Sociologists, economists, therapists, and every other sort of -ists have studied The Principle of Least Interest, but it’s incredibly important for writers as well. This is one of those areas in which science has confirmed what common sense has long maintained: the person who cares the least has the most power. This principle works everywhere from the housing market to the marriage market. (I wrote about this topic previously in 2015.)
If the buyer is more eager to buy than the seller is to sell, the seller will determine the selling price. If he loves her more than she loves him, he could end up the proverbial hen-pecked husband of so many comedies; vice versa and she is a candidate for the downtrodden foot-wipe—perhaps abused—wife of so many tragedies.
This principle is so well understood that sometimes people try to disguise their true levels of caring/interest (talk of other great offers forthcoming, flirting with or dating a rival). Inherent in disguise is the understanding that what counts is often the perception of least interest.
The First Take-Away for Writers:
For your characters, know who has the power (the least interest) and who is perceived to have it. And if your work has more than two characters, you need to understand the power relationships for each pair.
Unlike a credit score, people can’t go on-line and check out their power ratings. The primary reason that power relationships are often unclear is that the bases of power are virtually limitless: expertise, physical attractiveness, intelligence, wealth, athletic ability, knowledge of secrets, ability to make the other’s life miserable, being popular, great sense of humor—anything and everything that is important to that pair. Knowing the facts doesn’t tell you/the reader who has the power.
If she married him for the money and he married her for the Green Card, who cares more? What if we add in that she is beautiful and he’s a great problem-solver; she’s moody and he’s uncommunicative; he’s a natural athlete and she manages their money; they’re both extremely intelligent and care mightily for their two children. As the author, you can determine who has the power by giving weight to these factors based on the characters’ perceptions of what is important.
The Second Take-Away for Writers:
Power is seldom one-dimensional, and if you don’t recognize the complexity, your characters will be flat and unrealistic.
In many relationships—for example, boss/employee, parent/child, older sibling/younger sibling, teacher/student—the general expectation would be that the total power package would favor the former. But my guess is that most readers don’t read to confirm the norm; they like to be surprised.
The Third Take-Away for Writers:
You should at least consider writing against common power expectations.
And just to end on a high-brow note: according to Lord Acton, “Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Consider how less-than-absolute power might corrupt your character(s).
Know who has the power and who is perceived to have it.
Power is seldom one-dimensional, and if you don’t recognize the complexity, your characters will be flat and unrealistic.
You should at least consider writing against common power expectations.
The men’s beauty and makeup market, already a billion-dollar industry, is expected to grow to nearly $20 billion by 2027.
A recent survey on Ipsos found that among heterosexual men ages 18-65, 15% reported currently using male cosmetics and makeup, and another 17% say they would consider doing so in the future.
Who were the nay-sayers? 73% of men 51 and over, compared to 37% of men 18-34.
Makeup on Ancient Male Faces
Some might wonder “What’s the world coming to?” A more accurate question might be, “What’s the world getting back to?” An article—with pictures—at humanistbeauty.com makes the following five points about men’s early use of cosmetics.
Men were wearing makeup as long ago as 3000 BCE in China and Japan. Men used natural ingredients to make nail polish, face powder, rouge, and eyeliners, all signs of status and wealth. Archaeologists found a “portable” makeup box with a bronze mirror, large and small wooden combs, a scraper, and powder box. In the Han Dynasty, civil servants known as Lang Shi Zhong wore elaborate makeup and hairstyles when they appeared in court. Male attendents of Emporer Hui (210-188 BCE) of the Han Dynasty were forbidden “to go on duty without putting on powder.”
In ancient Egypt, men rimmed their eyes in black “cat” eye patterns as a sign of wealth (it also helps to reduce sun glare — as modern baseball and football players have found). They also wore pigments on their cheeks and lip stains made from red ochre. Makeup was an important way of showcasing masculinity and social rank.
In ancient Korea, the Silla people believed that beautiful souls inhabited beautiful bodies, so they embraced makeup and jewelry for both genders. Hwarang, an elite warrior group of male youth, wore makeup, jade rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other accessories. They used face powder and rouge on their cheeks and lips.
Skipping to Elizabethan England: the goal was for skin to look flawless. Men powdered their faces to whiten the skin as a sign of wealth, intelligence, and power. Fashionable courtiers dyed, curled, starched, and waxed their beards and moustaches into elaborate arrangements. To achieve the desired effect, men spent hours painting their faces, necks, hands, and hair into fantastic conifgurations that lasted for days before being removed. However, cosmetics during the Elizabethan age were dangerous due to lead, mercury, arsenic, and allum in the majority of products. These cosmetics could lead to blindness, seizures, hair loss, sterility, and premature death.
Makeup on More Recent Male Faces
Men’s love affair with makeup—for specific purposes, traditions, and enjoyment died a slow death in the 18th century when Queen Victoria associated makeup with the devil and declared it a horrible invention.
I read somewhere or other that George Washington issued a pound of flour with each soldier’s rations for use on his wig or hair. Though few soldiers wore full wigs, many attached fake plaits to their own hair or the backs of their hats. During the Revolutionary War, American wig and hair fashions were much less elaborate than those of British aristocrats, like the simpler fashions for ladies’ dresses on this side of the Atlantic. (Washington himself curled and powdered his own hair rather than wearing a wig; he was a natural redhead!)
After the American Revolutionary War, the use of visible “paint” (color for lips, skin, eyes, and nails) gradually became socially unacceptable for both sexes in the U.S. Painting one’s face was considered vulgar and was associated with prostitution and actresses/actors. But did people stop using them?
Of course not! True, few cosmetics were manufactured in America during most of the nineteenth century. However, folks (mostly women) went DIY, using recipes that circulated among friends, family, and sometimes printed in women’s magazines and cookbooks.
