Black Death

Sometimes in the evening when I’m struggling to bathe my children – which in my house entails wrestling, screaming, crying and endless (often unsuccessful) reminders that, no, we never drink the dirty bath water, and, yes, I am indeed sure that the only place we poop is the potty – I wish we lived at the turn of the 17th century when many people believed baths were dangerous, not cleansing, and should be avoided at all costs. Sure, maybe the science was a little hazy. In my experience, water doesn’t open my pores enough to let disease (save for the rare bath-induced UTI). And, if it did, boy would I have clear, glowing skin. But the idea that all one needs to do to achieve acceptable standards of hygiene is to change their undershirt, in my opinion, would be the smart way to clean children. These people had too many kids to spend their days pleading with them to bathe. And maybe, for this, they deserve our respect…

Before germ theory (c. 1900), people had many ideas about the agents of disease. In early modern Europe, “miasma,” or the concept that sickness was caused from bad smells, was a leading explanation. And before you scoff, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of needing to relieve yourself in a port-a-potty, you, too may have arrived at such a theory. It just makes good, smelly sense…

During the Black Plague, doctors invented these terrifying-looking beak masks to help fight the drink that they were sure spread death. They would stuff sweet-smelling spices in the beak of these masks, protecting them from the foul and dangerous buboes of their patients. I can’t 100% decide whether to be grateful our own pandemic masks don’t look like this, or envious as I smell my own breath of their innovative genius.

Published by imworriedmytherapisthatesme

I'm a history-PhD-turned-stay-at-home-mom of three. When I'm not microwaving Trader Joe's meals for my kids, breaking up fights and wiping butts, I like to paint and write. To cope with the endless hours I'm spending with my son doing virtual school, I've abandoned my gouache paints for the more portable, less messy tried but true, paper and ink. While he learns to read to 20 floating heads on his screen, I sit on a tiny chair, at a tiny table pretending to be a productive adult.

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