Reasons why America is great (part 5 of a series)

You know me as a sophisticated Brit about town, so it may shock you to learn that I didn’t live in a (permanent) home that had a purpose built shower until I was in my 30s. Sure, there were the grim shower blocks at university, or the occasional “shower attached to the tapsfaucet” that would suddenly fall apart at the slightest wrong touch as you grappled for your soap-on-a-rope. But on the whole, my formative years were all spent in the bath. Well, the moments when I was washing myself, at least. I tried turning up for a job interview in a small tin bath once, but needless to say, they weren’t impressed.

I’ve always loved a bath, I have to admit. Whether playing as a kid among the suds provided by Mr Matey (that’s the bubble bath,  I hasten to add, not the nickname for that dodgy bloke who you might see hanging around the school fieldyard at hometime), or just soaking after a rare bout of exercise, the bath has been an ultimate source of comfort and joy.

Of course, it’s also been a right pain in the arseass. I once lived in Southfields in South-West London, in a basement apartment that was described by estate agents as a spacious garden flat. What they failed to mention was that it was actually the coldest space in London, with no real need for a fridge other than as a means to warm up. With no shower, my morning ritual in the winter started with a frantic run from my bed to turn the gas fire on, before hurtling back to the bed to get back under the covers to melt the icicles that were now hanging from my extremities. A few minutes later, I’d sprint to the bathroom, and desperately turn on the hot water tap in the bath, before urging my by-now-calcified toes to propel me back to my bed for another brief respite from the Arctic conditions. Finally, if my hands were not already blocks of ice, I’d summon up all my courage, run back to the bathroom, and sit sobbing uncontrollably in the bath for a few minutes as I attempted to wash my hair before the water froze solid around me.

Not the most relaxing start to a day, I have to admit.

Since leaving that flatapartment, I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a bath again. The thing is that despite more than thirty years of bathing, once I switched to the shower it became practically impossible to go back. I mean, who’s going to willingly switch from the get-in get-out nature of the shower to the “swimming in your own dirt” style of the bath? Yes yes, I know that you can put sweet smelling salts and rose petals in a bath and luxuriate in it with a glass of wine. But it may have escaped your notice that I am a man, and even being in the same room as some lavender is enough reason to be chucked out of the men’s union. No, I’m a shower man through and through these days, and no amount of products from Lush or Kiehl’s will change me.

It was only upon moving to the United States though that it dawned upon me that I had actually never previously had a proper shower at all. Because when it comes down to it, showers in the UK are less shower, and more damp squib.

Oh sure, British showers will do everything as advertised – get you clean, and rinse all the soap off you. But it’s essentially a dull trickle of water that you move around in an attempt to get wet. There are exceptions, of course, but if you want power in your shower, you have to come to America.

Only the American shower will almost knock you off your feet with its sheer ferocity, pinning you up against the wall of the bathroom and threatening to drive a hole deep into your heart within a matter of minutes. US showers are like the skin’s equivalent of sand-blasting, stripping off extraneous layers of skin, and leaving you looking shiny and new underneath. Or red and blotchy if you got a little bit too close, obviously.

Power showers in Britain will get shampoo out of your hair in ten minutes. Power showers in the US will get the hair out of your head in ten seconds. Power showers in Britain will wake you up gently. Power showers in the US will come into your room, drag you kicking and screaming out of your bed, slam you against the doors of the shower, and insult your grandmother.

Keep your baths, I’ve got my shower and I’m sticking to it. I may not have much skin left, but it’s got to be better than developing wrinkles

13 thoughts on “Reasons why America is great (part 5 of a series)

  1. Silverback

    Yes I have to admit to having one of those miserable ‘run around till the water covers you’ showers back home in the UK and have to spend most of my time in it just trying to get rid of the suds.

    I once ran out of shampoo and had to use Fairy Liquid (don’t go there !) and it took me 30 minutes to get rid of the suds – that stuff really lathers you know ! Mind you, I was grease free for 3 days and didn’t squeak once.

  2. Esther

    I’ve nearly had my nipples wrenched off on many occasions by my American shower. Coming from Britain I just can’t get out of the habit of turning it on full blast.

