Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Praise of Bathing

My first memories of baths date back to early childhood, when my father would deposit me along with my two sisters in the tub for an economy-of-scale suds-up. Yes, we all fit: three girls in four years was what my contraceptively challenged parents—while still undergraduate students—managed to produce during the first three years and six months of a marriage which finally ended around my sixteenth birthday. No need to express condolences: divorce was the best thing that ever happened to my parents' marriage. Aside, of course, from its fruits—mistakes though we may have seemed to be at the time...

Both of my parents have been happily remarried now for many years, much longer than they were married to one another, which would seem to suggest that mutual fertility is not a sufficient basis for a stable marriage, notwithstanding the “grand plan” of whoever—if anyone—devised the preposterous pregnancy scheme. Marriage has of course enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent times, but I suspect that all of the excitement will eventually die down—perhaps in seven years? In the meantime, I think that any couple—straight or gay—interested in tying the proverbial knot (what a metaphor!) should be required first to do a dramatic reading à haute voix of Ionesco's play Délire à Deux. If, having successfully completed that exercise, the happy couple is still intent on taking vows, all I can say is: more power to them! But I digress...

A civil engineer by training and in mindset, my father, in addition to having fun regaling us with rhymes such as “Scrub-a-dub-dub: three girls in a tub!” undoubtedly derived a measure of satisfaction through conserving both time and water by bathing us in this way. Indeed, his area of specialization is none other than dams and irrigation systems!

I have no other clear memories of baths for many, many years. I believe that I took only showers during high school, and I certainly did not take baths while living in the college dormitories. I am not even sure whether the shared bathrooms had anything but shower stalls. That's how little importance bathing in a tub had for me. I do seem vaguely to recall that someone barfed in a bathtub somewhere, during a party at which Koolaid spiked with Everclear was being served. (Was it, perhaps, me?)

Fast forward to today, and here I am a full-fledged bath addict. This is no exaggeration: I do not even feel clean unless I take a full-on soak in a tub, and on those occasions when I am forced to forgo my bathing ritual because of traveling, I await with great anticipation the opportunity to return home where I'll be able to bathe once again in the manner to which I have grown quite accustomed. Mind you, I am not an obsessive-compulsive hand washer, or anything of that kind.

I observed one of those people recently in the bathroom at the library. She was lathering up and scrubbing her arms and hands when I entered a stall, and she was lathering up and scrubbing her arms and hands when I left the stall. I stood briefly next to her in what may have seemed to be a show of hygienic solidarity, a couple of sinks down. But after I had spent maybe ten seconds washing my hands and reached for a paper towel, she was still standing there, lathering up and scrubbing her arms and hands. No, you may rest assured, I am nothing like that.

I suspect, however, that some shower advocates may view me in just that way when I say that I honestly feel that a thorough cleansing can only be accomplished through a bath. Perhaps they, too, will smile politely and walk quickly away—or the internet equivalent: navigate away from this page... I imagine five-minute hot shower takers asking in their minds, Really? You only take baths? in entirely sincere puzzlement over how someone could waste so much time.

I went from nearly no memory of having taken baths to wishing only to take baths. I am by now so habituated to baths, an important part of which involves lying in a supine reclining position, that I consider showers even to be a form of work. Standing up? Really? is my natural rejoinder of puzzlement to the advocate of showers who cannot imagine spending an entire hour—or even half—on a bath.

Having numbered for so many years among those who take only showers, I do of course understand why people opt for them. Yes, it is true: they are quick. And yes, it is true: they work in shared bathroom arrangements such as dorms and houses where not all inhabitants have private bathing quarters. I recall that a fellow living in a house where I was renting a room at one point in the Los Angeles area used to leave the bathtub half-full of dark gray, opaque water, clogged as the drain was with his body hair. No, this is not a joke. Ian was his name.

Two other renters, Ann and Stan, also lived in that house, and so did the landlord and his wife, but the person whom I'll never, ever forget—no matter how old I eventually become, and even if I lapse into an advanced state of senility—is Ian. In addition to being ape-ily hairy, Ian also left a strong acrid odor behind wherever he went—a trail of sillage, if you like—even after having bathed. I think that it is fair to say that anyone who rejects The Myth of the Skin Chemistry Myth never shared a house with Ian. What would Chanel no 5 smell like on Ian? Honestly, I do not want to know. Come to think of it, although he did not fully bubble up in my mind at the time, Ian was perhaps the ultimate subconscious inspiration for one of my proofs: The case of the stinky guy.

