Stuck in the Bathtub
August 21, 2011
Two adults, two boys, one bathroom and no shower. I suppose in this century many would call us tough, or nuts, or… dirty for living in such inhospitable conditions for nearly two decades (yes, there’s some sarcasm in there). Whatever you want to call it, I played in the dirt and took baths for my entire pre-adult life.
In fact, a shower was such a rare thing that I actually have a memory of visiting a relatives house and using their shower. Given the fact that I can’t remember who the relative was, only the experience of cleaning myself while standing, should be a good indicator of how ingrained bath time was for me.
Sure, I had to take showers after P.E. class in junior high but that was different. At the time those were events where you were forced to get naked in front of all your same gender peers, go into a big room with water coming out from everywhere and find the delicate balance between getting clean and getting out. That’s not a shower, it’s forced awkwardness made worse by the one kid who either didn’t feel awkward at all or was completely overwhelmed and reacted by goofing off and occasionally touching other kids. Perhaps this was the driving force behind being a fast runner… getting to the locker room first so I could be in and out in relative solitude.
So yea, showers were rare and generally not enjoyed. Thankfully this changed when I left home. In college the showers were private and outside of the occasional incident when someone would jokingly empty a trash can into your stall, they provided me an atmosphere to focus on the intended task.
I don’t remember how, but at some point in my freshman year I discovered something interesting about my washing ritual; I washed my hair after washing my body. In a bathtub it’s logical to wash your hair second, or at least it’s logical to me. But in the shower, applying a top down approach is naturally the right way to go.
Being someone that appreciates and strives for logical approaches (even when it’s a bad idea) I changed and have been washing my hair first for almost 14 years now. Up until last week.
Last week I ran out of liquid soap and turned to a bar of soap that I’ve had around. It’s typical for me to be thinking about some problem while in the shower and therefore my mind is pretty distracted. So when I almost got out of the shower without washing my hair I laughed at my focus induced forgetfulness. The next day the same thing happened and I started to get a little worried about myself. Day after that, remembered to wash my hair but once again it came second to my body. Same for the fourth day.
Now to make things a bit more interesting, for the last three days I’m back with liquid soap and washing my hair first has come back naturally as well. Okay, perhaps some won’t find this very interesting, but to me it’s fascinating. I’ve got 14 years of a daily pattern: washing hair first and body second using liquid soap. Growing up we mostly had bar soap so for those 18 years the pattern was: washing body first and hair second using bar soap. So on the surface, it appears that my mind made some strange connection that tells me to instinctively wash my body first when using bar soap, no matter where I’m washing myself.
Of course this could all be coincidental, but I don’t feel like it is. I find it to be a really fun example of how pliable our minds can be while at the same time be disappointingly literal. It’s as though I hadn’t changed my behavior, I just learned a new behavior for a new set of paramaters. If this is in fact what’s happened, it’s both a useful and a disturbing detail of our minds. On the useful side, it means that we can subvert a behavior with a new one by just changing some of the paramaters in our environment. But what’s disturbing is that the old behavior seems to linger and will show itself when the old conditions are present once again.
Makes me wonder how much we really change as people. With enough duplication of my childhood environment, would I go back to behaving the same way I did when I was a child? One comforting aspect is that while maybe we don’t have as much control over our behavior as we perceive, perhaps that’s offset by our ability to influence our environment.
Of course I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. I’m just a guy who has part of his mind stuck in a bathtub.