Americans often wonder about the extra item found in many European bathrooms. It looks like a hybrid between a sink and a toilet, but it is not either. It is the dearly-beloved bidet.
Italians love their bidets and think Americans are coarse, uncouth and dirty creatures for not using them. Americans can barely look at a bidet without laughing.
Americans say bidets waste water, Italians say Americans waste toilet paper. Oh Good Lord, it is all so silly. The world will not be deforested by Americans using too much toilet paper and the seas will not go dry because of Europeans using the bidet too often. All that is required is moderation.
Once, while planning a ski vacation in the Italian Alps with a group of mamma friends, one friend suggested a charming hotel and another said, “No, no we can’t go there. I was there last year, they don’t have bidets in the bathrooms!” Later I confided to my husband, “I don’t know about her, but I am going to the alps to ski, not to sit on the bidet.” He thought that my comment was snide, inappropriate and very American.
But I must say, now that I have been living with bidets for the past 18 years, they are absolutely fabulous, especially when you have kids. A bidet can be useful for so many things, besides the obvious. It makes a great baby bath. Lots of people I know use it to wash their feet. You can rinse out dirty baby clothes in it, or hand-wash your own. It is awfully handy for a sponge-bath and my daughters have even used it for brushing their teeth when there is a rush on the bathroom sink in the morning before school.
Some Italians even have other uses. I was once at a cocktail party chatting in a group and somehow the “bidet” question came up. A middle-aged professor piped up, “In my opinion the bidet was invented for the siesta-tresca. It is the perfect solution.” That was a bit of a conversation stopper. Let me explain. Until recently, Italians took a long afternoon siesta. Stores would close down from 1pm to 5pm and families would go home to eat together and take a rest. “Tresca” is an Italian word meaning “little fling” or “love affair”. (Dictionary translation: Illicit Amorous Relationship). Back in the 60s or 70s Italian men would have lunch with their family then maybe stop in to see their lover for the siesta-tresca before going back to work. The bidet was used for a quick wash-up after the siesta-tresca, I suppose.
A little background here. According to my less-than-thorough investigation, Bidets were a French invention, and the word Bidet actually comes from the old French “to trot” (Oh Good Grief, what were those funny Frenchmen doing on their bidets?). The French began using bidets back in the 1700s, the Italians were not far behind. If you think about it, bidets must have made a lot of sense back them. There were no showers and to fill the bathtub with hot water was hard work. First one had to heat the water, then carry buckets to the tub.
Baths and showers are easier now, but the bidet is oh-so-handy.
So, all you American readers, it is time for us all to get over our hostility towards that unassuming little porcelain object in the corner of bathroom, it is the FABULOUS BIDET.
Post in: Italiano
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.