Taking a bath in such a tub, shared with such a fellow as Ian, was never going to happen, for obvious reasons. The whole experience of even wanting to shower in that tub on a day when Ian had already been there was in itself a sheer nightmare, a veritable horror story rivaled only by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. At the time, however, I myself was a showers-only type, so the challenge each morning became to beat Ian to the bathroom. I'd scuffle down the hall as quickly as I could in jammies and rubber flip-flops, mug of French roast in hand, fluffy white robe in tow, to take my shower and scurry back to my room, deeply relieved to have escaped the horror which would now await some other poor unsuspecting soul.

A Question of Culture?

Americans, on the whole, are a part of a showering culture. Baths tend to be reserved for special occasions: to soothe sore muscles in Epsom salts after running a marathon, or to help clear one's congested sinuses with an herbal remedy including eucalyptus and the like... I understand that culture, because I, too, was a part of it for most of my life. Even when I lived in a beautiful house in the mountains and had a private bath, I used it only infrequently as a tub, to alleviate stress. Baths back then were a type of event, not an ordinary way to cleanse myself.

So how in the world did this radical transformation, from a showers-only person to a baths-only person, take place? Interestingly enough, the changes in my attitudes toward showers and baths, like the circumstances of my birth, were entirely a matter of chance and, some might even say, negligence. I discovered that an apartment which I had rented with a one-year lease had a bathtub with a malfunctioning shower head. The nozzle barely dribbled any water at all, but when I pointed this out, the skinflint landlord insisted that it was supposed to function like that.

Everyone, I trust, has run into one or more of those “special” landlords who insist that everything is exactly as it should be. Whether I liked it or not, my only real option for cleansing myself during that year became taking a bath. What I found, hundreds of baths later was that I actually enjoy taking baths. Slowly but surely my entire perspective on bathing ended up transforming to the point where I never, ever shower at home anymore. I am so much a bather at this point that after moving to the house in which I now reside, I did not even bother to hang up the shower curtain and rod until some house guests arrived!

Ironic though it may seem, it is nonetheless true: as a direct result of a cheapskate landlord, today I feel deprived whenever I find myself in a shower-only scenario. This happens when I travel to a place where hotels either do not come equipped with bathtubs, or they do but for one reason or another it is infeasible to render them acceptably clean. I am very picky about bathtubs: they must be spotless in order for me to soak my body in one. I realize that this may make me sound a bit like the woman in the library bathroom compulsively lathering and scrubbing her arms and hands, but I do here confess that I will not bathe in a hotel bathtub which I have not scrupulously inspected for cleanliness.

Not a problem in a couple of parts of the world, above all, Japan, the bathing capital of the universe, where spotless baththubs—and sencha tea centers—are de rigueur! I have also often been pleasantly surprised by the accommodations in Europe, especially Italy. Europeans, while not quite obsessed with bathing—as the Japanese truly are, to their credit, I hasten to add—do seem to appreciate that a good bath tub is just as essential as a good bed. Or a bidet! Some of the most beautiful bath tubs and bathrooms I've ever encountered were found in Italy and in Spain.

I never intended to become a bather, but it happened, and now I honestly cannot imagine forgoing what has become my bath ritual. Along the way, I became a major consumer of bath products, and thanks to the ridiculous biannual sales at Bath & Body Works and The Body Shop, I could probably go for years without needing to buy anything. Every time I consider the possibility of moving, in fact, I realize that I need to decrease my gross shipping weight before doing so. I did give away about a thousand books last year, and I no longer buy either CDs or DVDs, but despite having skipped the sales at BBW and TBS, I still have an impressive array of bath and shower gels, scrubs, and lotions. And then, of course, there are the colognes and perfumes.

Am I “hoarding” bath products? I think not, because the variety is very important to me. A day when I wish to take a citrus bath is not at all like a day when I'd rather soak in lavender or jasmine or cherry blossom or... the list goes on and on. I delight in selecting which bath bubbles to run under the faucet, and I coordinate scrubs and soaps and even hair products so as to complement the scented water. As a part of my ritual I also apply Borghese Fango mud to my face, and I may actually hold the record for the most tonnage of that product consumed by any individual person.

Deontology versus Teleology: Showers versus Baths

I suspect that eighteenth-century Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, probably the most famous deontologist in history, preferred showers. According to Kant, morality is a matter of duty: it is not because of the benefits which one can expect to derive from doing the right thing that one should do the right thing. No, consequences have no relevance, morally speaking, in Kant's view. You should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do!

Immanuel Kant, author of The Metaphysics of Morals 

Americans certainly seem, for the most part, to regard showering as a duty to execute, not a pleasure to enjoy—except insofar as removing dirt can be a source of relief. One of my sisters, a deeply entrenched shower advocate—who perhaps not uncoincidentally also has a dog—insists that baths increase the incidence of urinary tract infections. She once expressed extreme distaste for my predilection for baths in these terms:

How can you stand to sit there in a pool of dirty water?!

