GUIDE TO CORRECT PERSONAL HABITS

PERSONAL HABITS.

PERSONAL HABITS.

PERSONAL HABITS.

PERSONAL HABITS.
PERSONAL HABITS.

Attention to the person is the first necessity of good manners.—Anon.

I.—WHERE TO COMMENCE.
I
f you wish to commence aright the study of manners, you must make your own person the first lesson. If you neglect this you will apply yourself to those which follow with very little profit. Omit, therefore, any other chapter in the book rather than this.

The proper care and adornment of the person is a social as well as an individual duty. You have a right to go about with unwashed hands and face, and to wear soiled and untidy garments, perhaps, but you have no right to offend the senses of others by displaying such hands, face, and garments in society. Other people have rights as well as yourself, and no right of yours can extend so far as to infringe theirs.

But we may safely assume that no reader of these pages wishes to render himself disgusting or even disagreeable or to cut himself off from the society of his fellow-men. We address those who seek social intercourse and desire[Pg 16] to please. They will not think our words amiss, even though they may seem rather “personal;” since we have their highest good in view, and speak in the most friendly spirit. Those who do not need our hints and suggestions under this head, and to whom none of our remarks may apply, will certainly have the courtesy to excuse them for the sake of those to whom they will be useful.

II.—CLEANLINESS.
“Cleanliness is akin to godliness,” it is said. It is not less closely related to gentility. First of all, then, keep yourself scrupulously clean—not your hands and face merely, but your whole person, from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot. Silk stockings may hide dirty feet and ankles from the eye, but they often reveal themselves to another sense, when the possessor little dreams of such an exposure. It is far better to dress coarsely and out of fashion and be strictly clean, than to cover a dirty skin with the finest and richest clothing. A coarse shirt or a calico dress is not necessarily vulgar, but dirt is essentially so. We do not here refer, of course, to one’s condition while engaged in his or her industrial occupation. Soiled hands and even a begrimed face are badges of honor in the field, the workshop, or the kitchen, but in a country in which soap and water abound, there is no excuse for carrying them into the parlor or the dining-room.

A clean skin is as essential to health, beauty, and personal comfort as it is to decency; and without health and that perfect freedom from physical disquiet which comes only from the normal action of all the functions of the bodily organs, your behavior can never be satisfactory to yourself or agreeable to others. Let us urge you, then, to give this matter your first attention.

[Pg 17]

1. The Daily Bath.
To keep clean you must bathe frequently. In the first place you should wash the whole body with pure soft water every morning on rising from your bed, rubbing it till dry with a coarse towel, and afterward using friction with the hands. If you have not been at all accustomed to cold bathing, commence with tepid water, lowering the temperature by degrees till that which is perfectly cold becomes agreeable. In warm weather, comfort and cleanliness alike require still more frequent bathing. Mohammed made frequent ablutions a religious duty; and in that he was right. The rank and fetid odors which exhale from a foul skin can hardly be neutralized by the sweetest incense of devotion.

2. Soap and Water.
But the daily bath of which we have spoken is not sufficient. In addition to the pores from which exudes the watery fluid called perspiration, the skin is furnished with innumerable minute openings, known as the sebaceous follicles, which pour over its surface a thin limpid oil anointing it and rendering it soft and supple; but also causing the dust as well as the effete matter thrown out by the pores to adhere, and, if allowed to accumulate, finally obstructing its functions and causing disease. It also, especially in warm weather, emits an exceedingly disagreeable odor. Pure cold water will not wholly remove these oily accumulations. The occasional use of soap and warm or tepid water is therefore necessary; but all washings with soapy or warm water should be followed by a thorough rinsing with pure cold water. Use good, fine soap. The common coarser kinds are generally too strongly alkaline and have an unpleasant effect upon the skin.

[Pg 18]

3. The Feet.
The feet are particularly liable to become offensively odoriferous, especially when the perspiration is profuse. Frequent washings with cold water, with the occasional use of warm water and soap, are absolutely necessary to cleanliness.

4. Change of Linen.
A frequent change of linen is another essential of cleanliness. It avails little to wash the body if we inclose it the next minute in soiled garments. It is not in the power of every one to wear fine and elegant clothes, but we can all, under ordinary circumstances, afford clean shirts, drawers, and stockings. Never sleep in any garment worn during the day; and your night-dress should be well aired every morning.

