I can’t even imagine what someone might imagine I’d be talking about with such a title in this context…
What I do want to talk about is a little bit of an obtuse aspect of my own psychosis/neurosis. I’ve always had sort of a love-hate relationship with the shower. From early on in my sexual development, the shower was a place where I felt most tempted, naturally, to “explore”, what with being naked and soapy and all. And yet, I also am sort of a typical dude in the sense that I don’t obsess much over my own cleanliness, wearing the same clothes if I can, not always shaving neatly (I have a pretty fast-growing and full scruff on the neck), and many times just valuing sleep over taking a shower if I think I can get away with it. For much of adolescence I was into aquatic sports, so that also meant I was incessantly in a chemical bath, so I didn’t feel much need to also use my home bathroom for much. Also I shared a house/bathroom with lots of siblings so it didn’t always feel like a personal place anyway.
All that to say, I think now about the role the shower time plays in triggering my cd urges. In one sense, there’s this whole concept around femininity that is supposedly all about grooming and cleaning and “scaping”, etc. I assume there are some who are deeply drawn to this aspect of things. I have not felt that pull so much. It seems more like a chore than anything else. But I do dislike the “ugliness” (to me) of my body hair, etc., yet not enough to feel up to the task of shaving. I mean, if I were permitted, perhaps I’d be aroused at the idea of going “all out” to clean up. But only for the end result of what else I could do on top of that, not for its own sake. The couple times in aquatics that called for shaving down were certainly welcomed with open arms (and were followed up with some acting out in enjoyment of the look/feel).
Yet there is an inescapable sensuality to showering that gets me- that is as long as it’s a hot steamy shower and not shivering cold. Which made me think, too, about how the old puritan advice of using a cold shower as a powerful weapon against the sensual arousal that sometimes feels futile to fight in its strength especially in teen boyhood. I have never actually tried that. I have always had this little devotional appreciation for hot showers over cold. Again, with many cold aquatic days, the mere thought of the hot shower to soak up/in afterward kept me going through some practices. I even wrote a little poem once called “ode to shower”- ha! And perhaps that’s just the thing with how I fail- I am very much indulgent of my physical pleasure, what makes me feel good.
In my more disciplined days (which have been few), I was very reflective about how privileged I am to have warm, seemingly unending water to bathe in, and I felt guilty about wasting it on just sitting there feeling good after being done cleaning. I would get out quickly with that drive to be responsible and thankful rather than overly self-indulgent. Also, in another big “spiritualized” habit, I had picked up trying to use the shower “down time” as more of a proactive prayer time with “showers of power” where the metaphor of being cleansed took life through ruthless and honest confession to God, asking for healing and help to walk right again. This would be invigorating and help my mind focus on good things instead of what else I could be doing with that time. Somehow, I have a hard time now imagining exactly how I’d be motivated by that sort of “transactional” approach to my struggles, but it made all the sense in the world then.
Like many things, though, I also wonder if I’ve somehow been duped into treating a normal and neutral things like hygiene as a gender construct and battle, and thus in the combination of avoidance/allure stumbled around with the struggle instead of just showering and moving on with the day/night like a normal personal not obsessed with female persona/experience. Still, it’s interesting to me to think back on the hedonistic culture of “baths” (thinking of the ancient world here) for pleasure, and what it also says about me that I never really tried the shock tactic of a cold shower. Hard to say I’ve tried all I could to fight against unwanted behaviors when I haven’t even dared that simple action before. Man, I would imagine it being such a dramatic mood changer and instant, effective, buzzkill. And yet, I wouldn’t even worry about it all if I weren’t so constantly obsessed with the underlying current of self-pleasure/affirmation, etc.
In fact, I remembered in writing this that in the same year that I first tried on my sisters underthings, I had been made fun of at school once for being smelly. I was mostly clean, but I also was a little kid who would run around and sweat and stuff. At 5th grade, I was also pretty aware of and embarrassed by my general low-income status, with hand-me-down style, knock-off brand shoes, etc. I remember this sting well and also remember this being the time I fantasized about girliness- a total escape from the sense of emasculation and rejection I felt as young as 10 years old and a growing pre-pubescent draw toward prettiness I noticed in the girls around me. This anecdote isn’t exactly about showers, but it underscores again that hygiene certainly is deep at the root of things historically leading me to be both self-conscious about this area and also relatively unsuccessful at mastering it’s pretty easy discipline. In turn, that undisciplined corner of life continues to open the door to all kinds of thoughts and temptations regardless of how well I feel I was doing or thinking before stepped into the bathroom.