To which I replied:

The water is not dirty, BECAUSE I BATHE!

I do not doubt that a person who takes only showers over many years with nary a bath would indeed create a dirty pool of water just like Ian, the fellow whose sole distinction in my memory bank is to have been the stinkiest person I ever knew. What else did he do? I have no idea.

Anecdotally, I can report that the first time I bathed HRH Emperor Oliver, the bath water was indeed rather dark and gray. He had never been dipped in a tub throughout his entire life, why? Because cats have superlative personal hygiene and shun bodies of water larger than the volume of space which their body occupies.

Since his retirement, it has become necessary to provide some bathing assistance to The Emperor now and then, as a result of which I have become convinced that in fact all cats hold within their minds a quasi-Jungian “collective unconsciousness” fear of drowning. I suspect that it is the image of small kittens being mercilessly terminated “with extreme prejudice” in a pond by some illiterate and sadistic hick which may surface inchoately—to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the intellectual capacity of the cat—when they first face the specter of a bath.

Happily, dozens of baths later, The Emperor has learned that drowning at the Divine Feline Assisted Living Retirement Community is not an option. It's not going to happen, so long as his chief of staff is standing by. Having largely overcome his initial reluctance to bathe, The Emperor today enjoys the benefits of hydrotherapy so dear to bath lovers more generally and especially helpful to those such as he, who suffer from diabetes and debilitating neuropathy in their legs, feet, and toes. But I digress...

HRH Emperor Oliver relaxes after a bath and blowdry

The Bath-Perfume Connection

While bathing recently—one day in satsuma, the next in grapefruit and citron, the third in lavender and chamomile, and yesterday in Fresh Citron de Vigne shower gel—it occurred to me that the attitudes of many people toward perfume can be mapped onto their attitudes toward bathing along two different axes. First, it seems clear that some, perhaps many, people think of perfume use in purely functional terms, just as they think about showering.

Consider, for example, the “panty dropper” threads which get started over and over again by new visitors to fragrance community websites. This may seem risible to veteran perfumistas, who regard themselves as having a higher appreciation of perfume, often as an art form, but the reality seems to be that most consumers use perfume as a way of increasing their own attractability to persons with whom they may become romantically involved.

I myself found this factoid rather unbelievable, but in a fashion magazine a couple of years ago, in one of the relatively rare features on perfume, the statistic was reported that the number one reason why French women use perfume is to attract a mate! That was a sobering statistic to me, generally inclined to believe as I am that the French tend to be leaps and bounds above Americans in terms of sophistication. Meaning, of course, that the statistic for Americans could only be worse.

There is another axis along which perfume appreciation can be mapped, and this one does not point toward the same rather self-congratulatory conclusion, that most perfume users are philistines and only elite perfumistas appreciate the artistry of vrai parfum and the work of “olfactory artists,” to invoke here Chandler Burr's term for accomplished perfumers. This second axis is that of pure sensory experience, which does not seem to me to be relevantly distinct in the case of bathing and perfume use. In other words, thinking about perfume use in purely phenomenological terms, as a subjective experience, the use of perfume may be much closer to bathing than perfumistas ordinarily suppose—unless, of course, they happen to be bath addicts like me.

One reason why I love bathing is because I am enveloped in the process not only by warm water, but also by beautiful scents. This leads back to the question, perhaps vexing to some, whether perfume really is different in any fundamental way from other toiletries, to wit: bath and shower gel, soaps, scrubs, lotions, oils, etc. There are more and less sophisticated toiletries, to be sure, and people may use them and appreciate them to varying degrees. But let us consider the case of bath and shower gels which have been scented with perfumes which we ourselves already affirm as excellent.

Is it any less of an experience of perfume to smell it wafting off the water or off the skin of a freshly bathed and lotioned body than it is to spritz on the perfume itself? In terms of the pure olfactory experience of the perfume, I cannot for the life of me figure out why one of these forms of perfume experience should differ from the other. The truth, it seems to me, is that we appreciate perfume, above all, for the pleasure it provides.

Read all the perfume reviews you like, you will find that the fundamental judgments derive nearly exclusively from an answer to the question whether the wearer enjoys the experience of the perfume being reviewed. That is the bottom line. Reviews invariably circle back to the reviewer: specifically, the effect that the perfume has upon the wearer.

Is this true of the nonperfumic arts? Do we evaluate the quality of a poem or a piece of music or a film by describing their effects upon us? Perhaps on some level and in part, but only a small portion of a review of any object of art explicitly references the experiencer. The rest points outward to the object itself.

