Social attitudes toward other people’s loose hairsPosted: September 9, 2013 | |
Y’know what I’ve always found weird? That people get so deeply alarmed at finding a human hair in their food.
I mean, sure, it’s a sanitary problem if a restaurant’s employees are routinely shedding hair into the food. Not a sanitary problem that’s likely to kill anyone — as opposed to, say, storing food at an temperature that fosters bacterial growth — but it’s still a problem. Even though we’re living creatures who make mistakes sometimes and it’s easy enough for one stray hair to fall off someone’s head. Personally, I don’t fly off the handle and summon a manager if I find someone else’s hair. I just pick it out. I’m probably getting all kinds of human skin particles in the air I’m breathing, so why place extraordinary importance on this one human cast-off I’ve just happened to notice?
But I’m definitely in the minority in my society. I know that. Hair is thought of as beautiful and attractive when it’s attached to a human’s head, but remove the hair from its human and it instantly becomes an object of revulsion. At my restaurant workplace, we routinely get customers who discover one of their own hairs in the food and angrily complain to the management, wanting a new meal prepared. (No, seriously. Just a few days ago, a customer with long, curly red hair found a long, curly red hair in her food and lodged a complaint. None of the staff present that day had hair even remotely similar to hers.)
It’s part of first-world North American culture, I guess. We take hygiene very seriously, and many of us are privileged enough to throw food away just because one hair off a stranger’s head has touched it.
It makes me wonder how my Aligare folk would react to finding someone else’s sheddings in their food. Since 3 species of people live closely together, there’d be a wider variety of sheddings to be found.
But whether Aligare folk find weasel fur, dragon feathers or betweenkind’s waxy hair, I can’t imagine they’d get in a flap about it. They don’t have germ theory, and they’re used to a much more rustic style of living than first-world humans are. Worst-case scenario, a particularly fastidious Aligare person would pick out the offending hair and the spoonful of food surrounding it. It wouldn’t be a reason to reject the food or make the cook feel badly. More relaxed personalities would probably crack a joke while picking the hair out — particularly if they’ve found a korvi feather, since korvi do sometimes trade their own moult feathers. “Hey, friend! I’ve found something of yours! Are you paying me and letting me eat your food?”
It’s just one tiny aspect of culture. Even on Earth, different cultures have widely varying opinions on whether trace amounts of hair and saliva are something to worry about. But one thing’s for sure: I doubt germophobes read much high fantasy.
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