The lost art of taking a bath: Why we could all do with a good soak

Dec 08, 2023
A bath offers much-needed sanctuary, allowing the mind to unshackle itself from the worries of the world. Source: Getty Images.

Ever get that feeling the world is going to pot? You hope and pray for things to get better, but they just don’t.

You don’t know why but what you do know is that humanity is in crisis and that if it all goes down like dirty dishwater you’ll be going down with it. And there’s nothing you can do.

Or is there?

The prospect of preventing wholesale societal collapse might be beyond your control, yet salvation is at hand. And it’s right there at your feet as you take your morning shower.

First, some breaking news on showers: they suck.

Showers were invented by some cretin – probably from middle management – to get people through their morning ablutions fast so they can get to the office by 8:45 and start slaving away.

Believe this if you dare, but some people even take pride in how quickly they can zip through their daily shower routine.

“Hey! You know how long it took me to shower this morning? 90 seconds!”

“Wow. Well done you. When’s the parade?”

Here’s some more confronting news. If you shower while standing in a perfectly good bathtub you are wasting your life.

Thankfully, enough people know the value of bathtime to support an industry of salts, gels, lotions, scrubbers, scented candles and all manner of odd-looking implements the precise purposes of which are a matter for the imagination.

Yet in the rush of life, far too many people have lost sight of the benefits of taking a good, long soak. As kid we loved bathtime, yet we gave it up without objection in the move to adulthood. Why?

A bath offers much-needed sanctuary, allowing the mind to unshackle itself from the worries of the world and float away on the soothing oceans of free association.

Leaning back with a wet towellette over your face you drift off into the dormant corners of your psyche pondering over some of life’s Big Questions.

What to do with all that unused gym equipment in the garage? Did we need any more Home Alone movies after the first one? Why does leftover roast chicken taste so good at 3.15am?

In the tranquility and solitude of your steam-filled bathroom the answers come to you with a clarity that is almost spiritual.

Sell the gym junk online (pickup only). No, we did not need any more Home Alones. And who cares why  cold roast chicken tastes so good at 3:15am? It just does.

The great thing about taking a bath is that it is one of the few things left in life that you can’t do in a hurry.

You need to block out time in your schedule and do all the prep work, telling everyone else in the house to not disturb you and – most importantly – to shut the heck up.

Civilization was built on baths. The Greeks loved them. That’s probably where they came up with wonderful ideas such as democracy, plate smashing and lamb gyros.

So, too, the Romans, in particular Julius Caesar who got the whole idea for conquering the known world\ while relaxing in the Roman Baths on a half-price Tuesday.

As for Cleopatra, did she maintain her legendary beauty by taking a shower in sour donkey milk? No, she took a bath in the stuff. Smart girl.

It was in the bath that Archimedes famously discovered the principle of displacement before running naked through the streets yelling “Eureka!”.

Many others had a history-changing epiphany while in the tub.

It was probably where René Descartes came up with “I think
therefore I am”, Albert Einstein dreamt up E=mc 2 and Abraham Lincoln wondered: “Wouldn’t the day go smoother if we ended slavery?”

For those wise enough to reintroduce bathtime into their lives, here are some handy tips.

First and foremost, you must take possession of the one accoutrement without which no bath session is complete – namely, a rubber ducky.

Don’t be ashamed. The rubber ducky has long been the Totem of the Tub, imbuing bathtime with the legitimacy and solemnity it deserves.

Be brave enough to banish all devices from the bathroom. After all, you can’t truly relax and be on call at the same time. Sadly, some people can’t clear this critical hurdle to true inner peace. We pity them.

Tempting as it might be, never fall asleep in the bath lest you wake up an hour later with skin so shrivelled you’ll look like the old naked lady from The Shining.

Once you’re done, be very careful not to move out of a steaming hot bath and into a cool space. The sudden temperature drop can constrict your veins enough to make you pass out on the floor. (This is actually true. You’re welcome.)

People love their pets. Some love them so much they will bathe with them. They think this is fun and helps them bond with their pet. If you are one of these people please seek psychiatric help immediately.

Finally, allow yourself the time and space to fully decompress and blot out the wider world. Allow yourself that one reprieve.

Don’t worry. The world and all its troubles will still be there when you emerge.

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