In contrast, in the case of perfume, everything turns on the subjective experience, and the very terms which one selects in attempting to convey one's experience point back to the wearer. This seems to me to provide grounds for skepticism about the status of perfume as an art. People who love perfume would naturally like there to be objective truths about the object of their love, but the reason why even “the experts” do not agree, it seems to me, is that their reviews always say much more about them than about the ostensible object of their critique.

The object under review in the case of perfume is tied up essentially with the reviewer, because everything which he or she consciously perceives is determined by facts about him or her, not facts about the perfume. In addition to having entirely different personal histories, human beings are differentially sensitive to all of the various components of any perfume, which is how and why people with vast experience in sniffing perfumes and familiarity with even thousands of them can radically disagree about a question as fundamental as whether it is any good.

What matter in evaluations of perfume are not objective facts about the creation—what particular chemical substances were used to create a certain perceptual quality—but our subjective reception of it conjoined with our personal tastes. In fact, tastes appear to do most of the evaluative work. We like this or that note: patchouli, tuberose, benzoin, etc. We dislike this or that note: rubber, cumin, pineapple, etc. Therefore, if a perfume features those things which we happen to like and we also happen to like their conjunction, then that alone will suffice to make our experience of it a positive one. “Your mileage may vary,” but to us, which is all that matters in our own evaluation of a perfume, it ends up seeming like either a masterpiece or a disaster or, more often, somewhere in between those two extremes, based largely upon what we happen to like.

Now, one might reply that people's tastes in art vary as well, and this is true. The difference, however, is that in the case of perfume, tastes do the bulk of the work of evaluation. Everything turns upon individual tastes and preferences. To praise a perfume is to enjoy the experience of wearing it. This is why the more a reviewer writes, the more he reveals—not about the perfume but about himself.

Setting to one side all of the vapid chatter about art, I must own that when I make a judgment about perfume, the bottom line is that a good or bad perfume to my nose is rather simple to define. I derive pleasure from the former and not from the latter. This is not an objective judgment and reveals the folly involved in issuing imperious decrees about which perfumes are masterpieces and which are disasters. 

In order to do such a thing, one would first have to assume the exalted status of one's own subjective values and tastes, in addition to one's heightened ability to perceive all of the many components of a perfume. Who can make such a claim, in complete sincerity? I know of no one, to be perfectly frank. Indeed, the two requirements would appear to be mutually exclusive. Moreover, a great or accomplished nose is probably not the best person to seek out for advice on which perfumes to buy. Why? Because your less than great nose will not detect the same things and to the same degree. In other words, you will smell what is essentially a different perfume than did he.

What I have learned about perfume through reflecting upon bathing while bathing is that pleasure, my fragrant friends, is the bottom line. There is no more and no less to perfume than that. We may, in our vanity, wish to follow the lead of thinkers such as the nineteenth-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill, who distinguished higher from lower pleasures, claiming that

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied;
better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.

It is unclear from this pithy little adage whether it is supposed to be better to be a pig satisfied or a fool satisfied, but I suspect that Mill was not a vegetarian and may well have joined his compatriots in repasts frequently featuring offal.

John Stuart Mill, author of Utilitarianism

In any case, what seems indisputable to me is that what we may wish to honorifically label "olfactory art" is in fact an exceptionally pleasurable scent. It may be complex and unfurl in waves so as to induce in us olfactory delight. It may surprise us and lead us down new paths of our thoughts and evoke memories of times past and things lost. Experiencing perfume is a sensual process which begins with our nose and ends in our brain, but the measure of a good perfume is only the pleasure which it provides.

What does hedonism imply?

Just as people may adopt a certain attitude toward cleansing their body, viewing it as a necessity, a duty to be carried out, so, too, do consumers sometimes become distracted by extrinsic factors. They may become concerned by price, status (is it niche—or expensive—and therefore, presumably, refined enough?), or even the celebrities or models suggested or implied to be attached to the perfume through advertising. In view of the size of marketing budgets for many perfumes, it may well be the case that most consumers select the bottles which end up in their boudoir by such olfactorily irrelevant factors.

Such perfumes, once owned, may be spritzed on without stopping to smell the perfume, so to to speak. I see this, too, in the reviews written by many self-styled perfumistas who report quick impressions and often quite dismissively. Did the reviewer give the perfume the benefit of a full wear—or two? Was the experience interrupted, mediated, or curtailed by the wearer's memory of the experience of another perfume in the past? Can we experience a perfume as an isolated thing in itself? Probably not, given that our minds are not a blank slate—and if they were we wouldn't be able to make sense of anything anyway.

