Homelessness, Heartache… and Hygiene

Before you read this post, read this:
Al Jazeera: Hygiene and Heartache

If you can’t be bothered to read that, don’t read this post.

HomelessGroupWithDogsFrancoFoliniOnFlickrHomeless Woman with Dogs, by Franco Folini on Flickr

The Al Jazeera article just made me cry, and I don’t do that much. Homelessness in all its forms is a concern of mine, but reading about what these women go through really got to me. On a day when I’ve been doing yard work and I get stinky, I can run inside and shower up real quick before work or before going out in public as a disgusting mess.

Maybe it’s because I’m one of those people — okay, one of those women — who is not the ideal of womanhood in that I sweat: I do not perspire gently or “glow.” I sweat and I stink, in all ways, all over — truly gross. I’ve warned my husband not to get too close to me at such times. I’ll never forget dragging out an old batch of T-shirts from the back of the drawer several years ago and thinking I should use them for yard work. They were clean, washed. I saw some GAPO on some of them and it prompted me to smell them. There was a lingering odor of old sweat washed many times. I was sitting on the floor with this pile of T-shirts around me, smelling the pits and wrinkling my nose. “Ugh. Eew. Ugh! Yuck. Really?”

Nitram walked into the room and gave me the side-eye. “What… are you doing?”

I handed him one of the T-shirts. “Smell this… in the armpit.”

He did, and made an appropriate face, handing it back to me with an odd look of —- dare I say it — almost pride, or some kind of weird respect on his face. “You — you are a force to be reckoned with.”

“I know! Gross, right?”

“Oh yeah.”

Thank heavens for tolerant husbands.

Thank heavens for our house, our warm shower, and all the daily things we take for granted that go along with that.

Homelessness comes with a myriad of problems generally inconceivable to most of us. This post in particular focuses on hygiene — female hygiene — but trust me, there are other and many more problems that are a daily concern to homeless people — hunger and warmth and health, to name a few. Respect any person would give another person they pass on the street — that’s a big one.

Another is homeless people who have pets. Maybe it’s a knee-jerk reaction, but I’ve heard so many people say things like, “They’re homeless, how they can afford to have a pet?” Or, so much worse, “They’re homeless — they don’t deserve to have a pet.”

Oh, really? If you even have to think about that one, well then: Fuck. You.

HomelessGroupWithDogsFrancoFoliniOnFlickrHomeless Group with Dogs, by Franco Folini on Flickr

As is often the case, women have a special sort of hell reserved for them in this instance: hygiene. (Women have the same hell reserved for them in regular life, too  — so many men haven’t a clue to what it takes to be one’s own definition of clean, much less a man’s definition of how a woman “should” be clean.) Men don’t bleed out of their genitals monthly, that’s one thing. Men don’t have to shave their pits to feel attractive. Nor do some women, but most of us still feel the need to do so. I’ve been shaving my pits since I was a teen, and if I let it go too long, the feeling of that crispy, growing bit of hair under my arms drives me crazy. I think: Ick, how do men live like that? Yuck! But it all comes down to what you’re used to in your life. And so many women are used to being at least somewhat smooth-skinned, and clean in their gennies.

SailorsPerformComminityServiceOfficalUSNavyPageCClicenseFemHygieneSailors Perform Community Service, Official U.S. Navy Page on Flickr

See, because it doesn’t matter if you just want to just keep clean, or what country you’re in, or how smelly you are or aren’t in your regular life, or if you’re male or female. It’s just a basic thing with homeless people that aside from those who have mental/emotional/psychological or other unimaginable problems that prevent them from taking care of the most basic of necessities for themselves, there are the others who are “like us.” Seriously: truly just like us, or your version of what “like us” means, but without a home or house — who quite literally do not have a fucking pot to piss in. Or a tampon or sanitary pad. Or toilet paper. Or access to a shower or other basic sanitary facility in which they don’t have to worry about being raped or disrespected in some way.

Don’t make me do your homework for you. See what kind of homeless assistance is available to you locally: it’s only a click away.

And if you feel a need to make a judgmental comment on homelessness in general in response to this post, you’re reading the wrong blog. So go back to FB and spout off there. Otherwise: Thank you.


 TheOldManIsSnoringThe Old Man Is Snoring by Lea Wiertel on Flickr


Monday morning, I was so out of it that I couldn’t really get fully awake and make sense. I stayed in bed while Nitram was in the shower, and I was still in bed, mostly asleep, when he got out. He wandered around getting dressed, and the dogs cuddled up to me, and he liked seeing that, even though I felt I was being lazy. I tried talking to him and it came out all mumbly. Nothing was making sense.

He had snored the night before, which he doesn’t often do. It was the kind of snoring that sounds like someone is strangling on their tonsils while trying to cough up a weasel caught in their throat. I remember reaching out several times during the night and touching his head, sort of rocking his skull back and forth on the pillow to try to make it stop.

And I remembered that, when he asked me why I was so tired. I said, “The dogs were on me all night. You were snoring.” He said he was sorry, and I said, “You were snoring… it sounded like your ass was trying to come out of your face.” He said, “Oh… nice,” and almost sounded a bit miffed.

About an hour after he’d left and I was having a second cup of tea, I finally started to really wake up, and suddenly remembered what I’d said to him. I barely made it putting the teacup on the table before I bent double, laughing like a braying donkey! I almost started crying. Scared the dogs.

