by Cassondra Murray
Do you have a shower in your house?
No, I don't mean a baby shower or a wedding shower. I mean the kind in the bathroom...the kind you stand under to wash your hair and get clean.
Do. Not. Panic. I engage in cleansing activities daily. Ones involving lots of water and soaps, shampoos, masks, scrubs and exfoliants. But other than a two-year stint in an apartment after I was first married, I've never lived in a home with a shower. I've always had bathtubs.
I grew up in a tiny farmhouse on a gravel road in rural southern Kentucky, miles from the nearest town, and when I was a small child, our facilities included a path and, at night, a flashlight. I am living proof that the lack of an indoor bathroom as a child...well, it won't keep you out of college.
We had running water in the kitchen, but no water heater. I still remember taking a bath each evening in our huge, oblong galvanized bathtub--complete with sloped ends for leaning. My mom heated water on the stove and carried buckets of it into the bathroom. I splashed and splashed in that tub, with my own armada of toy boats floating around me.
I was still very small when one day I came home from my grandmother's house and the outside wall of the bathroom had been knocked out. The bathroom was really just a glorified closet in our old house, and to add the fixtures and appliances, my dad had to extend the room about two feet beyond the main body of the house. It looked a bit like a hump on a camel really, when it was finished, with the fixtures barely squeezed in. We had the shortest tub available, but still, the "hump" had been added onto the house to make it fit.
The fancy new bathtub was shiny and fun--and slippery. The thing I wanted most, though, I didn't get. No way, no how, no matter how much I pleaded, were we getting a shower.
My dad, until the day he died, refused to believe that he would use less water with a shower than a bath.
It was runnin' all the time, for cryin' out loud. How could it use less?
We had a well, so it wasn't as though we were paying for the water monthly, but like most parents who'd grown up in the Great Depression, he had a thing about not wasting stuff, and in particular he did not want to waste water. It's understandable, when you realize that any water he had as a kid, he and his family had to carry from a spring or pull up from a well in a bucket. He figured the whole "showers use less" mumbo jumbo was propaganda spewed by the plumbing industry so they could sell more fixtures.
That "save water" mentality has left me always aware of my water usage, and with many areas of the country in drought and dealing with water shortages, I'm now glad I grew up with that awareness. Then, though, I wanted a shower for the sheer joy of standing underneath that steamy stream.
That's why I still want one.
My college dorms had showers, but let's face it. Most dorm showers are lousy, sterile, non-private experiences, and bear no resemblance to the glory which an excellent shower in a gorgeous tiled bathroom with an adjustable-pulse shower head can be. But for the college years, I at least had a shower. Then I moved into an old house, and I've had tubs ever since.
Here's the thing though.....in our present home, and the one just before this, I didn't have just ANY tubs. They were, and are, claw foot tubs. Big old honkin' cast iron monstrosities sitting on iron feet.
I love showers. I probably still like showers better, truth told. They're energizing. And I'm not the only one. I asked around about this. Okay, I asked Jeanne and Nancy. Hey, they were available. Duchesse Jeanne is totally on the shower side. She doesn't mind baths, but rarely takes them, and could live just fine with only showers in the house.
Nancy, always examining both sides of the argument, states the merits of each. "For washing hair or cleaning up after a workout, the shower is primo," she says. But "for relaxing and/or contemplating the mysteries of the universe, nothing compares to a bath. And ya can't read in the shower."
Hmmmm. I happen to know that Nancy has a claw foot tub in her house.
Mysteries of the universe notwithstanding, I've always just loved showers. And my husband, contrary to the "women like baths, men like showers" expectation--actually prefers baths. I could postulate that he thus lacks incentive to help me install a shower in the house, but, well...better not to go there.
But you know what? Those claw foot tubs, over all these years, have had a rather profound effect on me. Not just on the shower vs bath question. This is about quality. The claw foot tubs have raised the proverbial bar.
This past spring, I traveled to visit friends who have showers in their home. They have walk-in showers, mostly, but in two of their bathrooms they also have the tub-with-shower-surround combination which is common in most American bathrooms.