Lip Salve Take 1 ounce of white wax and ox marrow, 3 ounces of white pomatum, and melt all in a bath heat; add a drachm of alkanet, and stir it till it acquire a reddish colour.
To Blacken the Eye-lashes and Eye-brows The simplest preparation for this purpose are the juice of elder-berries; burnt cork, or cloves burnt at the candle. Some employ the black of frankincense, resin, and mastic; this black, it is said, will not come off with perspiration.
Pearl Powders, for the Complexion 1. Take pearl or bismuth white, and French chalk, equal parts. R educe them to a fine powder, and sift through lawn. 2. Take 1 pound white bismuth, 1 ounce starch powder, and 1 ounce orrispowder; mix and sift them through lawn. Add a drop of attar of roses or neroli.
Of course, the simplest way to “lighten” the complexion was with starch, applied with a hare’s foot or soft brush. Pale skin indicated social class/wealth: brown skin signaled outdoor labor.
Thus lotions, powders, and skin washes—to lighten complexions and diminish the visibility of blemishes or freckles—remained in use.
Druggists sold ingredients for these recipes, and sometimes ready-made products. Given the association of “paint” with prostitution (and actors), products needed to appear “natural.” Some secretly stained their lips and cheeks with pigments from petals or berries, or used ashes to darken eyebrows and eyelashes.
Technological advances in photography, interior lighting, and creating reflective surfaces led to a rise in “visual self-awareness” throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This, coupled with a rise in wide-spread advertising through print mediums, created a wider market for commercially produced cosmetics.
In the late 1960s, norms again celebrated ideals of natural beauty—as in the Victorian era—including a rejection of make-up altogether by some. Cosmetics companies returned to touting products for a “natural” look.
Makeup on Performing Male Faces
Makeup for actors never went out of fashion, so it’s no surprise that the recent increase in makeup use for men has been led by entertainers. Performers used cosmetics as part of costumes or to ensure their facial features remained visible on stage or on screen. Stylized makeup designs correspond to specific roles in classical forms of Japanese, Thai, Indian, and Chinese theater traditions.
The popularity of the Ballet Russe in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century led to an increase in the social acceptability of wearing makeup. When the Ballet went on tour, there was a corresponding boom in cosmetic sales and advertising in countries where they performed.
Waves of glam rock, heavy metal, goth, and punk musicians in the 1970s and 1980s inspired legions of fans to don makeup to perform and to disrupt social norms. Just think of KISS, Mötley Crüe, Marilyn Manson, King Diamond, Boy George, or Alice Cooper.
The elaborate makeup and costumes of Glam Rock stars such as Boy George and David Bowie challenged gender expectations.
Heavy Metal performers such as Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson are as recognizable for their stage makeup as for their stage costumes and music styles.
Makeup on Modern Male Faces
Men are now open to using a variety of products, including facial cleansers, exfoliants, serums, moisturizers, and most recently, cosmetics.1
For centuries, gender binaries established during the 17th and 18th centuries influenced who typically wore makeup–women! But make-up for men (and those who identify as male) may be here to stay—and goes way beyond entertainers and political statements.
Young Yuh, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok and posts skin care and makeup tutorials full-time, says makeup is key to his self-expression. His view is that it’s like hygiene, or hairstyle, or any number of other personal choices and should not be bound by gender identification. His daily routine includes cleanser, toner, some type of serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, primer, concealer, contour, blush and eyeliner—no doubt a bit much for many!
The hashtag #meninmakeup has more than 250 million views on TikTok. And The New York Times Style Magazine article “Makeup Is For Everyone” gives a great overview of the most recent developments and resources online.
In 2017, Maybelline launched their Collosus mascara campaign featuring Manny Gutierrez with the tagline “Lash Like a Boss.” Patrick Starr, a Filipino-American makeup artist and fashion designer, collaborated with MAC makeup to launch a collection of his own design. In 2016, Gabriel Zamora became the first male makeup artist to join Ipsy makeup. Advertisements both reflect the current culture and feed it.
Bottom line: Men are now open to using a variety of products, including facial cleansers, exfoliants, serums, moisturizers, and most recently, cosmetics.
(Writers note: depending on your audience, you might want your guys’ grooming to include more than a shave and a hair cut.)
You and I are perfect, of course—but the people we live with? They drive us nuts all around the house, in ways too numerous to count! And some rooms are more irritating than others. Some say such minor annoyances are the signs of imploding domestic happiness. Others claim habits like these are simply what happens when people become comfortable with each other, possibly even a sign of healthy relationships. Consider the ways irritability might be bad for you. And think about ways these little things can add tension to writing scenes.
Leaving scraps in the sink, even the side that has the garbage disposal
Leaving empty or near-empty cups, mugs, and glasses all around the house instead of taking them to the kitchen
Leaving cuttings/crumbs on the counter
Using twice as many utensils as necessary
Not turning off the stove burners/oven
Starting a dish cooking, leaving the room, and letting the food burn
Never adding salt and pepper while cooking (or adding far too much)
Leaving herbs, spices, and other seasonings on the counter
Not wiping up spills
Not checking the vegetable drawer for partials before cutting a new pepper, onion, or cuke
Leaving partially eaten food out (pizza, sandwich, fruit)
Soaking the bathmat
Leaving dirty clothes on the floor
Sprinkling the counters with grooming products
Not replacing a spent toilet paper roll
Putting new TP roll on so new sheets come from the back, when everyone knows the new sheets should come over the top. (Or vice versa!)
