Strangely, one of the most controversial parts of the Gen Con for the Aspiring Professional blog posts (or the Conventions for the Aspiring Game Professionals .pdf that was inspired by them) was the section on hygiene. More comments, conversations and mail came in about that one part than any other single section.
Not that I had anyone write in and tell me that that hygiene wasn’t important – I think that’s a given (which is why it was in the Basics section).
But some folks wrote in and said that they thought that such a topic was, if anything, too basic. That no one “really” needed to be told to shower every day (especially in a situation where they were attempting to make a professional impression). One reader went so far as to say that if someone needed to be reminded about basic hygiene, they “didn’t deserve” to find work in the gaming industry or any other field. Ouch – that’s harsh. I’m a firm believer that we all have our “things” we’re blind about, and that we can, in fact, learn to be less blind about them.
On the other hand, there were almost exactly an equal number who wrote in to say that they were glad the hygiene section was included. Some said it was a good reminder for themselves – that in the hustle and bustle of preparing for a convention, sometimes they’re tempted to let the basics slide. Others wrote to say that they game with, hang out with, or have been approached professionally by someone who really needed a reminder about basic hygiene etiquette.
Since it’s such a touchy subject, sometimes it’s very difficult to tell a friend, fellow gamer, co-worker or family member that their hygiene could be improved. Sometimes we are on casual enough terms with them that we can just say “Dude, take a shower. Seriously.” But not everyone’s on such easy terms with the folks who need a-talkin’ to…
So, I thought that I’d touch on the topic in today’s One Geek to Another as a public service. If there’s someone who you’ve been wondering how to broach the subject with, you can just tell them about this great new blog you’ve been following and send them to read – I can’t guarantee they’ll “get it” but it might work. (Now, if you’ve been sent here to the column and stumbled across this post – don’t be paranoid! It could be utter coincidence – but, then again, it might be worth thinking about whether you fit the proverbial bill or not…)
We’ve all taken health class in school. The basics are simple. They apply to everyone.
- Shower and wash your hair every day.
- Put on clean clothes, every day. (Really clean, not just kinda clean)
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Use deodorant/antiperspirant.
99% of all hygiene issues can be dealt with by following these four rules. If you’re not following them, you should be.
Beyond the daily maintenance issues, here are some habits and practices that are hygiene-etiquette related.
- Toothpick/floss – While good dental etiquette is admirable, don’t pick or floss your teeth at the table, or in public. Excuse yourself to the restroom.
- Nail care – Likewise, nail clipping, filing or hang-nail fussing are not public activities. If you break a nail and need to fix it, and there’s no where to excuse yourself to, do so discretely and without drawing attention to yourself. But maintenance care is not something to be shared.
- Farts – Yes, Terrence and Phillip go on and on about them in South Park. Monty Python made them hilarious and they’re a staple in Black Adder humor. But seriously? You don’t need to share. If possible, remove yourself to a private area (restroom or outside) to fart. If not, don’t make a huge fuss. Say “Excuse me”, and don’t make a big deal out of it. Likewise, if someone else passes gas, don’t make a scene about it.
- Conversational Topics – Hygiene and health issues are, for the most part, private matters. While you may feel comfortable going into detail about the effects of your lactose-intolerance or ingrown-toenail, chances are there are folks around who really don’t want or need the details. Save it for conversations with your doctor.
- Smoking – While to smoke or not to smoke is a personal question, it becomes a hygiene issue in two ways – firstly, be aware that even if you can’t smell or taste it, your habit does leave an unpleasant (to most) aura around you, not just while you’re smoking, but for a time afterwards as well. If you’re going to be interacting closely with those who don’t smoke (like at a gaming table, sitting next to them at a movie, or doing other close-proximity activities), please wash your hands and brush your teeth (or chew some mint gum) after doing so. It won’t completely mask the aroma, but it will at least minimize it a bit. Secondly, be aware of where and when you are smoking. Don’t smoke in the homes or cars of, or when standing nearby, those who would prefer not to smell like your habit. If you step outside to smoke, move away from the entryway, so that folks don’t have to walk through your smoke to enter or exit.
- Shoes and Boots – Even when good hygiene is practiced, shoes and boots can be a problem point. Wearing clean socks every time you wear them will help, as will changing between several pair (if possible) to allow them to air out between wearings. Foot powder, anti-odor insoles and other general maintenance practices can also reduce the likelihood of your shoes becoming toxic zones. However, if you’re not sure yours are non-offensive to be around, don’t take them off, or tuck them discretely away from others’ senses if you must remove them.
Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at OneGeek@jesshartley.com and your question may get answered in one of our future “One Geek to Another” columns!