5. The Nails.
You will not, of course, go into company, or sit down to the table, with soiled hands, but unless you habituate yourself to a special care of them, more or less dirt will be found lodged under the nails. Clean them carefully every time you wash your hands, and keep them smoothly and evenly cut. If you allow them to get too long they are liable to be broken off, and become uneven and ragged, and if you pare them too closely they fail to protect the ends of the fingers.

6. The Head.
The head is more neglected, perhaps, than any other part of the body. The results are not less disastrous here than elsewhere. Dandruff forms, dust accumulates, the scalp becomes diseased, the hair grows dry, and falls off and if the evil be not remedied, premature baldness ensues.[Pg 19] The head should be thoroughly washed as often as cleanliness demands. This will not injure the hair, as many suppose, but, on the contrary, will promote its growth and add to its beauty. If soap is used, however, it should be carefully rinsed off. If the hair is carefully and thoroughly brushed every morning, it will not require very frequent washings. If the scalp be kept in a healthy condition the hair will be moist, glossy, and luxuriant, and no oil or hair wash will be required; and these preparations generally do more harm than good. Night-caps are most unwholesome and uncleanly contrivances, and should be discarded altogether. They keep the head unnaturally warm, shut out the fresh air, and shut in those natural exhalations which should be allowed to pass off, and thus weaken the hair and render it more liable to fall off. Ladies may keep their hair properly together during repose by wearing a net over it.

7. The Teeth.
Do not forget the teeth. Cleanliness, health, a pure breath, and the integrity and durability of those organs require that they be thoroughly and effectually scoured with the tooth-brush dipped in soft water, with the addition of a little soap, if necessary, every morning. Brush them outside and inside, and in every possible direction. You can not be too careful in this matter. After brushing rinse your mouth with cold water. A slighter brushing should be given them after each meal. Use an ivory tooth-pick or a quill to remove any particles of food that may be lodged between the teeth.

There are, no doubt, original differences in teeth, as in other parts of the human system, some being more liable to decay than others; but the simple means we have pointed out, if adopted in season and perseveringly applied, will preserve almost any teeth, in all their usefulness[Pg 20] and reality, till old age. If yours have been neglected, and some of them are already decayed, hasten to preserve the remainder. While you have any teeth left, it is never too late to begin to take care of them; and if you have children, do not, we entreat you, neglect their teeth. If the first or temporary teeth are cared for and preserved, they will be mainly absorbed by the second or permanent ones, and will drop out of themselves. The others, in that case, will come out regular and even.

Beware of the teeth-powders, teeth-washes, and the like, advertised in the papers. They are often even more destructive to the teeth than the substances they are intended to remove. If any teeth-powder is required, pure powdered charcoal is the best thing you can procure; but if the teeth are kept clean, in the way we have directed, there will be little occasion for any other dentrifices than pure water and a little soap. Your tooth-brushes should be rather soft; those which are too hard injuring both the teeth and the gums.

8. The Breath.
A bad breath arises more frequently than otherwise from neglected and decayed teeth. If it is occasioned by a foul stomach, a pure diet, bathing, water injections, and a general attention to the laws of health are required for its removal.

III.—EATING AND DRINKING.
Whatever has a bearing upon health has at least an indirect connection with manners; the reader will therefore excuse us for introducing here a few remarks which may seem, at the first glance, rather irrelevant. Sound lungs, a healthy liver, and a good digestion are as essential to the right performance of our social duties as they are to our own personal comfort; therefore a few words on eating[Pg 21] and drinking, as affecting these, will not be out of place.

1. What to Eat.
An unperverted appetite is the highest authority in matters of diet. In fact, its decisions should be considered final, and without the privilege of appeal. Nature makes no mistakes.

The plant selects from the soil which its roots permeate, the chemical elements necessary to its growth and perfect development, rejecting with unerring certainty every particle which would prove harmful or useless. The wild animal chooses with equal certainty the various kinds of food adapted to the wants of its nature, never poisoning itself by eating or drinking any thing inimical to its life and health. The sense of taste and the wants of the system act in perfect harmony. So it should be with man. That which most perfectly gratifies the appetite should be the best adapted to promote health, strength, and beauty.