Leaving hair in the washbasin
Using your washcloth or towel
Running out the hot water
Leaving the cap off toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, whatever
Restless sleeping or kicking
Using a C-Pap machine
Taking too much closet and dresser space
Leaving clothes around
Hogging the covers
Insisting on a night light—or total darkness
Needing a noise masking machine
Eating in bed
Reading in bed
Allowing pet on the bed
Living Room/Family Room
Toys/games sprinkled about
Putting feet on furniture
Cluttering end tables, coffee tables, ottomans…
Not using coasters
Spilling food and drink on upholstery, carpets, curtains, etc.
Chewing with mouth open
Wolfing food or eating absurdly slowly
Talking with mouth full
Not using a napkin
Reaching for things that should be passed
Making a mess around the plate/bowl
All Around the House
Squeezing tubes from the middle (toothpaste, anchovy paste, etc.)
Playing TV/radio/etc. too loudly
Controlling the TV remote/program
Flipping channels on TV or radio
Not picking up after her/himself
Singing, humming, whistling out of tune
Dominating the conversation
Not saying please or thank you
Leaving doors open/unlocked
Leaving lights and fans on when leaving a room
Not setting the alarm
Not watering houseplants
Leaving bird feeders empty
Paying bills late
Leaving the newspaper a mess
Bottom line: These are just a very few examples of domestic minor annoyances. There are always more, especially when you’re looking for them. Is the irritating behavior really worth the irritation? Or could you make use of it?
The occasional worry or weird thought, no problem. Not much distress, and it doesn’t usually interfere in one’s life. The problems occur when the weirdness progresses or the worry or thought becomes an obsession (often called intrusive thoughts), meaning you can’t seem to stop thinking these thoughts. These tend to fall into four categories, not necessarily mutually exclusive.
You are giving a lecture/making a presentation and all the people are laughing, talking, and leaving.
If offered a promotion, would I be willing to move?
Which of my coworkers wants to have sex with me?
A coworker is trying to get me warned, fired, demoted, or transferred.
If I were in charge, I would . . .
I feel terrible but I won’t call in sick, because some people might think I’m lying.
How’s the best way to ask for a raise?
In staff meetings, I just want to stand up and scream.
Thoughts of aggressive, violent, or perverse sexual acts.
Sometimes I go to sleep thinking thoughts of assault or murder, especially gory scenes.
What can I do to avoid loneliness?
Can others smell my breath, body odor, sweat, or feet?
Do people think I’m exotic or just weird?
Am I likable?
Can people love (romantically) two or more people at the same time?
How can I tell who I can trust?
The one who cares less has more power. With which of my friends do I care less?
Are they judging me as much as I’m judging them?
How many of these people aren’t wearing underwear?
I fear dying of asphyxiation when my inner scream never pauses to draw in breath.
What is the sound of my inner voice?
How do I know my brain stays in my skull when I sleep?
I keep thinking thoughts of religious shame, hell, and Satanism.
I worry about germs eating/destroying my body from the inside out.
What if my life were a book, available for anyone to read?
How do I know that my childhood memories really happened?
Every night I go to sleep planning my funeral.
What were my parents’ lives like before they married?
How would my life be different if I’d made just one decision differently?
What, if anything, would cause me to commit suicide?
How many ways to commit suicide can I think of?
If I had to lose one of my senses, which would I choose?
Why do I drink?
Should I change my wake/sleep pattern to be more typical?
How would the world be different if I’d never been born?
I think my brain is shrinking.
I imagine having sex with people I’m not really interested in.
Every time I take a business trip, I imagine awful things happening to my husband and children.
If tomatoes are fruit, is ketchup jam?
How did humans decide how dinosaurs sounded?
With climate change, insects are taking over the world.
Imagining unusual creatures doing unusual things.
Saying the same word over and over till it starts sounding weird.
Carrying a 4-leaf cloverreveals fairies hiding behind flowers, allowing one to prevent the mischief they could do. Some species of clover all have four leaves, but those have no power. The powerful 4-leaf clover is a mutant of the 3-leaf clover, occurring approximately 1 in 10,000. To know you’ve found a true four-leaf clover, look for one leaflet that’s smaller than the others. If all four leaflets are the same size, you are probably looking at the wrong variety of clover.
Lucky rabbit foot: The original legend says that the left hind foot of a rabbit that is captured in a cemetery at night can ward off evil magic. These amulets definitely do not ward off bad luck for the rabbit!
Romans were very superstitious, and a lot of that superstition centered on reproductive organs.
According to the ancient writer Marcus Terentius Varro, Roman boys were even known to wear fascinus (winged penis) amulets around their necks to prevent harm from coming to them.
It was once thought that giving someone an evil eye (what might be called a stink eye these days) could cause all manner of bad, from mental illness to physical ailments.
People used evil eye talismans, or nazur (from Arabic نَظَر), to ward off the bad luck caused by these curses. Popular and beautiful evil eye talismans from Turkey use glass beads or discs with alternating blue and white circles. These are still widely in use in Turkey.
Some cultures use a hand with an eye in its center for protection.
Others use blue or green beads.
Attracting Good Luck
The Chinese word for bat means “good luck.” Bats are seen as a sign of a long and healthy life. Some Chinese wear bat amulets to bring good fortune. Bats on greeting cards mean the sender is wising the recipient wellness and success.
Bears have been revered by both Native American and Siberian cultures. They are seen as good luck because a single bear carcass can feed a family/group for a long time. They were thought to have supernatural powers of good, based on being able to hibernate through the winter. Siberians believed that the bear was an incarnation of their god.
Goldfish are one of the eight sacred symbols of Buddha, representing fertility, abundance, and harmony. Ancient Greeks though goldfish brought good luck to marriage. Egyptians kept them in their homes “to add positivity to domestic situations.”
Greek, Celtic, Egyptian, and East Indian people all see a bull as a powerful force. It is said to be a sign of positive things from good health to wealth. The Greeks looked upon the bull as a master of love and fertility.
