Sunday, July 16, 2006

My Dirty Secret

I have not had a bath since September 25th, 2005. There, I've said it. I am not particularly proud of this statistical nugget but neither am I ashamed of it. Well yes, actually - I am ashamed of it. But more than anything else, I am frustrated by it. You're probably wondering why the date has stuck in my mind - but for me it's like knowing what you were doing when you heard about Kennedy being shot, or the Moon Walk, or Brad & Jen breaking up. It's just that important.

*Sigh* .... September 25th: it was my last night in Canada. I could say that it was like yesterday. But it wasn't. In fact, it was two hundred & ninety-four yesterdays ago. And many minutes and several handfuls of seconds. God, I need a bath.

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I have been maintaining a rigorous level of hygiene: cats, as you know, are quite fastidious (and please, no remarks about licking myself). There is such an animal as a shower in my apartment. And there lies the rub (a-dub-dub): I only have a shower. Frankly, I should be relieved that I don't have a shower stall that doubles as a toilet - any convenience they might espouse is overshadowed by their shuddering repulsiveness. I have also freshened up in several showers that were located in kitchens. Can I get you a coffee? - no, the soap is fine. Really, I should just shut up right now and count my blessings.

Having a "shower only" is the norm for most modern Moroccan homes although it is still common for Moroccans (those with & without the marvels of indoor plumbing) to shlep to a hammam - scrubbing mitt (think macro-derma abrasion), glutinous soap, plastic stool & bucket in hand - for a communal soak and chinwag. I could offer all sorts of reasons why I have yet to enter a public bath; for instance, I could mention that:

In consideration of Islam's concern for women's 'awrah and its proper covering, the Prophet (peace be on him) warned the Muslim woman against entering public baths and disrobing in front of other women, who might subsequently make her physical characteristics a topic of their gossip and vulgar comments.

... but such arguments might be deemed a tad ingenuous since I'm not a Muslim. Truth is, I want neither to be pummelled by an untrained professional nor sit in fetid communal water. Water that someone else has contributed its general state of insalubriousness. How do I know that others haven't been generating their own bubbles too? Who among my co-scrubbers have gastrointestinal issues? I would add that among a hammam bather's accoutrements is sabon beldi - a soap that can best be described as molasses. Nope: I'm saving my wobbly parts for Mr. Cat in Rabat's loving eyes only. Sorry - not going.

That leaves me sans tub. Even during 2 forays into Spain, the gods (and several hotels) conspired to leave me tub-less. As one who believes that you can divide the world into people who bathe and people who shower (and, unfortunately, those who do neither), I find myself firmly ensconced in the bath-camp. I think on many lkevels, we might be superior creatures. Rabat's winters are cold & damp (imagine a solid month of rain, then multiply it by 3); I would have given my eye teeth for a hot bath last February. Now, showers can be delightful contrivances; in fact, on a hot day, there is nothing better. Well okay, a nice gin & tonic is better - but I'll save that for another post.

And so, you might ask, on another day of stinking reeking heat, haze & humidity (the Dreaded 3 H's of the Apocalypse), why am I complaining? I'm not - okay, I am but since I'm going home in about a fortnight, everybody and their dog has been asking me what I'm going to do/eat/drink/smell/scratch first in Canada. Well, I want a bath. With bubbles (and not self-generated ones). I want a freaking bubble bath, with a glass of something that would normally send me deep into the 3rd circle of Dante's hell (assuming he were Moroccan) & maybe even a glossy magazine (even colour brochures from a car dealership will suffice). I want to soak in said-bath so long that all of my extremities will look like they belong to one of those 112-year old yogurt-eating Balkan mountaineers.

Just in case you were curious.

Now, I have received offers from the only 2 tub-owning people in my aquaintance to partake of their baths, but I can't help feeling like the poor relations coming over to swim in the pool. Do I show up with towel and loofah in hand? Is this how patheric I've become? No, I'll wait. In the meantime, I will continue to walk about Agdal and press my nose against the windows of its ubiquitous chi-chi bath boutiques, salivating at the unbelievably elegant European fixtures the likes of which I will probably never enjoy. And who said that cats don't like water?


