I keep myself fairly clean

The Ugly

After writing fifty or so Medium stories, this feels like the right time to discuss how I keep my body clean.

As you know, I’ve called my body “the instrument.” Somewhere along the line the irony was lost and understandably I’ve taken a good bit of ribbing, including this piece, which led to a funny and unexpected mention in the New Yorker and a semi viral meme that caught me off guard (and totally blew my mind).

Suffice to say, the patterns involved with the maintenance of one’s body are relevant to lifestyle design.


For years I woke up every morning and like a senseless droid driven by routine, bathed my hair in hot chemicals (shampoo). Sometimes twice.

I’ve stopped the shampoo madness.

As I’ve mentioned in past stories, my hair is thinning. To those readers of the Millenial male demographic who are concerned about hair loss, I want to pause and speak directly to you for a moment…

Sixty percent of you will be completely bald within ten years. It is a statistical certainty, backed by numerous studies. The only thing you can do now is focus on the few good remaining years you have left.

My previous hair cleaning protocol would be appropriate if I spent every day on the Amazon River where bats and monkeys frequently shit on my head, plague bacteria incubated in my bangs and new leech varietals oozed from my mullet.

In reality my sweet little head rests on a nice fluffy pillow every night and then goes to my civilized office and bobs up and down in sanitized air, then back home to the confines of my adorable home, and then beddy bye time again!! There is no risk I will be forming natural dreadlocks or coming into contact with BART police.

My poor remaining hairs just want to survive by building up oils and other natural hair grime for nourishment and shelter. So no more chemical bath. Instead, I use a light dash of shampoo every ten days or so.

The only exceptions are those rare times when I return from a camping trip with my kids smelling like wood smoke; or if I’ve been engaged in physical labor like raking dirt or crawling through a dusty spider hole. Then I shampoo with gusto as if I’ve earned it.

Teeth cleaning.

I am a regular teeth brusher except when I fall asleep on the couch and stumble to bed sometime after midnight. Being up and moving around at that hour is already a dangerous situation for a Gen X man.

Other than taking a pee, there isn’t going to be any additional grooming or proactive maintenance at that hour. Half awake, I’ll be acting more like a desperate refugee or an active drug addict than someone interested in doing the right thing for my teeth.

The only other exception is if I’m traveling for business and forgot to pack my travel toothpaste. If there is no time to buy a $14 replacement tube from the hotel gift shop, I still brush, but without the medicine. There is always a faint hint of toothpaste from the toothbrush itself which grows fainter that night when I’ve likely continued to forget to buy more toothpaste.

Traditional Man’s Body Odor

I’m a champion of not getting body odor. I still wear deodorant every morning of course, but if I forgot to wear it one day I wouldn’t get BO. While my armpits smell like rainbows, nature has a way of compensating. For every yin there is a yang. My yang are feet.

My feet don’t smell very great. Leather work shoes, any shoes for that matter, make them angry. When they become angered they sweat. Then they smell. As a result I need to be careful about wearing that same pair of comfortable shoes too many days in a row. My foot friends will take over and infect the entire piece of Italian leather, rendering it biohazard.

Sadly I’ve been involved in work scenarios where I suddenly smell my own feet. My short term response is to stop moving entirely. I know that movement may waft smell particles into the air, making career advancement unlikely. The ultimate nightmare scenario is that the source of these exotic smells is mistaken, and they are assumed to originate from my ass. Why that would be worse is a philosophical question I will not answer in this essay.

My long term response to my foot issue, in addition to shoe rotation and shower scrubbing, is hot tub treatment at my local gym. I noticed a drop off in difficult work moments involving my feet after I started hitting the hot tub post workout. All hail, chlorine.


Not too long ago cleaning one’s body, even for those fortunate enough to live in the developed world, was optional. Then in the 19th Century hygiene was linked to illness and the first body cleaning protocols were adopted.

Back in those days, sitting in a bucket of lukewarm water outdoors was a real treat, enjoyed by the upper class. It was understood that the water would be brackish and nearly cold by the end of the “bath.” A sibling, child or acquaintance would utilize the same water, and ultimately the liquid would be used to make a thick soup and served to the community on the Sabbath.

While body cleaning techniques have evolved since those days, I think they should keep evolving to the point where I don’t feel compelled to lead this dialogue and can devote myself to other things like getting rich or writing the great American novel.


My feet would be honored if you hit Recommend and followed me on Medium. Thank you.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Dan Conway’s story.