The deer is another symbol of Chinese good luck. The word for deer, “lu,” means “income.” Often the deer symbolizes luck, success, longevity and prosperity, and the hope for a long and healthy life.
In India, the elephant is seen as a bringer of fortune and wealth.
The frog is a good-luck symbol for many cultures that depend on rain for rich and bountiful crops. Others see frogs as a symbol of fertility, transformation and safe travel.
Ladybugs: In German-speaking countries, they are literally called lucky bugs, “Glueckskaefer.” Some cultures say that if a ladybug lands on you and you don’t brush it off, your luck will improve. The deeper red their color and the more spots they have, the luckier you’ll be!
Because lizards are mainly nocturnal, they have become a symbol for good vision and protection against the unseen things in life.
Chinese lore says that pigs bring good luck to business dealings.
In Korea, the swallow is considered a sign of good luck thanks to the story of Heungbu and Nolbu. According to the story, a sparrow rewarded a kind deed with prosperity.
Egyptians looked at beetles, specifically the Egyptian scarab beetle, as lucky. These beetles wrap their eggs in mud and use the sun for incubation. Because of this ability to always find new life through the sun, Egyptians saw the scarab as a transmitter of luck.
Other Lucky Talismans
Horseshoes are one of the oldest of lucky talismans, and there are varied legends associated with their strength. Suffice it to say that hanging a horseshoe on or above a door is still popular. Make sure that the points face up, making a U so that the horseshoe can fill with luck. Hanging the other way will allow all the luck to run out. Irish brides often carry a horseshoe instead of bouquet on their wedding day.
“Lucky bamboo” is actually a close relative called Dracaena. It’s hardy and long-lived, which might account for its reputation as lucky. The more stalks a lucky bamboo plant has, the more luck it brings. A plant with three stalks is said to bring happiness, wealth, and longevity.
During World War II, fighter pilots carried a variety of lucky charms with them in the hopes of tipping the odds in their favor and coming back alive. Gambling items like cards and dice were popular. Deccofelt Corp started marketing fuzzy dice to hang on the rearview mirrors of cars in 1959.
A “Fumsups” (“thumbs-up”)is a tiny cherub-faced doll giving the lucky thumbs-up with both hands. They had metal bodies and wooden heads that allowed their owner to “touch wood” or “knock on wood” for good fortune. Fumsups were most popular during World War I, when they were given to soldiers. Some versions had a four-leaf clover painted on the doll’s head for an extra dose of good fortune.
Hangman’s noose. The ropes were so valuable that hangmen were even known to cut them into pieces for sale as good luck charms. Sick people wrapped the ropes around their heads to cure headaches and fevers. This talisman was highly popular among gamblers and cardsharps. Other souvenirs of hangings were also considered lucky, but weren’t as reliably available.
A caul is a piece of amniotic membrane that covers the face of newborn babies, albeit rarely. From ancient Rome till the 19th C, it was widely believed that having a piece of one would bring its owner good fortune, confer eloquence, good health and financial success. They were so prized that midwives were known to steal them.
Bezoars are hardened, pearl-like clumps of indigestible matter that sometimes form in the stomach lining of animals. Around 1000 A.D., the stones became known as good luck charms throughout Europe and Asia. Bezoar stones were often mounted in elaborate gold settings or worn as protective amulets, but they were also prized for their supposed curative powers: an antidote to poisons and a cure for many other ailments including epilepsy, dysentery and the plague.
Doing Double Duty
Meaning “the Hand of God,” the Hamsa(from Hebrew חַמְסָה and Arabic خمسة) is a symbol many people in North Africa and Asia Minor have used to ward off the “evil eye” and dark spiritual forces. It is also thought to bring the wearer strength and blessings.
Wearing a gem set in jewelry is used as a shield of protection to ward off troubles and bring happiness. Gems and minerals each are reputed to have specific beneficial properties, so consult a book of stones or search online for info about your favorite stones. (I’ve written more specifics about thisbefore.)
Dreamcatchers are made with a web or net stretched over a loop and decorated with bright beads and feathers. They are said to catch bad dreams as they enter a household. By capturing disturbing dreams, they make the owner happier, more balanced, and luckier. Dreamcatchers can be used as wall art, earrings, etc.
Because of its association with the Norse god Odin, the acorn has come to symbolize wisdom. Acorns also signify fertility, youth, and prosperity. The Norse believed that acorns could bring divine protection and placed them in the windows of their homes to ward off lightning.
Portents of Things to Come
Seeing a lizard scurrying away is a sign for you to flee trouble as well, before it occurs.
Black cat crossing one’s path signals catastrophe to come.
Breaking a mirror causes seven years of bad luck.
Walking under a ladder disrupts the Christian Holy Trinity, leading to divine retribution.
Killing a ladybug hastens the killer’s death.
For the ancient Saxon people, spotting a rabbit was a sign of the spring to come.
Seeing a rainbow, especially a double one, brings prosperity or peace, depending on the setting.
Seeing an albatross portends good luck for sailors.
According to legend, shaking a chimney sweep’s hand or passing one on the street is a harbinger of good fortune. The tradition is especially associated with weddings, so it’s particularly auspicious for couples to encounter chimney sweeps immediately after leaving the church. (Modern British chimney sweeps often supplement their income by hiring themselves out to wedding parties!)
Birds can symbolize many things to many people. Groups of nests, flight patterns, dropped feathers, spots on eggs, etc. mean all sorts of good or bad luck, depending on the setting. For more details, check out mypreviousblogsonBirds!
Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck—but only if it’s heads up. Tails up, find a penny, let it lay (or give it away) or bad luck you’ll have all day. Some people say that this is true; after all, any coin lying on the ground is luck.
