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Blessed by My Father's Bidet

My father was a mechanical engineer by training--a soldier in a bomb disposal squad during World War II who eventually became lead inventor for an auto accessory company. He left his secure and comfortable job to start his own business in pursuit of his passion: to put an affordable bidet of his own design in every home and hospital room in the U.S. However strange and unconventional it may sound, my dad was a consummate pragmatist and he believed, with all his heart, that Americans had room to improve when it came to the world of hygiene.

I vividly recall a casual conversation about bidets that my dad, brother and I had one Sunday afternoon. In a very serious tone, Dad insisted that the bidet represented a giant leap forward in terms of cleanliness. To drive home the point, Dad remarked: “Just as you would never think of sitting down to eat before washing your hands, so too with getting up off the toilet.” Back in those days, when I was young and provocative, I retorted: “Well Dad, while that may be so, it’s also true that we don’t eat with our butts.” Before Dad could respond, my younger brother weighed in: “Yeah, Dad, the bidet is the greatest thing since the invention of the a**hole.”

My father was so passionate about the bidet because he suffered from hemorrhoids for many years; it was this personal malady that prompted him to design and market an affordable bidet for the home and a portable one for travel. Dad waxed poetic over the great relief he derived from daily use of his bidet; so much so that, after installing one in every bathroom in the house, he proceeded to install them in his grown children’s homes as well. Of course Dad’s self-interest was not lost upon us: If he needed to use the toilet while visiting, he wanted a bidet within reach.

As he launched his own business, Dad circulated a request for a catchy name. On the ride home from a Peter, Paul and Mary concert, my friend, his parents and I tossed around potential names for Dad’s bidet: Fanny Fountain, Watering Can, and Aqua Butt. By far, the catchiest one of all originated with my friend’s father, a psychologist: Behind Butler. But Dad settled on a more neutral name: “Clen-Zone,” though a few years later he replaced that with “Today’s Bidet.”

Sadly, my father’s downfall was marketing; despite his best efforts, he didn’t seem to have what it took to successfully market the bidet, though not for lack of trying. Dad shocked us all one day after returning home from a business meeting with none other than Mohammed Ali, who listened attentively as Dad demonstrated his bidet on a working toilet he brought along. Miraculously Dad also arranged to unveil his bidet--of all places--on the Howard Stern radio show. We cautioned Dad against it, but he was determined to share his product with the world; while Dad enumerated the many benefits of using a bidet, Stern squirted others with Dad’s “water gun.” There was, I believe, a brief spike in sales after the show.

For the longest time, I would have nothing to do with the contraption, which my brother and I irreverently dubbed “the ass washer.” It sat dormant under our toilet seat for the longest time... until I developed a serious rectal problem myself. It was only after a specialist informed me that I would have to undergo a surgical procedure to treat the problem that I dared to try the bidet for the first time.

I confess that, having a strong jet spray of cold water angled at my rectum is not a sensation I live for but, to my surprise, it afforded significant relief. Within a matter of days I was hooked. In combination with homeopathic treatment, I steadfastly maintain that Dad’s bidet spared me the painful surgery that a renowned colo-rectal surgeon insisted was “unavoidable.”

While I had nothing but ridicule in the early years for my father’s “weird contraption,”
I became a loyal convert and diehard advocate. I am so glad that, before he passed away, I made sure my father know that he had been right, after all. I too agree that this godsend, this blessing, belongs in every home.

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