But appetite, like all the other instincts or feelings of our nature, is liable to become perverted, and to lead us astray. We acquire a relish for substances which are highly hurtful, such as tobacco, ardent spirits, malt liquors, and the like. We have “sought out many inventions,” to pander to false and fatal tastes, and too often eat, not to sustain life and promote the harmonious development of the system, but to poison the very fountains of our being and implant in our blood the seeds of disease.

Attend to the demands of appetite, but use all your judgment in determining whether it is a natural, undepraved craving of the system which speaks, or an acquired and vicious taste, and give or withhold accordingly; and, above all, never eat when you have no appetite. Want of appetite is equivalent to the most authoritative [Pg 22]command to eat nothing, and we disregard it at our peril. Food, no matter how wholesome, taken into our stomachs under such circumstances, instead of being digested and appropriated, becomes rank poison. Eating without appetite is one of the most fatal of common errors.

We have no room, even if we had the ability and the desire, to discuss the comparative merits of the two opposing systems of diet—the vegetarian and the mixed. We shall consider the question of flesh-eating an open one.

Your food should be adapted to the climate, season, and your occupation. In the winter and in northern climates a larger proportion of the fatty or carboniferous elements are required than in summer and in southern latitudes. The Esquimaux, in his snow-built hut, swallows immense quantities of train-oil, without getting the dyspepsia; still, we do not recommend train-oil as an article of diet; neither can we indorse the eating of pork in any form; but these things are far less hurtful in winter than in summer, and to those who labor in the open air than to the sedentary.

Live well. A generous diet promotes vitality and capability for action. “Good cheer is friendly to health.” But do not confound a generous diet with what is usually called “rich” food. Let all your dishes be nutritious, but plain, simple, and wholesome. Avoid highly seasoned viands and very greasy food at all times, but particularly in warm weather, also too much nutriment in the highly condensed forms of sugar, syrup, honey, and the like.

If you eat flesh, partake sparingly of it especially in summer. We Americans are the greatest flesh-eaters in the world, and it is not unreasonable to believe that there may be some connection between this fact and the equally notorious one that we are the most unhealthy people in[Pg 23] the world. An untold amount of disease results from the too free use of flesh during the hot months. Heat promotes putrefaction; and as this change in meat is very rapid in warm weather, we can not be too careful not to eat that which is in the slightest degree tainted. Even when it goes into the stomach in a normal condition, there is danger; for if too much is eaten, or the digestive organs are not sufficiently strong and active, the process of putrefaction may commence in the stomach and diffuse a subtle poison through the whole system.

Hot biscuits; hot griddle cakes, saturated with butter and Stuart’s syrup; and hot coffee, scarcely modified at all by the small quantity of milk usually added, are among the most deleterious articles ever put upon a table. While these continue to be the staples of our breakfasts, healthy stomachs and clear complexions will be rare among us. Never eat or drink any thing HOT.

Good bread is an unexceptionable article of diet. The best is made of unbolted wheat flour. A mixture of wheat and rye flour, or of corn meal with either, makes excellent bread. The meal and flour should be freshly ground; they deteriorate by being kept long. If raised or fermented bread is required, hop yeast is the best ferment that can be used. [For complete directions for bread-making, see Dr. Trall’s “Hydropathic Cook-Book.”]

The exclusive use of fine or bolted flour for bread, biscuits, and cakes of all kinds, is exceedingly injurious to health. The lignin or woody fiber which forms the bran of grains is just as essential to a perfect and healthful nutrition as are starch, sugar, gum, and fibrin, and the rejection of this element is one of the most mischievous errors of modern cookery.

Johnny-cake, or corn bread, is an excellent article, which is not yet fully appreciated. It is palatable and[Pg 24] wholesome. Hominy, samp, cracked wheat, oatmeal mush, and boiled rice should have a high place on your list of edibles. Beans and peas should be more generally eaten than they are. They are exceedingly nutritious, and very palatable. In New England, “pork and beans” hold the place of honor, but elsewhere in this country they are almost unknown. Leaving out the pork (which, personally, we hold in more than Jewish abhorrence), nothing can be better, provided they are eaten in moderation and with a proper proportion of less nutritious food. They should be well baked in pure, soft water. A sufficient quantity of salt to season them, with the addition of a little sweet milk, cream, or butter while baking, leaves nothing to be desired. If meat is wanted, however, a slice of beefsteak, laid upon the surface, will serve a better purpose than pork. Potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, parsneps, and cabbages are good in their place.