  3. Sarah Playle

    I have this awful image of you bathing now Dylan! Quite shuddering.

    You forgot to mention the fact that we have water shortages in the UK, regardless of the weather.
    Also, it is bloody difficult to shave your legs in a shower, don’t you know?

    I do think you are being a bit mean about the UK and its plumbing. I have a perfectly lovely shower, but a bath is still a treat. xx

  4. jinksy

    Hurrah! Another bath avoider – showers rule! At least my Brit version is less than a year old and as powerful as my poor old skin could take – and it’s in a posh shower cabinet, so no soggy bathroom mat for me any more. (I lived with the dreaded ‘shower on the wall at one end of the bath’ for 15 years, so know ALL the permutations of WET.)

  5. Lisa

    Are you sure those are not just New York showers? So far, my shower has failed miserably at dragging my child out of bed in the morning to begin her day. 🙂

  6. Apsidal

    I have yet to find a shower here in Canada as good as the one I had in the UK – not, I hasten to add, that I’m going out of my way in my quest! But explain this to me: why are N American beds 6″ longer than their UK equivalents but the baths are 6″ shorter. You can’t luxuriate in a bath over here – they serve no purpose other than to stand in while having a shower. Bizarre!

  7. IanB

    I actually did Laugh Out Loud reading this. Lol. I thought it was just a quirky finger of fate that had substituted a military-grade water cannon in the place of the American “shower” with which I was beaten to a pulp in Omaha. Now I realise I might have to toughen up a bit.

    Baths are for meditating on plans for world domination or musing about the purpose that the divinities have for wasps – they are nothing to do with getting clean.

    Silverback – it’s only weird to take the fairy liquid in to the shower if you apply it wearing a pair of pink marigolds.

  8. Alasdair

    Dylan – apparently you had not realised that the reason American showers are as good as they are is a result of necessity …

    One can make oneself completely clean over the entire length of one’s body in the UK residential baths with which I have been familiar … in most US baths, one can only clean one half at a time …

    Indeed, here in the US, they had to invent the “Jacuzzi” to be able to have a bath worthy of the name …

    With that said, when we repaired significant earthquake damage almost a decade ago, #2 daughter designed her own bathroom layout, including a Roman-style mosaic-tiled bath long enough to have all 6′ length submerged at the same time to a depth of 30″ when full … and, of course, since she is a hypbrid (Scots-Californian mix), she included a shower capable of gently caressing – all the way through *almost* steam-cleaning …

    (It helps that we heat our water mostly with the solar panels on the roof of our house)

  9. Brooklyn

    This dialogue from Seinfeld is obligatory at this point.

    Kramer: I just took a bath, Jerry. A bath!
    Jerry: No good?
    Kramer: It’s disgusting. I’m sitting there in a tepid pool of my own filth. All kinds of microscopic parasites and organisms having sex all around me.

  10. Michael Harling

    Ah, the American shower; one of the things I truly miss and really appreciate on my visits to the motherland. My wife is still solidly convinced baths are better, so it’s nice to hear from a true convert.

  11. Josephine

    Yes, you really can’t compare the american version to the ones in the UK.
    My brother, on the other hand, whilst visiting, kept mentioning how strong the shower was, and I really didn’t see the problem..
    When I in turn was back in England, I kept moaning how weak the shower was, and couldn’t remove the soap from my hair, before all the hot water had gone.
    I’ll stay with the one in the States!

  12. Jan

    LOL, Dylan. In England, I lived in a small cottage, and the bathroom was so tiny there was’t room for a bath, so I had a shower. Or what passed for a shower. 🙂

    I do think I would have baths here if the tubs were bigger. American bathtubs seem to have been designed for bathing kids, full stop.

  13. Catherine

    Shower after a long flight, or before work, or to freshen you up on a hot day, yes. But for anything else? Nah sorry, baths (with cup of tea, and good book) rule. This Brit is out of water too but likes to soak in it with lots of bubbles (as long as bath has a tap that you can adjust with your big toe).

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