When I was brushing my teeth this morning I was struck by a thought at the time of the rinsing part of the procedure. The thought originated with the bathroom glass. I picked it up and held it to the light, and was mutely fascinated by the fact it was just barely translucent. It was a veteran of many brushings, water residue, and the use of more than one person. That it needed washing went without saying (and it was so washed), but the more important point is we, members of a household who live in close proximity aren’t always entirely fastidious.
The bathroom glass is an example of situational esthetics.
If I were to go to the kitchen cupboard and extricate a glass from within and it was an ugly, scummy distasteful looking receptacle, I would thrust it from me, wonder how it got into the cupboard in such a state, and find another, cleaner glass.
That’s why the bathroom glass situation is, well, situational. One expects a bathroom glass to be a little less than perfect. In fact, you can walk into anybody else’s bathroom and, after you finish inspecting their medicine chest to see what kind of addictive drugs they’ve had prescribed, and look at their glass. It may be even worse than yours. And, even if their glass is pretty ratty looking, you probably don’t think less of them as human beings, and will continue to assume they shower and change their undies daily.
From the time we are children, we are taught that certain things are nice and certain things are nasty. What makes them nasty? The divine decree of the household, usually Mom. Therefore, picking one’s nose is nasty. Everybody does it, but we reach a certain age and try to avoid doing so in front of others. We also, somehow, think that if we are in our cars we are invisible and some dastardly and slovenly souls will pick away with impunity, like at traffic lights.
Picture his, a fine fellow walks down the street and he spies a wonderful looking woman. The sort of woman a chap would like to get to know better. His mind races, and he thinks this is the sort of woman I would like to know as well as I could know anyone. I would like to hug her and kiss her, and kiss her very deeply, and then to make mad love to her. That is what I would like to do. So, let us say that he (in his lust-fuelled mind) has indulged in all those intimacies. And let’s say that same beautiful woman has noticed our man ogling her. So, she turns, smiles and walks over to him. She looks more luscious than ever when she gets up close. She speaks.
“I watched you watching me,” she says with a seductive smile. “I think you are a very handsome and very sexy looking dude. And I was wondering, I’ve finished chewing my gum now, and I was thinking I could give it to you to chew for a while.”
Eww! His lustful feelings would vanish in a minute and he, who wanted to kiss her deeply, is repelled by the thought of chewing the spearmint she’s been munching on for the past hour. Situational esthetics again.
We will permit a cat to lick a child. Would we permit the child to lick a cat? Why not? The same bacteria are being transferred in both cases. The cat has been licking the baby’s fingers; the baby sticks her fingers into her mouth. But, children don’t lick cats. It’s not done. It offends.
Other examples of situational esthetics:
– We delight in eating escargot (at least some do). Escargot is snails. We would be repulsed at being offered slugs as a viable alternative. It’s the same animal, but without the shell. But, no matter how much garlic butter we might slather on them, slugs are out of the question. Likewise, we revel in seeing lobster, crab and prawns on a menu, but would be horrified to see scorpion or tarantula on the bill of fare, in even the finest restaurant.
– We demand that public businesses like restaurants and shops provide loos for both men and women, yet both sexes use the same potty at home. Some especially world folk don’t even bother closing the door. I’m not that worldy. I think Europeans are a little less anal (if that’s an appropriate term) in this regard.
– We can spit without hesitation at a dental appointment, but few are those above the age of fourteen who would do such a thing in the street – thank God.
– We permit a doctor, who may be a perfect stranger, to become extremely familiar with the most intimate areas of our bodies, and do things we wouldn’t permit even a really, really good friend to do, and we don’t suffer (much) embarrassment as a consequence.
– We delude ourselves into thinking an airline hostess has a more glamorous job than a restaurant waitress. Likewise, we tell ourselves that those who travel on airplanes are a superior class of people to those who must take the bus. Bus passengers may be poorer but, considering some of the trashy people I have flown with, they aren’t necessarily inferior. just because they are forced to go Greyhound.
What are some situational esthetics situations with which you’re familiar? Oh, and by the way, the bathroom glass was washed immediately after I wrote this.