Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quill #71 - Soap Dish #3

I realize that no house today would be built without one or a dozen showers in it but there was a time when an indoor bathtub was the bee's knees. I grew up in a house built around 1910, with 47 bedrooms, plenty of extra closet space, and one teeny-weeny little bathroom with a tub. There was also a drain in the floor of the storm cellar if the men were desperate and didn't mind fending off spiders, snakes, coyotes and rabid bunnies.

I took baths until I left home. The occasional exscursion to relatives, or even rarer motel stays, acquainted me with the workings of indoor showers, but they were the makings of fairy land and required large amounts of an absinthe-colored paper that was seldom found in our household. My parents finally installed a shower the year after I graduated and went to college. I really have to wonder at the timing of some events.

Anyway, I was finally away from home. I was at college. I didn't have to use Zest green bars as my sole brand of soap anymore. I could explore a little on shampoo and deodorant brands. The world was my oyster shell! I went power crazy, to be honest. I bought Irish Spring green soap and shampoos that cost more than $1.29! I showered and scrubbed all over myself every day and I thought I was CLEAN! And I smelled GOOD! And I walked around campus like I owned the joint because I was a free and independant WOMAN.

And then, one day, the boys in my dorm decided all the girls needed to be showered. Nobody paid attention to me, so I knew I was safe. I sat in the common room snickering about all the girls being carried, fully clothed, into their... Hey! Wait! Not me!

Yes, I was given the treatment not once, not twice, but three times. I even hid in my dorm closet with the doors shut to avoid the third time, but my roommate ratted me out, the incipient chemical engineer loser that she was. Only, by this time, I was pretty damp already. This time, when the guys picked me up by my bare arms, the dead skin just rolled along the length of my upper arm, completely shaming me. I turned bright red, took a deep breath and nodded, then told them to give me that shower.

And when they were done fooling around with all the females on floor, I took a real shower, and scrubbed hard, and tried to understand why I hadn't been the clean and independent woman I had thought I was.

Turns out, I have skin that really does have to soak a while. Zest was the only soap that would actually get that dead skin off me. My grandma and I talked about it and it was true for her, too. I know this is not true for everyone and many people - well, I don't talk to THAT many people about my... about... never mind - don't believe that someone can scrub hard with a rough washcloth and not get clean, regardless of the cleaning agent used for the battle against dirty bodies.

But, when I switched back to Zest, back to the cheap harsh shampoo my mother used, and the cheap deodorant she'd always bought for me, I actually was a lot cleaner than before. This isn't an ad for Zest. In fact, that brand has changed formulations often enough that I'm just about ready to learn how to make lye soap.


My parents loved to go camping and fishing. There are home movies on 8MM film of my aunt and me wearing bikinis, standing in a Colorado mountain stream, with her bouncing and dangling her... niece's little six month piggies into frigid water, hanging onto the sheer cliffside by the tips of her toes and willpower alone! Actually, the camera was turned sideways to get a better shot; we only look like we're walking straight up a cliff. But, that wasn't my first camping trip. By then, I was already experienced. Every summer, like the turn of the seasons or something, we were on the lake or in the woods, tramping and fishing and whittling and whistling, except I couldn't whistle, and doing whatever Dad thought would elevate our childhood souls. If he caught an eight-pound trout or two along the way, so much the better.

Well, when you're a kid, you shower when your parents tell you to shower and not a moment before, by God! Not only did we not really like campground public communal shower facilities, it just would have plain been weird for a ten-year-old to pop up with, "Hey, Mom and Dad, how about we hit the showers tonight?"

So, one night, around that age, I was laying in bed in my grandparents's camper and I was itching all over my body. I rubbed at one of the spots on my neck and dirt rolled away. That spot didn't itch as much anymore. I decided to rub more away. It worked! I was getting less itchy, and I spent the next half hour or so trying to remove dirt, until my grandmother hissed at me in fourteen decibels of pain to go to sleep.

Next day, Mom came to me and asked me why I'd spent the night before touching myself all over. At first, I didn't even know what she meant, but light finally dawned, and I said I was dirty. My mother gave me the strangest look for about a full minute. It was a very suspicious and calculating evil eye and, back then, I hadn't seen it enough to evaluate its meaning. At that moment in time, I just knew I'd done something horrible. I didn't know why rubbing my skin to get clean was such a big deal. If Grandma was really upset about dirt on her sheets, I'd probably be doing the laundry, anyway.

After a good long scrutiny, Mom finally asked me what I'd meant about being a dirty girl. I swear to you, it took me a number of years before I finally put together what they THOUGHT I was doing that night. Every time I found out my parents and grandparents had minds that strayed to gutters, it was a shock to me. Once I explained a little more, I was exonerated and told to quit rubbing myself, which wasn't a problem because she also ordered nightly showers. And, though showers taken while wearing a bathing suit didn't get a person truly clean, they did take care of the itching problem.

1 comment:

  1. Of course I haven't tested this theory on everyone, but I suspect that most everybody's dead skin will loosen when soaked.

    Child me was also the unwitting victim of adults' filthy minds. Sympathies.