I was standing in the shower this morning, thinking, not at all surprisingly, about the subject of…showers. (Yes, that’s how much imagination I have these days.)
My mind meandered back to my earliest memories of personal hygiene. I seldom had showers until I was 11 or 12 years old. Prior to that, it was evening baths, every other night, and up until the age of eight or so, generally shared with a sister. Hair was washed once a week by mother. (We were assured that any more often than that and you were robbing it of its natural, essential oils. And by Saturday night, naturally, one’s hair was essentially oil.) You lay back in the tub to wet your hair, then mom shampooed it with a glob of God knows what from a vat of whatever product was cheapest, then you held a facecloth over your eyes while she rinsed your hair with cupfuls of the dirty, sudsy water from the tub. That’s how it was done, and not only in our house but in the home of pretty much everyone we knew. It was not something you questioned, any more than you questioned the absolute ineluctability of sitting at the dinner table until every disgusting, ice-cold green bean off your plate had made its way into your belly.
But by now, of course, I’ve been doing the shower thing for some 40 years, and about 80 per cent of the time it’s done on total automatic pilot. I find myself dripping on the bathmat, towel in hand, with no recollection of the actual event. I don’t know if I washed my hair, rinsed the soap off, or shaved anything. But I assume so, just as I assume, when I find myself parked in the Safeway lot, that I stopped at red lights and used my turn signal appropriately along the way. (My car has certain default places it knows to go to when it realizes its driver has disappeared to her happy place somewhere. It’s very good about it.)
About ten per cent of the time, the morning shower is sheer bliss. The mornings I wake up stiff or achy or chilly, or all of the above, stepping into that stream of hot water is nothing short of glory. Some mornings I could stay in the shower for hours.
The remaining ten per cent are simply a chore: the days where I feel lazy in the extreme, or unwell, and it feels like too much of an effort to be hygienic. But of course it is not optional, not in today’s North American society where if you smell anything like a human being, it pretty much guarantees you will not be treated like one, and where you can buy special oils to put into hair turned to straw by daily washing and blow-drying.
I have nothing to wrap this topic neatly up with. The preceding sentence, according to grammatical purists, should correctly read: I have nothing with which to wrap up this topic neatly. But either way, I got nothing. This is me, petering out…