The famous deontologist Immanuel Kant never married, nor did he ever leave his hometown of Königsberg. Small wonder, then, that he had so much time for cogitation and the composition of extremely lengthy sentences. Naturally, he had something to say on this matter as well. Kant rejected the possibility of naïve empiricismthe pure, unmediated apprehension of realityin these terms (translated from the German):

Percepts without concepts are empty; concepts without percepts are blind.

In some ways, bathing provides a superlative opportunity to reflect upon a perfume, as one is not surrounded by all of the usual distractions which can make it difficult to focus upon the olfactory experience itself. How often do we wear a perfume in the way in which we listen to a piece of music or watch a film? True, music is often playing in the background while we do something else, but when we attend a concert, we are there specifically to listen to the music, though we may of course be distracted by such annoyances as audience members who cough or talk during the performance. The same is true of our experience of films and may help to explain why many people today only watch films in the (quiet) privacy of their homes, made possible by the existence of so many new technologies in a series which began with videotapes and appears to be culminating in wireless media streaming.

Even perfumistas who exalt perfumery as an art may not actually dedicate any independent time to the experience of perfume. They may use perfume in the way in which they play background music while engaged in activities very different from what one does while sitting in rapt attention at a concert. Both music and perfume are nonrepresentational, but music is at least sometimes capable of capturing our undivided attention. Even further removed is the experience of a film, which, being representational, can convey a message of one sort or another. In the case of perfume, only one question really makes much sense: Does the perfume provide pleasure? Do beautiful scents fill you with joy?

One implication of this bath-inspired way of looking at perfume would seem to be that the provenance of a scent is irrelevant to one's experience of it. Perhaps this is why I don't care who allegedly made the first perfume in the history of the world to combine certain notes together. It doesn't matter. What matters is that they were brought together by someone—anyone—to produce a perfume capable of inducing in me the sense of pleasure I feel upon donning it. We may tell all the stories we like about perfumes, but our stories are no more and no less personal confessions, in the end.

I leave you now to soak in these ideas and look forward to reading your thoughts on the matter. As for me, I do believe that it's time for a bath!


  1. I used to exclusively take baths every morning. If I didn't, I would feel tense all day long. In the late '80s, I moved to Japan... and, perversely, I started showering. Part of it was that the tubs in my apartments were very small and I would need to sit in them with my knees at my chest. It was not very comfortable. So when I finally moved into an apartment with a bigger bath, I was still in the habit of showering...

    Moving back to the US, I still tend to shower. My tub now is too shallow. I'm waiting until I can save up enough money to get a deeper tub and have it installed. Once I do that, I will probably go back to bathing.. but, who knows?

    1. Hello, Furriner—very nice to read you here!

      I saw at your blog that you travel to Japan, and at Parfumo that you are fluent in Japanese. I wish that I were. I am a major Japanophile and studied the language in two successive intensive summer courses at Harvard which together covered two years of university level studies. I started to become somewhat obsessed with learning kanji, and eventually I realized that I could not justify giving my entire life over to that fascinating language. But it was a lot of fun, and if I find an opportunity to travel to Japan again, I'm sure that I'll crack open my beautiful kanji books again!

      You are right about the size of the bathtubs in Japan. I was something of a giant there, being 5'8", and so yes, I, too, had to bathe with my knees bent. However, I also traveled through Kyushu, and visited and enjoyed several of the onsen sites. It was really wonderful.

      I am always scheming on some level about one day getting the ultimate bathtub. My sister and her husband have a gorgeous jacuzzi tub which, among other more obvious virtues, creates massive amounts of bubbles from a tiny bit of bath gel. In my more modest tub, the faucet is not so effective, so if I move I'll definitely do some research into tubs and faucets.

      I hope that you succeed in acquiring a good tub and return to the culture of bathing, which seems to be your natural inclination! (-;

    2. I admire that you were able to study Japanese outside of Japan and retained your interest. The kanji are so daunting I can imagine just giving up for most people. I never really studied Japanese formally until after I had lived there five years, but ended up learning all the kanji they teach through high school. I've been back in the US about 7 years, and the longer I am here, the more I forget, since I don't use it every day. I go to Japan two or three times a year (luckily, I work for an airline now!) and talk to friends there online on a regular basis, but it's not the same. I should get a teacher here or something to keep me using it more. I'm on vacation next week and am debating going to Japan as we speak!

