Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bye-Bye Bidet

I apologize. I couldn't resist snapping the photo. This cast-off bidet was sitting on the curb on rue Mayet this afternoon, waiting to get hauled away.

It made me wonder: are more French homeowners ditching their bidets? Are bidets becoming passé?

More pondering: is there some research organization that tracks the bathing habits of the French (and other nations, for that matter)? I suspect that with more and more apartments featuring showers, the bidet is going bye-bye. So sad. It was invented here about 300 years ago.

At the hotel where I used to stay often in Paris, the world's teensiest bathroom (in my room under the stairs) was for years equipped with the requisite bidet -- an endearing 18-inch rollaway number that tucked under the minuscule sink. The last time I stayed there three years ago, the quaint rolling bidet had vanished.

A rejected bidet waiting for the garbage truck. Me? I braved the "is-she-nuts?" stares of the more dignified passersby as I deftly chronicled this moment in time. Some day they'll thank me.

14 comments:

Ken Broadhurst said...

Our plumber Monsieur Rougemont here in Saint-Aignan told us people are having the bidets taken out. They just aren't used any more, now that everyone has a shower stall. He also told us people are getting rid of their bathtubs, too, because everybody takes showers.

Andrea said...

I hate to have to ask, but what is the correlation between showers going in a bidets coming out? People shower every time after they use toilet? I know the French rarely wash their hands after using the toilet so I know there is no way they would take a quick shower!! I must be missing something...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Ken,
Thanks! of course les plombiers would be the source for info about plumbing usage. Merci.

Andrea,
From anecdotal sources, all I can say is that in the past people may have often done a quick refreshing wash using a bidet plus a "bird-bath" (face, decollete, underarms) in the sink, in lieu of taking an entire bath, which used a lot of water and took a long time. With showers, so quick and efficient, that's less necessary.

Personally (maybe naively?), I never thought of a bidet as something to use after each potty-break, though that may be the case for some.

Andrea said...

Oh, ok, I thought that was the whole purpose of a bidet. Well, that's what my husband told me and he seems to be in the know with that kind of thing :)

Jay Livingston said...

The picture suggests that Paris streetwalkers may be especially sanitary.

And yes, I remember the hide-a-bidet rolling out from under the sink in a friend's house in Fontainebleau.

Here in the US they were all the rage in upscale bathrooms not too long ago. Maybe they still are (I haven't been studying the decor mags lately). Bathrooms in newer houses are so huge now that decorators need to come with ideas for things to put in them.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Andrea's comments made me think of two things:

1) bidets were (are?) almost always found in the salle de bains, not the WC, which in France used to be two very different places (are merging now, a l'americaine, in some places like my apartment!) I prefer the old system. And how ironic that in polite French society, at someone's home rather than asking "where is the bathroom?" one should ask "Ou est-ce que je peut me laver les mains?"

2) A simple WC has no sink, which explains the no-handwashing aspect. Some more upscale French apartments' WCs, (what we would call in the US a "powder room," now have a lave-mains, a little sink.

Jay,
I'm so glad someone can corroborate my rolling bidet story. Anyway, I think that it's a shame for the planet that bidets are diasappearing as a part of a quick-fix wash-up. Such low water usage!

In the states with designer bathrooms spanning the size of an entire Paris apartment, of course they're looking for fixtures to fill the space. Opposite quandary here in France. More apartments being squeezed into small spaces for the majority. Out go the bidets!

David said...

The obsession that Americans have with bidets never cease to amaze me...

I personally have never used one in my life, I never saw one in a French house, ever. Only in hotels.

And the only people I ever hear talking about them are Americans...

Go figure... :-)

Also Polly, even if WC are almost always separate from the bathroom here in Paris, in other parts of France, it's not that common...
I never kept count, but I think that where I'm from (South West) it's about half-half...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Wow, that's interesting, David. 50/50? Maybe it's changed over time. I've been in homes in many parts of France over the past 30 years, and I've never seen the WC and salle de bains together, until I moved into my current apartment in Paris. Eek, I guess that dates me a bit! And lots of them had bidets (which I saw only because I was a houseguest or a tenant).

I did find a resource at INSEE for statistics on changes in sanitary conditions in homes:
http://www.insee.fr/en/ffc/ficdoc_frame.asp?ref_id=irsoc020

which is interesting (but alas no mention of bidets..)

But maybe Ken's French plumber and colleagues are our source for insider info on current trends for bathroom fixtures.

Thanks for giving us a Frenchman's perspective!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

P.S. One other site - cyberbricoleur forum, where one person asked info on getting rid of the bidet in his bathroom, because it was of "no use" any more. The replies included some good-natured ribbing, "If it's not useful anymore, you must be aging!"

http://www.cyberbricoleur.fr/forum_BHV_bricolage/plomberie/supprimer-bidet_329608.htm

smilnsigh said...

-giggles- That is one great shot!

Mari-Nanci

Arthur Goldhammer said...

I have a bidet in my American bathroom. It was here when I bought the house, and I would not think of taking it out, even if I rarely use it. Visitors think it appropriate for someone suffering from chronic francophilia. And the dog enjoys drinking from it.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

I'd be right there with you, snapping that picture. It's priceless!

Ken Broadhurst said...

My house in the Loire Valley, built about 40 years ago, has a WC (with a lave-mains, which is a little sink) separate from the salle de bains. And in the salle de bains there is a bidet, which I'm keeping just because it's so French. The plumber suggested removing it, but I don't need the space. Most of the houses I've seen around here have separate rooms for WC and salle de bains, but not all. And I too have seen the bidet-on-wheels in hotels.

I think bidets were more useful in the days before good central heating when taking a bath was risky for health reasons. You could catch your death! With the bidet, you could take a thorough little bird bath and keep yourself clean.

Clara said...

or maybe they're adapting the bidet spray hehe. Maybe they realized that having a separate bowl for a bidet takes too much space. :P

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