Just when the bed bug calamity is beginning to die down on the news this morning was a story about bacteria levels on menus, ketchup bottles, salt & peppershakers and other items you may find on tabletops in restaurants. And just to make the visuals REALLY impactful, the report would cut away to microscope slides with squirming wriggling organisms the voice over claiming, in melodramatic intonation, “millions of such bacteria can be found on ONE menu”. Random people on the street were asked to comment and were disgusted and mildly outraged.
Please, as if they didn’t know.
And I couldn’t help but wonder when this strange fascination with bacteria and germs grew to such obsessive proportions?
When I was growing up no one worried about germs. Your mom licked her fingers to wipe food off your face and if she didn’t she let the dog lick it off with nary a protestation. I drank out of the garden hose that had been sitting all winter in the shed where all sorts of vermin could have had their way with it. I once ate a potato out of the dog dish but only because I had to “out do” my eldest sister who had impressively eaten a dead fly off the windowsill.
One day I was dared to eat cat food. So I did. Not bad. A bit salty but otherwise perfectly consumable.
My mother never put bandages on anything. She adhered to the wisdom “the air needs to get at it”. Sometimes she’d break out the Mercurochrome (which is now banned because of it’s mercury content) and our scabs would be stained a reddish orange. We all lived to tell our tales of skin scraping adventures.
I’ve cut the mold off a block of cheese and still used it for sandwiches. Didn’t ride in a car seat as a baby and never wore a seatbelt until I was ten years old. As a kid I never wore a bike helmet when riding my two-wheeler down a gravel country road at break neck speed or attempting to ride it on the ice on the lake. (Where we had some spectacular wipe – outs I’ll have you know).
Now, I would never advocate biking without a helmet or driving without a seatbelt but people have to learn to be less paranoid about living. There’s enough in this world to be afraid of instead of dirty menus or bugs or mold on your cheese. Life is messy. You’re not living unless you get bruised and scraped. And what is worse is when little children afraid to get bumped or bruised or, heaven forbid, DIRTY. If you play hard, if you live authentically, you have to be prepared to get scruffy and sore. And let’s face it, it’s only after days like these when you have your deepest of sleeps.
So my challenge to you this year is to banish any thought of bugs and bacteria, metaphorical or otherwise, and “live deliberately…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” (Henry David Thoreau).
And get good and dirty doing so.