I'd been taking showers at their house for several days. Yummy hot showers with lots and lots of wonderful steam. But at some point, I leaned over to shave my legs and for the umpteenth time, got a face full of hot shampoo-ey water draining off of my head--and a face full of wet hair. The water ran into my eyes and made me have to stop shaving, let my contacts clear up so I could see, wipe off my face with a towel, then bend over again to shave my legs....rinse and repeat soap-in-face experience. And repeat. And...you get the idea.
Who the blazes designs shower enclosures? Men? That's what I'm guessing. If women designed these things, there would be a little bench-like step for you to put your foot on--or maybe even sit on--so you could shave your legs without eating wet soapy hair.
Oh and there would be lots of places to set bottles and such. Spots where they would actually, oh, I don't know, stay in place, perhaps? Radical thought, that. And the soap dish would be designed so the soap would not slide out as soon as the water hits it. You know...WET soap would stay put. I've noticed that dry soap does fine as a decoration in most shower soap dishes. Clearly, the shower designers are not actually testing these enclosures under actual dirt-removal conditions.
Several days into these sub-standard shower experiences, I came in from a long day of tromping around a museum, walked into the guest room at the back of the house and I wanted a bath.
I ran the tub full of water, poured in some shower gel to substitute for bubble bath, and climbed in. Ahhhhh. Soothing hot water. Poofy bubbles. I leaned back. And promptly banged the back of my head against the wall of the shower surround. There was not enough slope to the back end of the tub for a nice, relaxing lean. And what lean I could get, well, it didn't do any good because once I'd leaned, my head was shoved forward by the shower wall so my chin was almost on my chest and my neck was hyperflexed.
Who, precisely, designed this tub? I'm betting it was somebody who takes showers.
I sat up in the water and was enlightened on a couple of matters. First, my head needs several inches beyond the tub before it hits the wall, and it should be illegal to build tub-shower arrangements without said inches present. Second, my antique claw foot tubs, all hand-me-downs from old houses I've lived in, or from ones which have been torn down, are treasures for far greater reasons than their antique value alone.
At home, in the evenings just before bed,
I run a tub of hot water, and pour in stupid amounts of bubble bath. I light a scented candle, turn off the lights and climb in. The back wall is sloped perfectly for a gentle recline. I roll a towel to rest behind my neck and just soak. And soak.
I lie there and soak until I turn to a prune. If it's raining, the way it is now, I listen to the pitter-pat of the drops hitting the window near my feet. On summer nights, tree frogs sing me to sleep. And sometimes I do fall asleep, waking when the water cools, with all of the tension soaked out of my body.
I learned some years ago that I like a shower in the mornings because it's energizing, and I like a bath at night because it's relaxing. So in this, Nancy and I are alike.
Some seriously fantastic love scenes I've read have been set in showers. But then, the best shots in movies are in the tub--with the sexy starlet barely hidden beneath the piles of bubbles.
I am campaigning for a shower in our bathroom. (We have only one bathroom, since we're restoring this old house, and one is as far as we've gotten). It'll save water, and it'll be faster and more efficient. And it'll energize me in the mornings.
But it'll have to be one of those gooseneck showers with the suspended curtain rod over the claw foot tub. Because although I love, love, love showers, no fancy spa jets will convince me to switch out my cast iron tub for a walk-in shower stall.
I'd love both, but if I have to choose, I'll keep my candlelight soaks, with the little table just to the side, for my glass of wine.
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
Do you have showers or bathtubs in your house?
Have you ever had a claw foot tub? Did you love it or hate it?
If you had to choose one or the other, would it be shower or bath for you?
If you like baths, do you like bubbles?
If you prefer showers, are you the "in and out in five minutes" type? Or do you like a long, indulgent shower just every now and then?
What's your favorite shower scene from a novel?
Have you read any steamy scenes involving bathtubs?
I'll give a $5 gift card to Bath & Body Works to one commenter.