One inquiring mind emailed, "without indoor plumbing, how do Swartzentruber Amish bathe? I presume by obviously filling up a tub with water, but how often would they take baths? Would they do so in the kitchen? I'm just curious as to how it worked, and if they'd get any privacy since the families are typically so large."
Is this question too invasive? I see it as wanting to learn. This blog is for cultural literacy so I welcome questions. (Tweet This)
For most Swartzentruber - the uber conservative, insular sect - the Ordnung prohibits indoor plumbing. Usually bath time is Saturday evening. According to our "son" Mosie and others I know, they heat bath water on the stove and fill a large tub. Each family member takes turns using the bath water to clean him/herself.
If the water was too dirty, his father would drain the tub and refill with newly warmed water for the remaining children. No deodorant. No talc. Just dry and dress.
Being Dad, Mosie's father would rinse out the tub and heat his own fresh water. I guess rank has its privileges. Mosie told me his dad was always last to bathe.
Saturday evening is typical because Gma (church) is the next morning. I posted about Amish Gma on January 17, 2013.
"What about summer when everyone is sweaty or more dirty?" I once asked Mosie.
"Then we might take a bath twice in a week."
I know it may seem gross today but, then large families conserved water, heat, and Mom's energy by recycling bath water. When my daughters were young, I'd often plop both in the same tub together.
Remember, this may be different between families! Those with fewer children - or a married couple - probably vary their personal routines. I know a few Swartzentruber couples who bought an English house - complete with convenient indoor plumbing. So you guess the rest.
Facial hair on men usually follows this practice:
- young, unmarried boys have no facial hair.
- adolescents who wish to grow a bit of a beard, may trim it. But only according to the settlement rules - not too short.
- married men must grow a beard. No trimming or shaving - except above the lip. Mustaches are verboten by the Ordnung.
Females wear braided hair to Gma. No makeup. No plucking stray hairs. No jewelry. In fact, attention to the body is discouraged as this could lead to vanity or pride.
dental hygiene - most are not taught the benefits of daily brushing. Most of the ones I know, except Josh, Levi, and our son-in-law, have full dentures or a partial. Why? Levi told me, "I was taught to brush once a week." Regular dental maintenance among Swartzentruber Amish is uncommon.
On top of that, some of the ex-Amish I know were allowed to smoke cigarettes . . . even as children! Mosie smoked. So did Monroe. Sarah, too. Abe. Andy. Uria. Dan.
I've posted about young Sarah, 20 y/o, who has full lower dentures and an upper partial. Her teeth were so rotten that the Amish dentist - who also ran a furniture store - yanked out her bad teeth. Then an Amish woman would make the artificial ones. See my June 13 post, "My Amish Dental Lab Visit."
Other hygiene differences from English include
- no underwear for the men. Don't ask me why. Perhaps male underwear is considered vain or unnecessary.
- no bra for the woman.
- no shaving body hair for women.
"Okay. We call that going commando and we're gonna talk about that."
I briefly explained the comfort and cleanliness of underwear. Then my good husband took Monroe to Penney's, explained the variety of styles, and let Monroe pick out a package. My husband never imagined at his empty nest age he'd escort a 17 y/o young man to the underwear section of a store.
Females, on the other hand, are required by the Swartzentruber Ordnung to wear loose-fitting, homemade underwear. The idea behind this is so that they have nothing close to the body that might stimulate them. Seriously! Of course, some gals sneak away to Walmart and buy "forbidden" English underwear with the sinful elastic waste band.
Former Amish, Dan, once told me that he went to Walmart and bought men's boxers. When his mom was doing the laundry she discovered his purchase. At first, she thought the underwear belonged to one of Dan's sisters. Dan said, "When she found out they were mine, she burned them!"
TMI? As a professional educator, I give accurate, reliable information about this multi-layered American subculture. Remember one behavior or belief doesn't fit all Amish.
Got a question about the Amish? Leave it below. I'll do my best to answer.
(C)Copyright 2014, Brenda Nixon. You may forward this entire post citing the author.