I was shocked, shocked the other night! One of my friends, a very nice Chinese girl, was cold, so one of our white friends offered her a jacket. She asked him if it was washed and in a plastic bag. He said no. She and I recoiled in horror, and he responded merely with confusion. This incident finally showed me that a very wide cultural gulf exists between Asia and the United States. For the sake of racial harmony, I have taken it upon myself to describe The Rules of Asian Hygiene. Here they are:
1. Dirt is invisible. It could be germs, it could be carcinogenic chemicals, or merely particles of yick that are too small to see. Just because it looks clean, doesn’t mean it is.
2. There is no three second rule. If it hits the floor, it is dirty. You must rinse it or throw it away, as appropriate.
3. Plastic grocery bags are considered clean, if harvested directly from a grocery store, and stored inside a grocery bag whose interior has also been determined to be clean.
4. Rinsing with water is sufficient to purify most items. Lysol and rubbing alcohol should also be employed as necessary in more extreme circumstances. However, dirt magically accumulates as a function of time if the item has been exposed to air, so you must either seal your things with a plastic bag, or periodically wash them.
5. Your own stuff is usually clean for your own consumption, but you cannot use other people’s things unless they have been thoroughly purified.
6. Food must be as clean as possible, but it counts as dirt if it touches something that isn’t your mouth. For example, dropping a piece of watermelon sullies both the watermelon with the dirt from the floor, and the floor with watermelon juice.
Now that you are familiar with the ground rules, you have the context to understand certain Asian customs.
1. Shoes off before you enter a house. Don’t track dirt inside! Who cares if it wasn’t muddy? Remember: dirt is invisible! Truly hardcore Asian families will tear up the carpet and replace them with hardwood floors so it’s easier to clean and see dirt.
2. Shower at night, not in the morning. You’ll be sleeping in your own dirt.
Still having trouble understanding? See if you can spot the error in the following scenario:
Belinda’s white friend Leonard offers her an orange. It has been unpeeled. He didn’t wash his hands before offering it to her, and, instead of handing it to her, he puts it on the table for her to pick up. What rules of Asian hygiene were broken?
Answer: Since he didn’t wash his hands, and hands constantly accumulate dirt as described in rule 4, he contaminated the range, thus breaking rule 6. By not throwing away the orange, Leonard also broke rule 2. The juice of the orange has also contaminated the table, again by rule 6, thus forcing Belinda to go through the extra trouble of finding a damp rag to clean the table off with. What an inconsiderate boy!
Now that you have read The Rules and seen a real-world example, it should be easy for you to identify what went so horribly wrong with our white friend’s well-intentioned proffering of his jacket. It was a tragic trampling of rules 4 and 5; a particularly egregious example. You really can’t make this shit up.
And with this modest contribution to cross-cultural understanding and harmony between the East and the West, I am going to bed.