Bottom Line: Talismans to bring luck and/or ward off bad luck are so varied, most people could accumulate dozens. Do they work? I could not say. They may be nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing confidence boosts and selective confirmations. But as a scientist, I urge you to give them a try. If you do, and they make no difference, you’ve lost nothing. On the other hand, if they can make a difference and you ignore them, you’ve missed a chance big time.
Balneological custom depends on when you live, where you live, how long you live, what you do for a living, and the seasons!
When You Live(d)
If you lived in ancient India, you likely engaged in elaborate practices for personal hygiene with three daily baths and washing. These are recorded in the grihya sutras, covering domestic rituals and are still in practice today in some communities.
If you lived in China during the Chou Dynasty, you likely bathed outside, weather permitting. However, if you lived in a Chinese city during the Song Dynasty, you were likely to wash your hands and face before eating and to visit a public bathhouse several times a week.
If you were a Buddhist monk in ancient Vietnam or Laos, you would have bathed frequently, sometimes daily, for religious reasons. However, if you were a Benedictine monk at Westminster Abbey, you would have been required to bathe only four times a year: on Easter, at the end of June, at the end of September, and on Christmas, according to monastic rules (though the Abbey employed a bath attendant year-round).
If you lived in Europe during the early part of the Middle Ages, you likely would have used a public bathhouse to spend quality time with your family, have a nice meal, meet your neighbors, and possibly even petition local officials. And if you lived during the 1340s-1350s and worried that open pores could allow illness to enter your body, you would likely have believed that dirt all over your skin would block disease. You would actually think bathing bad for your health because it opened pores, which led to sickness.
The Catholic Church has gone back and forth on bathing, sometimes linking physical and spiritual cleanliness and sometimes linking nudity and hellfire.
If you lived in Europe shortly after the Crusades, you are more likely to have engaged in a variation of the Turkish hammam and used soaps and perfumes brought back from Jerusalem.
The ancient Irish bathed daily, sometimes multiple times a day. With the spread of Christianity in Ireland in the 5th and 6th centuries, societal norms shifted to match the current Church customs in Rome: bathing only a few times a year.
It wasn’t until the time of the American Civil War, and the acceptance of germ theory of disease, that bathing became associated with health in Western medicine.
In the early 1900’s, a typical Saturday night ritual involved American family members hauling loads of water into the kitchen, heating it, then filling a bath. Usually, the oldest/father of the family bathed first, followed by the mother, then the children in birth order, with the youngest last. Maybe this practice gave rise to “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”
Where You Live
“Daily showering is a more cultural phenomenon than medical necessity,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, Mount Sinai Hospital.
If you believe YaHoo! Life, “Americans have long had a reputation for a “squeaky clean” devotion to hygiene that fuels a $3.1 billion body soap industry, yet recent studies show that Americans are actually quite average when compared to how often people shower worldwide.”
Among people who shower every day, Mexicans and Australians led, followed by Americans and the French. Brits, Russians, Swedes and Germans averaged less, with Chinese the least frequent.
If you live in an area where the geography lends itself to hot springs, geothermal vents, and readily available water and fuel for heating water, you are more likely to bathe frequently. Japan’s natural hot springs (onsen, more than 27,000 by some estimates) are used for nearly daily bathing, with some research indicating a link between frequent soaking and longevity. Dense forests provide fuel to heat Finnish saunas and Iroquois sweat lodges, both used for physical and mental health as well as bathing.
If you live in an area where water is scarce, you are likely to employ “dry” methods of bathing. Smoke baths, in which a blanket or tent is positioned above a fire of Commiphora wood to trap smoke around the bather’s skin, are effective means of killing bacteria and any bugs on the body or clothing. Oil or fat smeared on and scraped off the skin removes dirt and bacteria as well as protecting the skin from the elements. Pastes made with antibacterial herbs, clay, bark, and scented ingredients serve two purposes: they protect skin from sun, wind, or cold when applied and remove dirt when wiped off after drying.
If you live in an area crowded with other people, you are more likely to bathe frequently and often communally. Turkish hammam, Swiss health spas, Roman thermae, even medieval European bathhouses took advantage of shared resources (such as heat from baking ovens used to heat water) and were visited by groups of friends or neighbors. On the whole, bathing is less frequent in more sparsely populated areas.
Societies with a tradition of communal bathing tend to view a visit to the bathhouse as necessary for social and mental health in addition to physical hygiene. Russian banyas and Turkish hammam are places for meeting neighbors. Swedish and Japanese onsen are used for mental health and relaxation as much as removing dirt from the skin. Taiwanese hot springs and Mexican temazcalserve medicinal roles and are often staffed by medical professionals. The Finnish House of Parliament has a sauna where elected representatives can discuss legislation and issues of the day.
How Long You Live
Bathing recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic depend on your child’s age. Dr. Tamburro suggests these general guidelines:
Babies, toddlers and little kids should spend some quality time in the tub two to three times per week. Their delicate skin doesn’t need daily cleansing, but it’s OK to get out the bath toys more often if your child gets dirty or has a messy diaper situation.
Speaking of tub toys, make sure they’re non-toxic and don’t have the potential to harbor, mold, fungus, and bacteria.
Older kids ages 6-11 should hit the bath two or three times per week, at a minimum. More showers are in order when they get muddy, sweaty or stinky.
Tweens and teens should shower daily. (Their newly stinky pits will probably clue you in when it’s time to step up their hygiene game.) They should also wash their face twice a day. In addition, many teenagers are physically active, and showers are a good idea after strenuous sports events or practices, including swimming, working out, and other physical activities.
To avoid any skin conditions or infections, a senior should bathe at least once or twice a week.
Some elderly people may suffer from dementia, and they may have more toilet mishaps. Obviously, this means more frequent baths and showers to avoid infections.