He always calls me from NJsux on Monday mornings when he’s in the parking lot at work, to let me know he’s got there safe. So an hour or so after my fit, he called, and I remembered it again and started laughing, trying to apologize for what I’d said. Usually our Monday “I’m here safe” conversations last a minute or so. I kept laughing and apologizing, and he said, “Yeah, you said something like I was pooping out of my mouth,” and I shrieked and completely lost it.

It’s been coming back to me once in a while all week and I still get all creased up thinking about it.

*honkshu* … *honkshu* … *honkshu*

The Beautiful People (in my mouth)

Dentist today.


Dr H has been bugging me to have three old crowns from the ’80s replaced, so I did two today (will do the third late next year). What an experience. I’ve had enough 90-minute appointments there to know what it takes to put in a crown or two. But this time, he had to take off the old ones. Holy hell, I think he used the dentist’s version of a jackhammer. It all seemed like a lot longer than 90 minutes.

Toward the end, he said, “I’m going to put the temporary crowns in, but I have to seal your gums around them because they go below the gumline.” I know that crown go below the gumline, but this sealing thing was new. He said, “I’ll give you a little more Novocaine along the edges of your gums, but you won’t feel that” (I was already full up on the stuff) “and then I’ll use electrical pulses to seal the gums.”


I said okay — what do I know? More to the point, what choice did I have? So he gave me more Novocaine, then said, “This little pad goes under your shoulder,” and slipped a small, thin pad under my shoulder. Hmm. The pad had a wire attached to it. Hmmmm. I frowned. My eyes narrowed. When Pickle got her warts removed, Dr Fitch had been telling me she’d had to lay Pickle down on a special pad so she didn’t get a shock from the electric burning-off of the warts. So there I was, about to get my gums seared, not sealed.

So he does this, and I smell a very slight waft now and then of damp, burning flesh. Gag. But this kind of appointment involves a lot of weird smells: medicinal, mostly, but also the occasional other mysterious, unidentifiable smell. This smell was of the latter category, but it didn’t take long to realize I’d been hoodwinked into having my gums burned off at the edges for some nefarious purpose.

Then he does the rest of it all: cementing, polishing, etc.

During the whole appointment, I feel like it’s taking forever — really, longer than usual. Maybe halfway through, I had asked him if everything was going okay, because he kept stopping every few minutes for maybe 30 seconds at a time. He said yes, it’s going wonderfully, and that he’s just stopping now and then to give me a break because this is a bit tougher than usual.

Ya think?

The appointment turned out to be about 80 minutes. During a 90-minute appointment, I often get bored and sleepy. This time, I was bored, sleepy, and wondering if it was ever going to end — ever. I think the mini jackhammer had a lot to do with that. There were pieces of old crown flying everywhere, even up my nose. I actually heard a couple pieces pinging off of metal objects in the room (the tray, etc.).

So I go back in three weeks to have the new, permanent crowns put in. That’s just a 40-minute appointment, which will seem like 20 minutes compared to this one.

Finally getting up from the chair, I said to Dr H, “That thing with the ‘sealing’ the gums — that’s new to me. That was weird.”

Dr H is a very mellow guy with a wonderfully soothing, melodic voice. Pretty much nothing fazes him. He says, “Oh, we do it all the time.”

“Yeah, well, in all these years, you never did that to me. And, I dunno what all this is about sealing them — you cooked them.”

He gets this reluctant grin on his face, which translates exactly to: We don’t say we’re going to burn your gums with electrodes, because then you would leap from the chair and run screaming.

To that, I reply, “Uh-huh. Yup. You burned them. You seared them. That was gross.

His grin is huge now. “Okay, well…”

I grin back at him as best I can because the left side of my face has detached itself from my skull and may be on the back of my head for all I know, thanks to Novocaine. I really have no idea what my face is doing, but I know he’s used to that. The hygienist is giggling as she’s cleaning up all the stuff that was flying around the room out of my mouth. Dr H and I start to walk out of the room to the front desk. He had asked me at the beginning if the music was okay — there was some ’60s station on, which I could very much have done without, but I wanted to hear him sing along to it under his breath as he worked (as usual), and I wasn’t disappointed.

So I said, “You know… If the music had been different, this could have been a Marilyn Manson video.”

We’re walking down the hall. He’s musing. “Marilyn Manson… Marilyn — oh! For a minute there, I thought you meant Charles Manson!” We crack up, but I’m thinking: Yeah, that too, maybe. He grins again. “I thought you were insulting me.”

At the front desk, he tells Kathy when the next appointment should be, pats me on the shoulder as always — with a slight affectionate squeeze — and wishes me a great Thanksgiving. He walks back down the hall, shaking his head and laughing to himself: “Marilyn Manson… Marilyn Manson…”

On the way home, I’m thinking how it’s been at least 20 years he’s been my dentist, and as for a happy Thanksgiving, I am so very thankful for him. As a child, I was going to dentists in the ’60s and early ’70s who were the Conan the Barbarian of dentistry (blood on the walls: literally, not figuratively). Dr H has put up with me since the beginning, when I was a whimpering, cowering, crying, scowling, hissing wreck each time I went there. How he got through our first several years without kicking me to the curb is a mystery to me.

He truly is one of the Beautiful People — in the best sense