But Nature indicates very plainly that fruits and berries, in their season, should have a prominent place in our dietary. They are produced in abundance, and every healthy stomach instinctively craves them. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, whortleberries, cherries, plums, grapes, figs, apples, pears, peaches, and melons are “food fit for gods.” We pity those whose perverted taste or digestion leads to their rejection. But some are afraidto eat fruits and berries, particularly in midsummer, just the time when nature and common sense say they should be eaten most freely. They have the fear of cholera, dysentery, and similar diseases before their eyes, and have adopted the popular but absurd idea that fruit eating predisposes to disorders of the stomach and bowels. Exactly the reverse is the fact. There are no better preventives of such diseases than ripe fruits and berries, eaten in proper quantities and at proper times[Pg 25] Unripe fruits should be scrupulously avoided, and that which is in any measure decayed as scarcely less objectionable. Fruit and berries should make a part of every meal in summer. In winter they are less necessary, but may be eaten with advantage, if within our reach; and they are easily preserved in various ways.

We might write a volume on the subject of food, but these general hints must suffice. If you would pursue the inquiry, read O. S. Fowler’s “Physiology, Animal and Mental,” and the “Hydropathic Cook-Book,” already referred to.

2. When to Eat.
Eat when the stomach, through the instinct of appetite, demands a new supply of food. If all your habits are regular, this will be at about the same hours each day; and regularity in the time of taking our meals is very important. Want of attention to this point is a frequent cause of derangement of the digestive organs. We can not stop to discuss the question how many meals per day we should eat; but whether you eat one, two, or three, never, under ordinary circumstances, take lunches. The habit of eating between meals is a most pernicious one. Not even your children must be indulged in it, as you value their health, comfort, and good behavior.

3. How Much to Eat.
We can not tell you, by weight or measure, how much to eat, the right quantity depending much upon age, sex, occupation, season, and climate, but the quantity is quite as important as the quality. Appetite would be a sure guide in both respects were it not so often perverted and diseased. As a general rule, we eat too much. It is better to err in the other direction. An uncomfortable feeling of fullness, or of dullness and stupor after a meal[Pg 26] is a sure sign of over-eating, so whatever and whenever you eat, eat slowly, masticate your food well, and DO NOT EAT TOO MUCH.

4. Drink.
If we eat proper food, and in proper quantity, we are seldom thirsty. Inordinate thirst indicates a feverish state of either the stomach or the general system. It is pretty sure to follow a too hearty meal.

Water is the proper drink for everybody and for every thing that lives or grows. It should be pure and soft. Many diseases arise wholly from the use of unwholesome water. If you drink tea (which we do not recommend), let it be the best of black tea, and not strong. Coffee, if drunk at all, should be diluted with twice its quantity of boiled milk, and well sweetened with white sugar.

IV.—BREATHING.
Breathing is as necessary as eating. If we cease to breathe, our bodies cease to live. If we only half breathe, as is often the case, we only half live. The human system requires a constant supply of oxygen to keep up the vital processes which closely resemble combustion, of which oxygen is the prime supporter. If the supply is insufficient, the fire of life wanes. The healthy condition of the lungs also requires that they be completely expanded by the air inhaled. The imperfect breathing of many persons fails to accomplish the required inflation, and the lungs become diseased for want of their natural action. Full, deep breathing and pure air are as essential to health, happiness, and the right performance of our duties, whether individual, political, or social, as pure food and temperate habits of eating and drinking are. Attend, then, to the lungs as well as the stomach. Breathe good air. Have all your rooms, and especially your sleeping apartment[Pg 27] well ventilated. The air which has been vitiated by breathing or by the action of fire, which abstracts the oxygen and supplies its place with carbonic acid gas, is a subtle poison.

V.—EXERCISE.
The amount of physical exercise required varies with age, sex, and temperament; but no person can enjoy vigorous health without a considerable degree of active bodily exertion. Four or five hours per day spent in the open air, in some labor or amusement which calls for the exercise of the muscles of the body, is probably no more than a proper average. We can live with less—that is, for a short time; but Nature’s laws are inexorable, and we can not escape the penalty affixed to their violation. Those whose occupations are sedentary should seek amusements which require the exertion of the physical powers, and should spend as much as possible of their leisure time in the open air. We must, however, use good judgment in this matter as well as in eating. Too much exercise at once, or that which is fitful and violent, is often exceedingly injurious to those whose occupations have accustomed them to little physical exertion of any kind.