Adults in General
It may sound counterproductive, but a shower every day could be bad for your skin. Some dermatologists only recommend a shower every other day, or two to three times a week. If you shower too much it can lead to discomfort, and you may experience:
Dry, flaky skin
Flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
Dry, brittle hair
Although fewer showers may improve skin health, you should still keep your personal hygiene in mind. If you go too long between showers you may experience
Increased body odor
Flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis
Areas of dark or discolored skin
in extreme cases, dermatitis neglecta, thick patches of scaly skin
What You Do for a Living
People who work at desk jobs and spend most of their time indoors have the same bathing needs as adults in general. However, those who work with dangerous substances, animals, or in any jobs that people consider to be unhygienic may feel the need to bathe more often.
People who work with corrosive materials, dangerous chemicals, disease agents, and radioactive materials need to shower at the end of each of their shifts.
Horticulturalists, arborists, amateur gardeners, and anyone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors around a variety of plants can reduce their risk of rashes and other skin injuries by showering as soon as they come indoors. on.
Use a gentle soap or cleanser, and thoroughly rinse off soap before exiting the shower.
Don’t rub your skin with a towel. Blot skin dry to retain moisture.
Avoid cleansers and soaps with fragrances or deodorants. These products can irritate your skin.
Apply moisturizer to your skin after each shower or bath
Sweat doesn’t have an odor. It’s the interaction of sweat with bacteria on the skin that creates the stink.
Even with “good” smells, too much is never a good thing, particularly in close quarters. For example, the Richmond Symphony and Chorus ban perfume, aftershave, deodorant, etc.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you probably don’t need to wash your hair every time you shower. Typically, shampooing two or three times a week will help keep your scalp healthy and hair happy.
A Dutch study found that individuals who ended their showers with at least a 30-second blast of cold water were absent from work 29 percent less of the time than people who did not do so.
Bottom Line: According to medicalnewstoday.com, “Although showering offers physical, mental, and emotional benefits, the daily shower that many people in the U.S. are in the habit of taking is probably more than most people need. Showering dries out the skin and hair, uses natural resources, and creates an additional source of water pollution.”
Last week I waxed enthusiastic about dictionaries, in all their forms and focus. Well, now I’ve made a truly unique addition to my collection, a Dictionary of things there aren’t any words for yet—*But there ought to be.
As you can surmise from the cover, The Meaning of Liff is basically a humorous read. In 157 pages, British writers Adams and Lloyd have made a herculean effort to fill the word void with wondrous creations, some with historical notes and illustrations. Rather than inventing new words, the authors have paired each definition with the names of places in England and Scotland (Liff is a village in Scotland near Dundee).
In the examples I’ve excerpted below, bracketed comments [ ] are my additions.
One who changes his name to be nearer the front.
[Something to consider when choosing a pen name?]
To pretend to have read the book under discussion when in fact you’ve only seen the tv series.
[One might assume that this applies to having only seen the movie as well.]
To shout boisterously from a cliff.
[And who hasn’t?]
The most deformed potato in any given collection of potatoes.
[Not to be confused with] Dubbo(DUB-oh) n.
The bruise or callous on the shoulder of someone who has been knighted unnecessarily often.
Ely(EE-le) n. T
he first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong.
Falster(FAWL-ster) [FALL-ster in American] n.
A long-winded, dishonest and completely incredible excuse when the truth would have been completely acceptable.
A sharp instrument placed in the basin which makes it easier to cut yourself.
Only slightly relevant to the matter at hand.
[Such a frequently useful adjective!]
An extremely intricate knot originally used for belaying the topgallant foresheets of a gaff-rigged China clipper, now more commonly observed when trying to get an old kite out of the cupboard [closet in American] under the stairs.
A person who can be relied upon to be doing worse than you.
[Need I point out how incredibly valuable such a friend/acquaintance/coworker is?]
One who goes around complaining that he was cleverer ten years ago.
The kind of person who must leave before a party can relax and enjoy itself.
Papcastle(PAP-kah-sul) [PAP-castle in American] n.
Something drawn or modeled by a small child which you are supposed to know what it is.
A person no one has ever heard of who unaccountably manages to make a living writing prefaces.
People who, for their own obscure reasons, try to sleep with people who have slept with members of the royal family.
Disturbing things that previous owners of your house have left in the cellar.
Not susceptible to charm.
Something you only discover about somebody the first time they take their clothes off in front of you.
A yes-man who is waiting to see whom it would be most advantageous to agree with
[X. Apparently their imaginations failed them.]
I highly recommend this dictionary, if for no other reason than it’s a fast, humorous read. Can you think of a definition we need in English that might fit your hometown?
But what about you?
Do you have your own non-words worthy of such a dictionary? I have a handful I’m willing to share, and will follow the format above. Some are in my speaking vocabulary; more are in my mental vocabulary!
Thinking or ideas that seem perfectly reasonable and logical when drunk, almost always a bad—or worse than bad—idea.
Irritability or a bad mood caused by low blood sugar.
The act of not apparently noticing a fart. This is a social nicety in some situations, aimed at avoiding embarrassment. In the home setting, it may reflect habituation.
Netbrain (NET-brain) n.
A condition in which something that is usually known or remembered drops through the net and is temporarily unavailable. I first heard this word from my Associate Director of Educational Affairs at the American Psychological Association and it’s been a staple in my vocabulary ever since. I have no idea how widely used it might be.
A person addicted to nose-picking, often in the bathroom or car when the picker thinks no one will notice. Usually controlled in public.
A condition exhibited by someone who reads aloud from whatever s/he is reading, regardless of what the other person(s) might be doing, including reading, writing, or working.
To reduce to rubble, either literally or figuratively.
