I don’t quite have the same problem. I live alone in a three-story home, where there are two bathrooms, and, in addition, what Americans call, two ‘half bathrooms,’ that is, bathrooms without a shower. I am never in the way of a guest or a visitor who feels an irresistible urge. Yet Basu had a point. Once you close the bathroom door, you have a world of your own, private and peaceful. Whatever mansion or hovel you live in, that remains a reassuring refuge.
A neighbor across the street, a widower, lives with his brother. The brother lost his job and his apartment, and came to live with his sibling – temporarily. That temporary period has now extended to seven years and looks certain to continue. My neighbor, though clearly very fond of his brother, has a recurrent theme in his conversation: he does not have a space to himself. He cannot speak on a phone, sure that he will not be overheard. He cannot be in a room, sure that his brother will not walk in. He dreams of the day he can again have his space to himself, though the prospect seems unlikely.
My family, including my sister-in-law, was quite right: I shower for a long time. I thrill to the abundant sprinkling of modern shower heads, where you can regulate the volume and power of the water jets. I confess I am not yet used to the more modern types where the water jets come at you at various levels in different angles. I am sure they are very hygienic and serve to massage distinct parts of the body. My world-weary body is not yet accustomed to this cutting-edge innovation.
In Japan, I was impressed by the practice of scrubbing and cleaning oneself before getting into the bath, which is really for relaxing. I use the shower for both, first for cleaning and then for relaxing in the warmth of flowing water. I follow the Japanese in another way: I turn up the water heat once I have showered for a while. It is supposed burn calories, reduce blood pressure and strengthen the heart. Whether you believe that or not, you cannot question what I immediately feel after a warm bath like that. It dramatically lifts my spirits and blows away my blues. I am glad to pay a little more for my water bills if it gives me this quick track to euphoria.
My children may laugh at my long shower and my beloved sister-in-law may continue to send me sardonic notes. I tell myself that Homer’s heroes took baths to gain strength before a major encounter. The great Achilles’s mother Thetis bathed him in river Styx to make him invincible; sadly, she held him by his heel, which remained vulnerable. I too am vulnerable, very vulnerable, and not just in the heel.
But if I must have a room to myself, it has to be the bathroom.