The women of our country are suffering incalculably for want of proper exercise. No other single cause perhaps is doing so much to destroy health and beauty, and deteriorate the race, as this. “Your women are very handsome,” Frederika Bremer said, one day, “but they are too white; they look as if they grew in the shade.” A sad truth. Ladies, if you would be healthy, beautiful, and attractive—if you would fit yourselves to be good wives, and the mothers of strong and noble men, you must take an adequate amount of exercise in the open air. This should be an every-day duty.

[Pg 28]

VI.—THE COMPLEXION.
Every person, and especially every lady, desires a clear complexion. To secure this, follow the foregoing directions in reference to cleanliness, eating, drinking, breathing, and exercise. The same recipe serves for ruby lips and rosy cheeks. These come and go with health, and health depends upon obedience to the laws of our constitution.

VII.—GENERAL HINTS.
Few of us are free from disagreeable habits of which we are hardly conscious, so seemingly natural have they become to us. It is the office of friendship, though not always a pleasant one, to point them out. It is our business to assume that office here, finding our excuse in the necessity of the case. Our bad habits not only injure ourselves, but they give offense to others, and indirectly injure them also.

1. Tobacco.
Ladies, in this country, do not use tobacco, so they may skip this section. A large and increasing number of gentlemen may do the same; but if you use tobacco, in any forth, allow us to whisper a useful hint or two in your ear.

Smoking, snuff-taking, and especially chewing, are bad habits at best, and in their coarser forms highly disgusting to pure and refined people, and especially to ladies. You have the same right to smoke, take snuff, and chew that you have to indulge in the luxuries of a filthy skin and soiled garments, but you have no right, in either case, to do violence to the senses and sensibilities of other people by their exhibition in society. Smoke if you will, chew, take snuff (against our earnest advice, however), make yourself generally and particularly disagreeable, but you must suffer the consequences—the social outlawry[Pg 29] which must result. Shall we convert our parlors into tobacco shops, risk the ruin of our carpets and furniture from the random shots of your disgusting saliva, and fill the whole atmosphere of our house with a pungent stench, to the discomfort and disgust of everybody else, merely for the pleasure of your company? We have rights as well as you, one of which is to exclude from our circle all persons whose manners or habits are distasteful to us. You talk of rights. You can not blame others for exercising theirs.

There are degrees here as everywhere else. One may chew a little, smoke an occasional cigar, and take a pinch of snuff now and then, and if he never indulges in these habits in the presence of others, and is very careful to purify his person before going into company, he may confine the bad effects, which he can not escape, mostly to his own person. But he must not smoke in any parlor, or sitting-room, or dining-room, or sleeping chamber, or in the street, and particularly not in the presence of ladies, anywhere.

2. Spitting.
“The use of tobacco has made us a nation of spitters,” as some one has truly remarked. Spitting is a private act, and tobacco users are not alone in violating good taste and good manners by hawking and spitting in company. You should never be seen to spit. Use your handkerchief carefully and so as not to be noticed, or, in case of necessity, leave the room.

3. Gin and Gentility.
The spirit and tenor of our remarks on tobacco will apply to the use of ardent spirits. The fumes of gin, whisky, and rum are, if possible, worse than the scent of tobacco. They must on no account be brought into[Pg 30] company. If a man (this is another section which women may skip) will make a beast of himself, and fill his blood with liquid poison, he must, if he desires admission into good company, do it either privately or with companions whose senses and appetites are as depraved as his own.

4. Onions, etc.
All foods or drinks which taint the breath or cause disagreeable eructations should be avoided by persons going into company. Onions emit so very disagreeable an odor that no truly polite person will eat them when liable to inflict their fumes upon others. Particular care should be taken to guard against a bad breath from any cause.

5. Several Items.
Never pare or scrape your nails, pick your teeth, comb your hair, or perform any of the necessary operations of the toilet in company. All these things should be carefully attended to in the privacy of your own room. To pick the nose, dig the ears, or scratch the head or any part of the person in company is still worse. Watch yourself carefully, and if you have any such habits, break them up at once. These may seem little things, but they have their weight, and go far in determining the character of the impression we make upon those around us.


%d bloggers like this: