Return of the Man-Bath

Can’t stand bathing? BEN DALTON dips a toe into the murky waters of horizontal hygiene.

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The modern bath-loving male is a species very much under threat of extinction. And, it is high time something was done about it.

This is the story of how I came to realise that the bath tub wasn’t merely the terrain of the Cambridge Miss, and was in fact also the ideal watering hole for us gents too.

As exam term looms, I suggest every self-respecting male reconsiders what he really wants out of his scrub. Instead of standing in the shower, passive against the aggressive downward beat of the jet, a drowning vole in a storm, I urge you to vie for the more kingly option. Bathing gives the male Cantab a chance to assert himself on the bathing terrain: to show the tub who is boss and tell it exactly how he wishes to wash. It also works perfectly as a post-gym muscle relaxant, a stress thwarter, and an ideal place to entertain friends and invitees.

However, it wasn’t until I fell into Churchill pond in my first term at Cambridge that I realised that I too was a bath man. ‘Now, no showering in that cast of yours!’ the nurse warned, as I sat forlorn on a bed in Addenbrooke’s A and E unit. I was still covered from head to toe in green body paint, now but a shadow of the man that had been stood so hopefully in the college bar only a few hours previously, a night long of promise spelled in the three-pound bottle of wine in his hand. No! I told myself in resilience. A petty fracture of the lower fibula isn’t about to come between me and my beloved, Lynx fuelled showers! I shall stand with my leg firmly cocked at 90°C and poking out of the curtain. Or I shall wrap the cast in a bin bag… failing that, maybe one of those waterproof cagoules.

The man-bath

Illustration by Esther Kezia

The next day came and I clunked down the long, lonely path to the corridor shower, as unsteady on my crutches as a grub bug propped up by two cocktail sticks. Sod’s law: it was already in use. I looked from my sorry, mummified right leg to the engaged cubicle door which was producing not only clouds of steam, but also the sounds of the glorious, vivacious sploshing around of water and the triumphant yodelling of a man and his shower, united in a satisfied harmony. It didn’t take me long to realise that I was no longer part of this world of showering; of having sturdy legs enough to brave the treacherously slippery boards.

A glance towards the door just opposite, heart sinking. I was about to take a bath.

It was hard not to feel like Free Willy as three sets of arms helped lower my clumsy, blubbery form into the tub. Yet the moment I hit the water, levels rising just as Archimedes said they would, I knew the way I washed was about to change forever. It wasn’t the stagnant, tepid millpond I had been expecting. Instead I was engulfed and welcomed by the all-reaching surrounding currents; plunged instantly into a pool of calm amid a chaos of deadlines, library returns, buttery bills and bike locks.

Oddly, however, I also felt instilled with a weird sense of power. A gaping, toothy grin cracked across my face as I lay there in my hilarious and unashamed nudity, with my bulbously bandaged leg flopped over the side of the bath at an obscene angle. The bath was suddenly my aquatic, horizontal throne and I was the frighteningly clean king.

Three months on, despite the wonders of medical science bequeathing me back my leg, I remain nothing without my bath. Not that people haven’t begun to worry. I recently found out that one of my close friends was uneasy about my new sanitary habits. ‘He… he just doesn’t know of any other fella who enjoys bathing to such an extent…’ admitted his girlfriend to me one evening at the bar. But, how could I be ashamed of such a strong bond?

In the past two months I have essayed, watched TV, pre-lashed, held a small birthday-party, and even been dumped – all whilst marinating in a certain submerged glory in the Fitzwilliam bathroom. Such trials and tribulations are better shared, and I could not have picked a better companion with whom to do so. And the queues for the bathroom and pile up of towels on the floor in recent weeks seem to suggest I am not the only ‘fella’ to have discovered such joys.

Traditionally the candlelit, radox-pumped territory of the ladies, I feel that bath time is about to enjoy a new found resonance amongst the blokes. In fact, I don’t doubt that 2011 may in fact mark the return of the long lost man-bath.