Are You Sheeting Me?

"Oh don't bother changing the sheets - they both went to the same college."

Now I'm not a clean freak. You know what I mean. One of those mums you hear in the toilet cubicle next to yours screaming at some poor kid: "Don't flush! I said don't flush. Don't touch that Holly. It's got germs all over it. No don't sit on the seat I have to spray it with antibacterial spray first. Oh for the love of God Holly DON'T TOUCH IT!" while you suppress a chuckle.

I'm also the sort of person who, when head lice were going around the school did not start screaming, as did most of the other mums: "We should have been told about this weeks ago!" As if we were talking about a potentially fatal strain of cholera rather than some basically harmless headlice. In fact I rather enjoyed the 'Gorillas in the Mist' aspect of picking the nits out of the kids' hair.

Basically, I am not particularly clean or neat. And yes while I lived in the UK my mum was too tight to put on the heating very often so I often got dressed in bed and didn't bathe too much but I've since moved to the squeaky clean  US of A and instead of UK showers where a tiny dribble of lukewarm water accosts your noggin of a morning I am daily sprayed by the hot caress of the power shower. I must say when I lived in the UK even when I lived alone showering was not a daily occurrence, mainly because it tends to be freezing of a morning. But now I am here I shower daily sometimes twice but that is because it is pretty hot and I sweat a lot.

My question is, why then, when I listened to the BBC programme Woman's Hour and heard a programme about guest sheet changing etiquette, did my stomach do a backflip?

On it were a bunch of women discussing how often they changed their sheets. They said they changed them fortnightly which is probably a lie. I probably don't even change mine fortnightly, more like monthly but if I'm asked I'd say 'oh once every two weeks.' It's the same as everyone tells you they are having sex twice a week even if the only time they break open a new packet of condoms is on the Queen's birthday (that's twice a year for those non-Brits out there).

Anyway, people's own sheet changing habits are their own business. But then the programme got onto the question of whether you should put fresh sheets on a bed before a guest arrives. At this point I screamed at the radio "Of course you should!"

But evidently this was not a given, but a matter for debate. Someone called Jan Etherington had a bizarre rationale for when she'd change the sheets after a guest had been which was only if:

1. someone had a cold
2. a mother had nursed her baby in the bed
3. someone had slept in the bed after combining a beer and curry evening

Then the interviewer said she might not change the sheets in certain instances such as 'people who went to college together won't mind if the sheets aren't changed' or 'family members won't mind sharing the same sheets.'

I was, frankly, appalled. I began to wonder - is it just because I have lived in America too long that I feel all itchy thinking about this state of affairs. I mean, can it be right, can it ever be justified to not change the sheets after a guest has been, just leaving their sweat stained sheets for the next person and that being okay if 'they've been to college together' or 'are family members?'

What do you say: in what circumstances is it acceptable to not change the sheets after a guest has stayed at your house and I fully understand that some of you may wish to remain anonymous.



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