Anonymous Liosliath said...

When I didn't want to go to the hammam, and I was dying for some actual submersion - I went and bought one of those giganto plastic basins at the souk (round, about the diameter of a Farmall tractor tire) and filled that up in my bathroom. Not as good as a regular bath, but still pretty comfortable! Kind of like an ofuro (Japanese soaking tub), but not as high.

Of course, you have to have the kind of shower that's just an indentation in the floor, for ease of dumping the basin after...

8:51 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Great idea! I was thinking of a kiddie blow-up pool but they take up too much space.

9:00 p.m.  
Blogger Sencer said...

Just to contribute to this ultra hygienic conversation, I must confess that I've never been to a hammam before. As I am only half Turkish, you may be wondering how I manage to stand against the desires of my Turkish half, having a nice massage in a room full of hot steam. (What level does a Turkish hammam match in Dante?)

However, unfortunately only tourists go to hammam nowadays; concepts like authenticity, oriental Turkish culture have been dead for over a century. Tubs replacing hammams make me feel like they put the ocean in a grave.

...and after this invaluable contribution, can someone tell me where I can find the book of "100 secret ways to sneak into a woman hammam in morocco"? ,preferably the edition for men.

12:51 a.m.  
Blogger Bill Day said...

For hygiene, a shower beats a tub any day.

But for fun (and a really good scrub), you really owe yourself a visit to the hammam!

Besides, it's supposed to be one of the few places Moroccan women are completely free to have a good talk.

2:46 a.m.  
Anonymous Liosliath said...


I think that's true about the "good talk." I used to go with my neighbor Fatna to the hammam, and we would laugh/talk/gossip/make fun of others for at least a couple of hours.

I noticed in the hammam, despite all the mentions in various culture guides that underwear is left on, well- it seems to be entirely up to personal preference.

4:56 a.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Senser: I think you'll need hormone therapy & some radical surgery to get into a woman's hammam ... interesting though that you have yet to try a Turkish bath!

Bill, of course you're right about baths vs. showers: showers are cleaner .... unless someone has peed in it before you enter. My fav website, Ask the Imam, says it's okay to shower & pee at the same time.

Still, there's nothing like a good long soak.

8:21 a.m.  
Anonymous Cath said...

Now I can't get that annoying Tweety Bird song out of my head:
"Singing in the bathtub, happy once again, watching all my troubles go swimming down the drain."

12:00 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

The Prophet (I assume that's Mohamed, right?) may have been right. After all, had Elaine listened to him, she never would have tripped taking a steam, and accidentally touched the "you know what" of Jerry's girlfriend, she of "they're real and they're ~spectacular~!" fame.

BTW, I'm a shower guy. Other than shaving my legs, I haven't had a bath for years.


12:47 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Cath: I believe that's "dwain" not "drain".

Knarf ... still shaving your legs???

12:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Myrtus said...

Excellent post Cat! (:

Hammams are too creepy, too hot and too steamy for me in all aspects. I will never forget my first visit to a hammam. I was only 4 years old. Some woman offered to help my mom clean me up...the bitch burnt my skin with too hot water. Then I came face to face with someone's beaver being shaved.....scared the crap out of me!

12:57 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Myrtus: so sorry about your experiences but soooooo funny! (in restrospect of course).

12:59 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

C in R,

Only in the summer, but yes, when I wanted to feel like a "real bike guy", I decided to continue the tradition for yet another year.

"Real men shave their legs"...

1:04 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

And as a "real man" you use quiche as a lubricant?

1:22 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Lubricant? We don't need no stinking lubricants...

2:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Ahhhhhhhhh, hence the "real men"

2:18 p.m.  
Blogger ByronB said...

I haven't had a bath for many years - showers only for me.
Somehow the thought of lying around in a bath watching the scum reform and leave rings around body parts protuding from the water just doesn't appeal - even if it's your own scum.

8:17 a.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Ahhh, that's what the bubble bath is for - to hide the scum!

8:59 a.m.  

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