  2. Sherapop, I admit to being rather functional when it comes to choice of showering--
    I shower to wash the trio of private zones and my feet, as well as wash/condition my dense, very tangle-prone, curly hair and shave my legs and underarms. I have to do it daily to feel clean, and can imagine dealing with the hygiene situation traveling to third world countries by getting my hair braided and carrying a good antifungal soap and finding a body of water that is agreeable to myself and the community to use for bathing purposes.
    I used to bathe more as a child and teenager, but there was also a time that I didn't know how to care for my hair, and used harsh shampoo everyday, followed by a short hippy period avoiding showers...but I think a good bath would be in order. Are you not in danger of UTIs using such deliciously scented products? I would love to find a nice bergamot bath gel but am afraid to soak my whole body in it, exposing areas that were never meant to contact scented products to irritation...However,I might just have to mix some salts and or clay and drops of lavender and bergamot oil into my bathtub sometime soon and let the soaking assist in exfoliating my whole body and exfoliating my mind....
    Purely out of curiousity, do you wash your hair in bathwater, or under the showerhead--likewise, do you shave in the water, or just forego shaving? I don't think shaving is necessary, but feel shaving my pits at least once a week for me is most hygienic, and don't like the feel of stubbly legs, or worrying about people staring at hairs on my legs.....What say you?

    1. Dearest kastehelmi,

      Thanks for sharing these thoughts on baths. I am so out of the loop on UTIs that I did not even know that there was an acronym! I must be lucky, because that has never been a problem for me—I don't even know what the symptoms are supposed to be! (-;

      You ask about logistics: how does she do it??? I certainly do rinse, which seems to be the basis of your puzzlement. I have a large glass pitcher which I fill with water over and over again to rinse myself, including my hair and entire body, as the bath water drains. By the end of this process, I am squeaky clean! (-;

      Maybe the people who get UTIs don't rinse? Hmm... Or maybe, as yourfoxiness points out below, they are not as scrupulous about dipping only into pristine tubs? That's an interesting question. I wonder what the answer is...

      I also wonder whether those who avoid baths for fear of UTIs ever go swimming in public pools. I ask because I recently read a factoid according to which one in five adults admits to urinating on occasion in the pool. That's a pretty sobering statistic. True, pools are filled with chlorine and other chemicals, but aren't they just as bad? Or maybe not... Anyway, I feel much more comfortable bathing in a private scenario than with a bunch of people I know nothing about—except that one out of five of them pees in the pool. Yikes! (-;

      For the record: I do shave. In that, if nothing else, I am very American.

      I suggest that you try salts in your bath, which are apparently very salubrious in many ways... And don't forget to rinse!

      Thanks for stopping by and weighing in, kastehelmi!

    2. Thanks for clarifying Sherapop! You are plenty European too--from my encounters with Italians and other Europeans it's been extremely rare to meet one who doesn't shave--I do wonder where in the world women aren't expected to depilate?

      Yuck about the swimming pools. I can proudly say that I am not one of those "adults" who thinks nothing of pissing on their fellow swimmers.

      I need to get a good bath pitcher--When I used to bathe, I took a quick shower after the long soak, but as I became more environmentally aware I felt too much guilt since it takes me long enough to rinse and rinse to ensure I have no shampoo or conditioner left on my scalp--I try to go Sodium Lauryl Sulfate free but once a month inevitably I end up using Neutrogena Anti-Residue and feeling enthralled by how clean my hair and scalp feels--I have never had a UTI due to taking a bath or going swimming, as far as I can remember, but I do know that a host of women's problems can originate from washing the delicate area with harsh soap--I've found a good all-natural one, but I do think that for every few of you bathers who hasn't had issues caused by using some kind of bubble bath with a glorious scent, there's probably at least one who would have to forgo a delightful scented product to avoid some kind of irritation--that could not be avoided merely by rinsing. But I do envision the most glorious bubble bath with Eau de Campagne bath gel or oil (I would have to buy some!), some candles, some Gymnopédies by Satie, and a large mug of sage tea--sometimes it's worth it to throw caution to the wind!

  3. Husband & I have gone rounds over not removing the big clawfoot tub in our bathroom. we decided on a custom enclosure, because no way am I giving up my bath! he is about function, wash, go. I, am a bather. hot water, purifying salts or herbs, sometimes I pick fresh flowers and just dump a double handful in for fun! I also LOVE to add perfume! big bottles I'm having trouble using. ill add a few sprays and enjoy the beautifully scented steam, sometimes see the rainbow from the oils disperse. I take time for every toe, hair, and inch. partly because I have to wash some really long hair.. that's work. I'm an ex blondorexic, so I like to put on good conditioner to soak for a while. plus, I have back issues. sometimes its horribly painful. Nothing like a hot bath and massage from the hubs for that! I end up more bumped knees, cut ankles, and soap in my face than anything in a shower. unless it has a bench, etc.. count me as well, in praise of the tub!

