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