Dirty Pretty Things
My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn't that disgusting?
Click here to read a transcript of Prudie's live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
My girlfriend of six months has worn the same bra every day now for two weeks. I really wonder: Is this a normal thing for most women or a psychological issue? I feel it is a matter of hygiene, abnormal behavior, and also really gross.
Perhaps your worries about hygiene arise from watching too much soft-core porn in which women get in the shower and soap their breasts for extended periods. This is not because breasts are intrinsically dirty but because such scenes are gratifying to dirty minds. If bra hygiene were an actual issue, don't you think American womanhood would have been subjected to decades of commercials along the lines of, "What's that smell?" "It's Myrna's bra. Someone has to tell her!" On your behalf, I actually polled some of the cleanest women I know on their bra-washing schedules. The answers ranged from "weekly" to "when my white bras look black and can walk themselves to the washing machine." The average was a monthly laundering. So your girlfriend's behavior is perfectly normal and neither unhygienic nor gross. I understand that the intimate rituals of the opposite sex can be mysterious and even repulsive to the uninitiated (see the recent letter on men searching their underwear for the Hope diamond). But if you want your girlfriend of six months to be your girlfriend six months from now, you will drop the judgmental tone and think of yourself as a lucky explorer of a fascinating, strange land.
My daughter is getting married in a few months to a great guy. She is white; he is black. My wife's grandmother has some very racist attitudes about such things. Against my strongly stated advice, my wife's side of the family, as well as the groom, has agreed to simply not tell her about her great-granddaughter's engagement or wedding. She is very old, has little contact with us, and, if everyone keeps their mouths shut, will never find out about my daughter's marriage and future children. They are worried it "will kill her." They are also worried about being cut out of a large will. I have told all involved that I do not want to participate in this deceit and if contacted by the great-grandmother (which probably won't happen), I will not lie. What say you about this situation?
—Mixed Up in Marriage Madness
Dear Mixed Up,
Although I understand the impulse to protect people from the kind of news that "will kill them," I have to side with Nietzsche on this one and say that for old bigots and the like, disturbing news is less likely to kill them than to make them stronger. Great-Grandma is a racist who is already disconnected from the family. Everyone, including the groom, believes that having her attend an interracial wedding will not cause her to be enlightened but the wedding to be blighted, so I agree with the people who just want to leave this old woman out of it. Sure, there is something distasteful about having money be part of the reason for the silence. But since the rest of your family didn't inherit Great-Grandma's racism, there's no reason not to keep quiet and inherit her cash. If her knowledge of the wedding would prompt her to leave her estate to the KKK, why provoke her? You're not being asked to actively participate in deceiving Great-Grandma; you're just being asked to keep out of it. So do so.
Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.