Thursday, February 17, 2011

Worms and Germs

My mother, a true daughter of the early 20th century, was very germ conscious. As soon as she was able to find a pair of gloves to fit my two-year-old hands, I never left the house without them. And despite this protection, I was admonished to never "touch" ANYTHING! Bannisters and the undersides of theater seats were especially bad...and public restrooms? Forget it. Better I pee in my panties.

Were she still alive she would own many shares in the company that produces Purell.

Admittedly, her early training was not lost on me. I carry Purell in the car and use it after I have touched ANYTHING other people have touched.

However, my daughter, Paige, has a theory about our antiseptic approach to life....our bodies are going to lose their ability to naturally protect us from the worms and germs that nature intended us to play host to.  Witness all the weird ailments that seem to be visited on kids of today.

I'll let that theory play out and let the rest of the world worry about it since I have, so far, lived a long and incredibly healthy life.

For your amusement and edification, I am including a poem I learned at a very young age. To wit:

 Strictly Germ-proof
Arthur Guiterman 1919 

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup    
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;    
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;—    
It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t Sterilized.    
They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;           
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;    
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope    
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.    
In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;    
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;      
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand    
And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band.    
There’s not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;    
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;    
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—    
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.      

Book -The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women,
and the Microbe in American Life
by Nancy Tomes  1998
(Available at
Truncated Review by J.A. Walker-Smith, M.D.
for The New England Journal of Medicine

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