Remember Gunsmoke? Every week a brand new outlaw, grimy and dusty from the trail, would come riding into Dodge City. He’d glare with silent menace, the womenfolk would raise their skirts and skitter away. Then he’d amble off for a bath. A fully grown, bewhiskered tough guy, soaking in a tin tub with his cowboy hat on, drinking whiskey. Every inch as grimy and dirty after a day playing outside, had I run for a bath when I got home? No, I had not. I didn’t believe those villains had, either, but I thought less of them just the same.
Then there was the Flintstones, that modern Stone Age family, they had a shower. Their plumbing wasn’t pipes, but a wooly mammoth (a talking wooly mammoth) who’d suck water from a nearby receptacle, stick his trunk through a hole in the bathroom, and spray it on a waiting Fred. Or Wilma. Well, if I had to be clean, I wanted to be like the Flintstones. That’s all there was to it.
Being dirty is different when you’re a kid, it’s the natural state of things. When we’re older, say sixth grade, baths and showers take on greater significance. Girls start eyeing boys and boys start noticing girls, we spend more time looking in a mirror than a textbook. This trend continues until we’re sure of what we look like.
Lately, I’ve noticed a stark difference between the two, between a shower and a bath. A shower is utilitarian, an obligation. We get in, we lather, rinse, and repeat what needs to be lathered, rinsed, and repeated, we get out. We don’t monkey around. We don’t make beards out of shampoo lather or play with the spray settings (and we don’t cop to it). Showers are meant to be quick, no-nonsense affairs. Tick tock, the shower says, tick tock.
A bath, on the other hand, is not about getting clean. Baths are about indulgence. In the tub we can immerse ourselves in bubbles and scented bath salts, in candlelight and a glass of wine, we can listen to Boz Scaggs. Calgon takes us away. If it wasn’t for the pruney effect, why, there’s no telling how long a bath could last. Days, maybe. And when we emerge from our glorious retreat, there’s a joyful song in our hearts.
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