A system or habit of thought a person uses to promote sleep. Does not usually involve counting sheep.
If you stick pins into a small onion and keep it on your windowsill, it dispels bad spirits from your home—or so says folklore. (Garlic has been used for the same purpose.)
Onions are also thought to ward off snakes and witches.
American colonists hung onions outside their doors to deflect evil spirits and keep them from coming inside.
If you throw onion peels on the floor, you’ll throw away your luck.
In many prehistoric societies, onions were the symbol of eternity, fit only for the gods. Additional symbolism includes protection, memories, jealousy, envy, divine healing, and mood swings.
Onions in dreams may represent the layers the dreamer needs to get through to find the source of a problem or issue. Alternatively, the dreamer may need to cleanse something in order to start afresh.
Put an onion under your pillow if you wish to dream the identity of your future lover.
In Egypt, an onion held in the right hand was a sign of fealty, used to swear allegiance to Cleopatra, and were a farewell offering carved into Tutankhamen’s tomb. They have been found in the pelvic region of mummies, in the thorax, and flattened against the ears. In 1160 BCE, King Ramses IV was entombed with onions in his eye sockets.
In other cultures, onions were associated with the devil. In Persia, it was said that when Satan was banished from paradise, onions sprang from the print of his right foot.
Romans believed that eating onions increased the quantity and vitality of sperm. Some Middle Eastern cultures considered onions an aphrodisiac.
In England, onions predicted the weather: a thick skin meant a bad winder ahead, a thin skin, a mild one.
Schoolboys used to believe that rubbing their bottoms with onion juice would numb them to the sting of disciplinary caning.
If you want to make a wish on Friday morning, sprinkle salt and pepper on an onion skin and toss it into the fire while thinking the wish. Other days or times? Who knows?
When undecided about something important, scratch each option on a different onion and store them in the dark. The first one to sprout reveals your best choice. This applies to choosing one’s lover/husband as well!
In English-speaking countries, some people believe that putting onions under the bed of a sick person aids recovery.
Stringing onions up around the house, especially at the entrance will guard against illness, accidents, and curses.
Put a slice of onion under the doormat to keep away unwanted visitors.
If onions sprout in your kitchen, plant them. If they grow, you will come into unexpected money.
The cut side of an onion has been used to relieve the effects of insect stings, and to draw poison from the bites of venomous snakes and rabid dogs.
Snakes hate the smell of onions, so carry one when you walk in snake territory to ward them off.
Get rid of warts by rubbing the edge of an onion on the warts and then throw the onion over your right shoulder without looking back.
Onion juice provides extra sulfur which can support strong, thick hair, thus preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth. The sulfur from onions may help collagen production which, in turn, promotes healthy skin.
Folk medicine often contains a kernel of truth, and onion medicine is no different. Modern medical researchers study onions’ palliative properties for everything from high blood pressure to cholesterol levels.
Because eating onions causes one to perspire, they’ve been used in folk medicine to cure colds.
Onions are low in calories yet high in nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium.
Research shows that eating onions help reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels, and inflammation.
Red onions are rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful plant pigments that may protect against heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
Onion consumption is associated with improved bone mineral density.
Onions are a rich source of prebiotics, which help boost digestive health, improve bacterial balance in your gut, and benefit your immune system.
Onions have been shown to inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli and S. aureus.
Onion juice can cure colds, cough, high fever, and sore throat. (One might want to eat parsley to combat onion-breath!)
Even without their miraculous fortune-telling powers or magical healing properties, onions are pretty nifty vegetables!
Most people cut onions before eating them, often tearfully. Chilling peeled, halved onions in the fridge or in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes can lessen the onion tear production.
FYI: onion tears are chemically different from tears caused by pain or sadness.
No one knows for sure where onions first appeared. Some believe they originated in Central Asia; other say onions were first grown in Iran and West Pakistan. But onions were surely eaten long before they were cultivated, and now they are grown in 135 countries.
When Europeans came to the New World, they brought onions with them, only to find that Native Americans were using wild onions for food, in syrups, as poultices, as an incident in dyes, and as toys!
Worldwide, people consume and average of 11 pounds of onions per year, but onion eating varies widely by geography. Turkey has the highest consumption, with 80.7 pounds per capita per year. In the US, the figure is 18.6 pounds per person per year.
WARNING: all parts of onions (and related plants, like garlic) are toxic to dogs and cats! Raw or cooked, as little as 1/4 cup can make a 20-pound dog sick.
I like learning when I read, and I try to include bits of lesser-known information in my stories. For example, gasoline cost ten cents a gallon during the Great Depression, and around the time of the Civil War, the census’s listed the occupation of prostitutes as seamstresses.
Bottom line: Consider adding a little onion to your writing!
Self-concept is how people perceive their behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics. For example, beliefs such as “I am a good friend” or “I am a kind person” are part of an overall (positive) self-concept. These perceptions of oneself are important because they affect motivations, attitudes, and behaviors. Self-concept also impacts how people feel about who they think they are, including perceived competence and self-worth.
Low self-worth is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging (or evaluating) oneself critically, and placing a generally negative value on oneself as a person.
Self-esteem is a similar concept to self-worth but with a small (although important) difference: self-esteem is what we think, feel, and believe about ourselves, while self-worth is the more global recognition that we are valuable human beings worthy of love (Hibbert, 2013). People with low self-confidence tend to have low self-esteem and vice versa.
Some of the most common characteristics of low self-esteem—of which there are many—also appear in those with low self-worth:
Feelings of inadequacy
Extreme focus on clothing, makeup, grooming, etc., because of a belief that self worth comes from exterior appearance
Feeling like a burden to other people
Criticize their appearance and personality regularly in their head and out loud
Feeling a lack of control in life
Negative social comparison
Worry and self-doubt
Not trying things out of fear of failure
Neglect of their own needs, particularly emotional ones
Guilt over self-care
(E.g., you feel guilty buying things because you feel you don’t deserve them.)
