What do Britpop, Marmite, meat pies and bidets all have in common?
If the title of this article didn’t tip you off, the answer is: all have had a tough time infiltrating the hearts, minds and souls of the American public. Popular elsewhere, these wonderful (yes, you should try them if you haven’t) movements and products haven’t pulled a Beatles and taken root across the pond.
What gives? How could you not want a clean ass?
Well, it has a lot to do with history.
First, I’ll hit you with the abridged bidet origin story: The bidet came about in France, with the first being used as early as 1710. In fact, the word “bidet” is derived from a French word for a chunky little pony and the image of straddling one of those beefy guys is similar to the position assumed while polishing your derriere with a bidet.
Another fun fact regarding early bidets is that the OG bidet wasn’t confined to the bathroom. This wasn’t due to rebellious, freedom-seeking bidets doing what they wanted, but because chamber pots were mostly bedroom devices and early bathrooms lacked the plumbing required for a bidet to function.
As plumbing technology advanced, bidets and chamber pots made the migration out of the bathroom. Probably the worst thing to happen for those of us who enjoy pooping next to where we sleep. On the other hand, probably the best thing to happen for those of us who aren’t gross.
Bidets gained a hand-pump which allowed for water to be sprayed at your ass in the middle of the 18th century. This was much preferable to instead having to dunk your butt it in a small pool of water and get in there with your hands as remnants of your doo float around.
Sounds awesome. What went wrong?
America, being born of Britain, had a natural disdain for all things French. Uh oh. This arose not from us initially thinking bidets themselves were disgusting (that came later), but from the puritanical hatred of the perceived hedonism of the French. So, we inherited our initial distrust of bidets from our British roots. Pretty bloody unfair. During World War II, American GIs in Europe were met with bidets in brothels. Once they got home, another coat of scarlet paint was lathered onto the stigma against them.
After the war, most bathrooms weren’t designed with a bidet in mind. Ever since then, even if the homeowner didn’t hold a grudge against bidets, the standard American bathroom has simply been too small to accommodate one.
Rear Wars: A New Hope
Arnold Cohen. The inventor of our modern electric bidet seat and an American. Surprised?
Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Cohen invented the modern bidet seat in the 1960s. A seat capable of both washing and drying the tush was way ahead of its time as advertising the product to the prudish American public of the time was next to impossible. Japanese toilet maker, TOTO jumped at the opportunity and bought Cohen’s design and have been making incredible bidet seats ever since.
Since then, bidets have slowly (like, super freaking slowly) started to spread across the U.S.. In 2006, the National Kitchen and Bath Association finally started to track bidet statistics and noted that in that year, 650,000 bathrooms were built with a bidet in the U.S..
Now, with more features, pricing options and wider availability, Americans are starting to accept bidets as an acceptable, cleaner way to do the doo.
Check out our guide to bidet attachments for affordable (think ~$50) bidet options as well as our picks for the best electric bidet seats under $300. Happy bidet-ing!