    1. Welcome back, yourfoxiness, fellow bath lover!

      You are so right about perfume in a bath: in fact, bath gels and bath bubbles are scented with perfumes! So why not use our perfume in the bath?

      One nice discovery I've made is that even perfumes which do not agree with me when applied directly to my skin work just fine for scenting a bath. Oils, too, are a favorite addition of mine, whether essential oils or bath oils. And yes, I, too, deep condition my hair while soaking in the tub as my Fango mask works its cleansing wonders on my face.

      I have had back issues in the past, so I can relate to the therapeutic benefits of baths as well.

      “Hot bath and massage from the hubs”: he sounds like a keeper! (-;

  4. oh, I'm also a freak about cleaning a tub first. bleach or level 4 sanitizer. I've never contracted any UTI, or other problems from bathing. according to my Dr its no issue unless you are very sensitive, or use too many products or bad products in the water. or don't clean the I said. I will hand wash every inch before I rinse & fill it. Also, I always rinse quickly with fresh water.. my heavy conditioner can cause acne if not rinsed off skin. and I rinse my hair in very cold water, for my red color! We once moved into a gorgeous 1500 sq ft apartment, with 2bdr, an office.... 8 foot Windows, transits.. gorgeous. however... no tub. I came home after pitching over 1,000lbs of rock. (I'm a small girl) and was ready to cancel my lease & buy a house with a tub. so.. in the one building he found a big clawfoot for me, and brought it up, covered in a lifetime of grime. 4 hours of cleaning later... I had my tub. and a pissed off landlady, who was too lazy to clean it up herself!

    1. I'm glad that you mentioned these points: rinsing is very important. Perhaps not everyone knows this? Is that why they are so mystified by those of us who claim to be cleaner for having bathed rather than showered?

      When I moved into this place, the tub was stained with rust and quite unsightly, so I paid someone to refinish the whole thing. They applied some sort of permanent finish all over the surface of the tub, so it looks and feels brand new: white and shiny. It was the best $300 that I ever spent...

  5. Hi Sherapop, what a funny text. I really liked it. I like both, i.e. taking showers and baths. Showers are more stimulating; I've had the best ideas under a stream of water pouring on the top of my head. I enjoy having a bath esp. when it's cold and grey and dreary outside and in the evenings. I don't take a bath when it's warm. (I shower instead) I must say that I noticed my skin getting drier when I have too many baths. But I'm also super-fond of footbaths and handbaths. Variatio delectat, I guess is what best sums it up for me. I like soaps and I have quite a stock of them, my favorites being frank incense, Sisi violets and cedarwood. I buy these in a place where they make the soaps themselves. As for bathing, I usually mix honey, milk or cream, and drops of essential oils such as frank incense or Australian sandalwood. In fact, I also prepare my own scrub by mixing sugar and olive oil. (Some people use sea salt instead of sugar, but I find salt too dehydrating.) And since we're among girls: I never ever use soap that was made for the body for the delicate areas. The pH differs and what is good for the skin destroys the milieu of the delicate area, which then is more prone to fungal infections. (At least this is what doctors tell you where I live) I get s special type of soap either in the drugstore or a pharmacy. I must say that I've heard doctors arguing that excessive bathing might destroy the milieu of the delicate areas as well. I guess it's the bathsalts,-oils (what have you) because they are made for the skin's pH.

    As for UTI: I've never heard that you get it from bathing. You get it from feeling cold, esp. cold feet, holding "it" back because you can't find a loo, sitting on cold surfaces. (At least this is what the doctor told me and all my female friends were told the same by their doctors.) So in order to get it from bathing you must bathe in icecold water. Canberries (Preiselbeeren) are a very good remedy for mild cases (when the bladder is mildly affected) before going on an excessive antibiotics spell :)))

    BTW, I hate scented body milk/lotion. I always buy the unscented one, the allergy proof one :))) I dislike the way body milk smells when it's scented, be they organic or non organic body milk. And I hate washing my hair while under the shower. I prefer holding my head over the bathtub.
    And finally I love facials with hot lavander tea or sage tea at home. (Boiling water in a pot, add herbs, take a towel, form a tent over your head and allow the steam to clean your face. Inhale ... and always have tissue within reach :)) 10 minutes, then you can apply a mask if you want to)
    Aah, so many nice things to look forward to when the gloomy days will come (late autumn, winter).
    Liebe Grüße, Girasole.