Some of these characteristics have an obvious effect on how a person interacts with others.
Avoiding social situations
Trouble accepting positive feedback
Afraid to talk in a conversation, and belief that no one listens when they do
Sensitive to any criticism and obsessing about it for weeks if not months
Apologize when other people bump into them
Problems asking for what they need
Fear of leaving the house to avoid anything out of their comfort zone
Questioning how a romantic partner could possibly love them
Always needing everyone’s agreement
Needing constant validation from others
Constantly comparing themselves to other people
Treating Feel other people are more important
Belief that other people don’t actually enjoy your company and are just being polite
Some of these characteristics may affect how a person interacts with others in less obvious ways.
Frequent anger and irritability
Difficulty making decisions because of worry about making the wrong one
Needing to be perfect 100% of the time
Over-achieving in general
Overly accepting or not accepting flaws in others
Tendency to criticize other people to make oneself feel better
Jealousy of other peoples accomplishments, instead of being happy for them
Shifting blame to others because they think it is unacceptable to make the slightest mistake
How Did This Happen?
Causes of low self-esteem can include:
Disapproval from authority figures or parents
Emotionally distant parents
Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
Contentious divorce between parents
Bullying with no parent protection
Guilt associated with religion
Social beauty standards
Unrealistic goal setting
Does It Have To Be This Way?
If these sound all too familiar to you personally, don’t panic! You can retrain your brain and start to replace all the negative things you told yourself with positive things.
Several ways in which one can improve self-esteem:
Low self esteem can lead to anger, depression and anxiety, and generally a miserable life. Therefore, it’s important it is to work on it—and to keep working on it. If you have never worked on your self esteem before, positive affirmations for confidence are a good place to start.
Bottom line: You can identify low self-worth (in yourself and/or others) and portray it in your characters without an explicit label.
Of course, humans are driven by a lot more than two motivations. Various levels of deprivation (of all sorts of needs, such as food, shelter, sleep, sexual release, and much more) can motivate behavior in specific situations. Those are not the focus of this blog. Instead, I’m focusing on two powerful motives that tend to shape behavior across numerous situations and often whole lifetimes.
I’m talking about the need for achievement and the fear of failure.
In the simplest terms (according to me) the difference is striving to be the best versus trying to be good enough.
Need for Achievement
Need for achievement is the desire to obtain excellent results by setting high standards and striving to accomplish them. It is a consistent concern with doing things better.
People with high need for achievement often undertake tasks in which there is a high probability of success and avoid tasks that are either too easy (because of lack of challenge) or too difficult (because of fear of failure).
An example of the latter would be a 5-ft-tall basketball player with poor leaping ability, ball handling abilities, and passing skills. Such a person high in n-Ach is unlikely to try out for the team!
Studies have shown that feeling a sense of accomplishment is an important element in students developing positive wellbeing over time.
Research also shows that people with a strong sense of purpose, persistence, and accomplishment perform better at work.
People high in need for achievement present as ambitious, driven, successful … and insecure. The need for achievement drives behavior in school, work settings, even recreational activities. In case it isn’t obvious, this trait can cause problems:
Driven to achieve the task—any and every task
Fails to differentiate “urgent” from merely “important”
Has difficulty delegating
Struggles with producer-to-supervisor transition when promoted
Obsesses about getting the job done at all costs
No doubt about it, people high in n-Ach put themselves under a lot of pressure. At first glance, it might seem that such people should relax, take it easy, and be happy doing well enough.
Fearing failure in a particular endeavor is experienced by most people, including high n-Ach people, sometimes. Think a new situation or task, or one that’s just being learned. Think public performances. There are times when just not humiliating oneself is success.
Fear of Failure
But the fear of failure, more generally, is an irrational and persistent fear of failing.
(FYI, irrational and extreme fear of failing or facing uncertainty is a phobia known as atychiphobia.)
Sometimes fearing failure might be triggered in only one specific situation/task. Sometimes it’s more generalized. And sometimes it’s related to another mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.
In any case, the fear of failure varies in level of severity from mild to extreme. Here are a few ways it’s commonly exhibited:
A sense of hopelessness about the future
Chronic (versus occasional or limited) worry
Worry about what other people will think about you if you fail or don’t do well
High distractibility, being pulled off task by irrelevant or unimportant things
Avoiding tasks or people associated with a project or general goal
Physical symptoms (fatigue, headaches, digestive troubles, joint or muscle pain) that prevent working toward a goal
Believing that you don’t have the skills or knowledge to achieve something
Feeling like you won’t be able to achieve your goals
Procrastinating to the point that it affects your performance or ability to finish on time
Telling people that you will probably fail so that expectations remain low
Underestimating your own abilities to avoid feeling let down
Worrying that imperfections or shortcomings will make other people think less of you
Failing makes you worry about your ability to pursue the future you desire
Failing makes you worry that people will lose interest in you
Failing makes you worry about how smart or capable you are
Failing makes you worry about disappointing people whose opinions you value (especially family/friends)
You tend to tell people beforehand that you don’t expect to succeed in order to lower their expectations
Once you fail at something, you have trouble imagining what you could have done differently to succeed
You often get last-minute headaches, stomach aches, or other physical symptoms that prevent you from completing your preparation
You often get distracted by tasks that prevent you from completing your preparation which, in hindsight, were not as urgent as they seemed at the time
You tend to procrastinate and “run out of time” to complete your preparation adequately, as a way of protecting your belief in your ability to have done it
Bottom line: Two people may exhibit the same behavior, even turn in the same objective performance, but their reasons for doing so can vary dramatically.