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Most Americans are not familiar with the unique "fourth" bathroom fixture, long an essential in the sophisticated homes and hotels of Paris, Rome, Caracas and Rio. It's called the Bidet (pronounced Bee-Day) and may be described as a little bath to sit in.

(Kohler Company Collection)

It appears that the Bidet had its origin in France. It was comprised of a simple encased receptacle used to hold the water and supported in a portable wooden stool. The name "Bidet" originally meant small horse. French Cavaliers desirous of bathing but having little time to do so, were indeed thankful for the original version of the Bidet. It permitted partial bathing of those body parts which were in close contact with their saddles.

The Bidet is almost always placed beside the bathroom toilet (as illustrated above) and is actually a form of lavatory. It provides convenient facilities for intimate personal cleansing of the rectal and genital areas of the human body usually not accessible for washing when fully dressed. It is the most significant innovation for personal hygiene and sanitation since the introduction of indoor plumbing itself.

The chief purpose of the Bidet is to maintain for the user a constant state of cleanliness after each use of the toilet. The Bidet should be considered a hygienic necessity rather than a luxury or status symbol. Daily use of the Bidet should become as conventional as brushing one's teeth.

After elimination, it is impossible to cleanse the rectal/vaginal areas with dry toilet paper. Warm water is obviously a better cleansing agent than the softest, prettiest or costliest toilet paper available. Any family laundress or personal valet can testify to this statement.

Toilet paper has been perfumed, decorated in color, sterilized and made antiseptic, but nevertheless, it is still dry paper and only a step better in evolutionary improvement than the pages of the mail order catalogue or the barbaric plantain leaf.

If it is routine to wash one's hands after using the toilet, is it even not more logical to wash one's bottom? Babies always have their bottoms washed clean, powdered and pampered. However, upon graduating from infancy to the stage of self reliant childhood, they are permitted to revert to the medieval custom of wiping and dry toilet paper. American parents are solely responsible for depriving their children of the appropriate guidance and education on this subject. Perhaps this is the result of the Puritanical American culture and heritage handed down through the years.

Most Americans are reluctant to talk about the matters which Bidets are concerned with. Many people look upon the Bidet with ridicule, thinking it is reserved for Parisiennes of doubtful virtue*, solely for feminine hygiene (douche bowl), or for prophylactic purposes (birth control). The latter is obviously not accomplished with plain water washing. Some misinformed Americans maintain that if people take enough baths or showers they do not need the Bidet. It should be realized that the Bidet is not a competitor of the bathtub or stall shower, but an adjunct-auxiliary-facility.

It is truly amazing that although American plumbing manufacturers produce more Bidets than manufacturers in any other country, these same Bidets are exported away from the very people who believe that they lead the world in personal cleanliness and hygiene habits. It appears incredible that the modern American who spends so many billions of dollars on cosmetics, drugs, and various other personal care preparations annually, as compared to similar expenditures for physicians' services, should be so concerned about fastidious daintiness and well being for 98% of his body, when for the better part of each 24 hours he blissfully ignores his invisible but nevertheless soiled derriere.

(*) Song of the Bidet
I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair...
...Apologies to the South Pacific!

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