by | Oct 2, 2005 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Through the years, the sentence “Men don’t — ” has had many endings. There was “men don’t leave” (a movie), “men don’t eat quiche” (a book) and “men don’t gave a damn about anything but their stupid selves” (women I have known).

However, we now know the ending, to which even Mother Nature must sadly nod her head:

Men don’t wash their hands.

This has recently been proved by the American Society for Microbiology. Employing the highly scientific process of standing in public rest rooms and spying on people, it has concluded that, while 90% of women, on average, wash their hands after, you know, whatever, only 75% of men do.

And at Atlanta Braves games, it’s 63%.

There are so many questions here. The first, obviously, is: Why did scientists go to an Atlanta Braves game when it’s not even the playoffs? And what constitutes a wash? (Because if wiping your fingers on your pants leg counts, the numbers might shoot up.)

Also, if scientists are spying on people in public rest rooms, is it really science, or a felony misdemeanor?

But I’m nitpicking.

Hairline is more important

The fact is, let’s face it, the study is correct. If anything, it gives men too much credit. As someone who has spent way too much time in stadium, hotel and airport bathrooms – wait, that didn’t come out right – I can attest that the typical male behavior goes like this:

1) Find place to put down luggage, Blackberry or giant cup of beer.

2) Conclude there is no place, so do everything one-handed.

3) Finish, zip.

4) Sip beer.

5) At mirror, check receding hairline.

6) Depart.

If – and this is a big if – a sink faucet is already dispensing water, a man might slide a free hand underneath it, while still looking at his receding hairline. He will never shut the faucet off, out of kindness for the next male customer and also because he can’t believe he’s losing his hair that fast. And then, as previously mentioned, he will wipe his hand on his pants leg and leave.

I know women find this unsatisfactory, but most men count that as a wash. Some count it as a shower.

The American Society for Microbiology is not impressed. I spoke with a communications director there who said washing means water, soap and – get this! -drying your hands.

Man. They’re really strict.

Not a place to linger

In defense of my gender, men worry about time when using the bathroom. To men, the bathroom is a place to get in and out of as fast as possible, much like a therapist’s office. Whereas women, based on the lines, can’t wait to get into a bathroom. They like it so much, they go every six minutes. Of course, they wash in there. As far as men can tell, they’re getting their hair done!

It’s true, as scientists note, dirty hands help spread flu and other infectious diseases. Then again, so does kissing, and you don’t see anyone hosing down before that.

Besides, men, by nature, employ a deductive logic to such situations, summed up by the sentence, “Aw, what difference does it make?” We know that after the bathroom come doorknobs, and handling money, and high-fiving the fat guy sitting next to you after a home run (or, in the case of the filthy Atlanta Braves fans, every time a player is introduced).

So, yes, we men, if left on our own, would sleep in a pile of mud, as long as there was TiVo. And we don’t worry about the full body wash after nature calls. This is not a good thing. The report is embarrassing.

On the other hand – as any wife holding an instruction manual can tell you – there is another “men don’t …” that the American Society for Microbiology forgot:

Men don’t read.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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