    1. Hallo, meine liebe Girasole! I am glad that you got a chuckle out of my reflections on bathing. That's interesting that you like both showers and baths—most people seem to prefer one or the other. I infer, therefore, that you also like both dogs and cats! (-;

      I have a suggestion to combat dry skin after a bath: many high-quality bath oils can be rubbed directly into the skin while still wet, and this locks in the moisture much better than any lotion can. Last winter, and the previous one as well, I used bottles of Laura Tonatto bath oil which were scented with the perfumes from that line—I had Fior d'Arancio and Dama. It worked wonders on my skin during the cold months of winter. Before I had noticed that it would become dry in between baths, but when I switched to this oil-on-wet-skin method, I had no further problems. The scent also was light enough that it did not overwhelm me or clash with other perfumes.

      I agree with you that scented lotions and creams are, generally speaking, bad news. I have two problems with them. First, they often do clash with other perfumes. Second, and in some ways worse, they spoil very quickly. Most of the lotions and creams I received in perfume gift sets have gone unused for this reason. People always talk about layering their scent with lotion, but I find that often the lotions and creams in gift sets do not actually match the perfume—probably because of the other scent-imparting ingredients. In any case, it's much easier and better for me to use regular body lotion such as Nivea, which is neutral enough that it doesn't clash with perfume. I also discovered that The Body Shop makes an unscented lotion specifically for use with one's own perfumes, so that's an excellent solution as well.

      Probably my favorite bath experience of all is a steam bath. When I was a member of a health club for a few years, I used the steam bath much more than the exercise equipment! There was also a sauna and a jacuzzi, but my decided preference was for the steam bath, which lacked the “public pool” chemicals of the jacuzzi and did not dry out my skin, as does a sauna. There was a bottle of eucalyptus spray for the steam bath which one could use to scent the entire room. A heavenly experience! On the days when I took a steam bath, I did shower afterwards...

      Nice to read you here as always, Girasole! I'll probably pursue the more philosophical questions broach near the end of the above text in my next post on the Pre-Socratics, which will feature Democritus and the atomists: materialists and hedonists, they were the forerunners to Epicurus!!!! (-;

  6. What a Lovely and pertinant modern refelection on the ancient and age-old practice of the bath. Thank you so much for the enjoyable article!

    1. You are most welcome, feathers! Thank you for reminding us that bathing has a very long history--a tradition which deserves to live on!

  7. Konichiwa Sherapopsan, You know what astounds me? The number of people I know that have a bathtub in their homes but next to never take the time to use it!!

    I would LOVE to have a bathtub, I love the feeling of soaking, the soft sound the water makes, it is more than a body cleansing experience, I find it very sensual. A shower to me is purely functional.

    However my boyfriend and I rent this place and it has everything we want out of a home, just not a bath. I am not so crazy about bathing I would move for it. My parents do have a bathtub and whenever I can I use it :)

    Also a good scrub after a soak pays off way more than scrubbing in the shower, it is amazing how much dead skincells we carry with us!

    I don't mind however, how gross it may seem, the skin has a certain self condition system with shedding dead skincells and keeping skin supple with providing the needed natural oils to create a barrier against bad stuff from outside. But yes I tend to believe one gets cleaner all over from bathing than from showering.

    Next discussion could be whether there is something as "too clean", I mean where not supposed to have a sterile body, there are GOOD bacteria that are important in fighting off than bad ones.

    And of course you rinse! Not rinsing after a bath would take a clean body to begin with and stuff put in the bath that is meant to stay on the skin (which excludes soap IMO)

    Good for you for making good use of your bathtub!


    1. crazyaboutlairderien-san: Nihongo-wa amari dekimasen! (-;

      Yes, you're right people don't even see the bathtub. They just think that it's the floor of the shower. I've noticed another strange phenomenon: once people get jacuzzi hot tubs and private swimming pools, they tend to stop using them!

      I don't buy the "too clean" idea. For how long? Five minutes? (-; Anyone who lives in a city is quickly covered with grunge! Same story for internal "cleanses": as soon you eat, the bacteria are back.

      All of which reminds me: no street shoes are allowed inside my house--another Japanese tradition chez sherapop. Actually I had a no-shoes policy long before I knew that it was a nationally imposed law in Japan! (-; I cringe when I see models in advertisements touching the bottom of their shoes or worse putting them on top of the bed! Maybe I've just seen one two many people spitting or urinating in the street?

      My overall impression is that people's negative attitudes toward baths are similar to people's negative attitudes toward exercise: they do not understand that the former is NOT a waste of time and the latter is NOT a form of work! I used to be a runner, and non-runners always acted as though it must be a form of torture, but nothing could be further from the truth!

  8. 6th part of post: where should be we're, than should be the.
    My excuse is that English is my second language and I can't edit my posts here :)


    1. Now I'm curious: what IS your native language, crazyaboutlairderien?

  9. It should be a red flag to everyone as to why anyone would fear the truth. Censorship is for dictators, communists...

    And very very very insecure little girls.


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