow up to be a bad housewife, she’d say sorrowfully.  I’d be just like my paternal grandmother who cleaned up by sweeping debris into drawers.  That was pretty upsetting news to me, so I’d burst into tears and sob about how I was going to improve myself.

Of course, I always reverted to my old ways.  Mother was right.  I’ve never been a housewife, but I’m a terrible housekeeper.

The strange thing is, I managed to marry someone even more slovenly than I am.  Good grief.  I turn out to be the neatnik at our house by sheer default.  It’s mind-boggling, tragic.  Mother would just die if she weren’t dead already.

Naturally, the two children we reared into more-or-less adulthood are also slobs, bless their filthy little hearts.  After they were born into our less-than-pristine household and carted off to daycare, my husband and I always reassured each other that the kids were healthy (no earaches!  no tubes in their ears!  hardly any colds!) because we had exposed them to so many germs.

Now, at last, I find there’s scientific corroboration.  Check out,,2276875,00.html to find out how fortunate and healthy children are when they grow up surrounded by germs and, better yet, other germ-infested children in the real world (i.e., day care).  And we thought we were just making ourselves feel good!  (I should add that we do have household help, which has greatly decreased the level of marital squabbles chez nous.)

On to designer water which I, for one, have always felt is quite irritating from the very first days of seeing skinny women (they were always women and they were always skinny, believe me) carting around plastic bottles of Evian and looking smug and snooty.  I’ve now spent years feeling apologetic and proletariat in restaurants because I order tap water — like we live in a Third World country, for God’s sake.  “Perrier is just delicious,” someone told me years ago.  How could she tell?  It’s water.  Water isn’t delicious.  Is it?  Or was I just lacking some level of taste discernment, which might also explain why I don’t like goat cheese, either (another roadblock on the fast route to sophistication, let me assure you).

“Why do you have to drink so much water?” I asked a colleague, a few years ago.  She was always gulping designer water like it was a drug.

She rolled her eyes.  The woman next to us turned around and said, “Because the body is 90 percent water.”

I guess that was supposed to be a good reason, but it didn’t exactly resonate with me.  Assuming the body is already 90% water, why would you want to increase the percentage?  I mean, being post-menopausal and all that, I already spend plenty of time in the bathroom.  But I digress.

So I felt relieved/happy/smug/satisfied to hear all this hoopla about how plastic water bottles are ruining the environment and besides, there’s no real scientific evidence to show you have to drink eight glasses of water a day.

“You know more than you think you do,” the much-reviled Dr. Spock told a generation of parents.  I always loved reading that.  We gave them germs and tap water — and they’ve turned out beautifully.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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