A notice taped to the front door of your apartment building rarely signals good news.
I crossed my fingers for the announcement of an inorganic collection, but was instead faced with bad news: Three decades after our complex was built, the body corporate was finally getting around to installing meters in each individual unit and would be monitoring our water usage.
From here on out our water supply would be pay per drop - a crushing prospect for someone whose happy place is the bathroom. In times of crisis I rely on a visit to the shower instead of a therapist's office. An exceedingly logical flatmate tried to reason that this wasn't going to be financially catastrophic: surely we use less water than other apartments who have whole families living in them? I'd been hiding both the frequency and length of my showers.
While not obsessive, I am something of a shower evangelical. An every day hair washer who had espoused the restorative powers of a decent spell under the showerhead long before #ShowerTok moped up over 6 billion views on TikTok and the term 'everything shower' had entered the internet's vernacular.
During lockdown and in more recent instances of personal setback, I heave myself into the shower sobbing and just stand there with my back directly under a full pressure, maximum heat pummeling stream waiting to be cleansed by the water like Hilary Duff is by the rain in that song of hers. It's not a cure all - but when the shower curtain gets pulled back again I'm usually at least a little soothed.
I find baths unbearably passive. You just sit there in water that's either scalding, or not quite warm enough. Stuck with nothing but your own thoughts as cast off skin cells and strands of hair swirl past. Biding your time until you summon the energy to extricate yourself from the porcelain vat of human soup, and then regret it instantly as your blood pressure drops into dizzy territory.
But a shower means action. There are knees to exfoliate, ankles to shave and arguments to re-litigate in your head. Multiple times the tangly end of a personal or professional dilemma has unraveled while I've worked a hair mask into the ends of my bleached hair or furiously scrubbed away at a mouldy spot in the grouting.
While my morning wash is still a mostly perfunctory gesture, I lavish in my unfurled trips into the tiled confessional. A long shower, where I groom myself from top to toe signals either that I've hit a rough patch and need to show myself some love, or I'm expectant of plans that hopefully mean someone else is going to.
There are other less therapeutic influences that sway my proclivity for a shower. Toxic body image being one. When I've struggled to embrace my body, standing it up rather than having it laid out in front, thighs and hips flirting with each side of the tub seemed preferable.
There's a narrative too that ties tubs to an uncomfortable class delineation. Nowadays having a bath that you can draw at whim and laze in uninterrupted requires a luxury of space. My insistence that I prefer a shower is perhaps just a lie I tell myself (and others) to soothe the fact that I'm never going to be able to afford a home with a bath of one's own.
There's evidence that I'm not the only one who is preoccupied to distraction themselves with their hygiene. Global market analysis from data company Statista found that In 2022, the beauty and personal care market created a revenue of US$581 billion, with personal care being the biggest segment and it's expected to grow annually by 5.61%.
Here's what I do while running the dams dry and lining the pockets of the cosmetic companies.
The ritual starts before I'm near ready to turn the faucet on.
I'll light a candle, something clean like Crushes' fresh linen and while that gets burning I turn my attention to my limbs, pulling out my dry brush. Others rave about Tronque's Ionic version, but I use and like Kit's more affordable one. As instructed by the brand I start at my ankles and brush "upwards in sweeping arcs, with confident pressure." The dense bristles sort of scratch, but in a good way and my body perks up - in response to the circulatory boost and anticipation of the warming water that soon follows.
If I'm in a bind life-wise and need something I can exercise a modicum of control over, I'll douse the shower in a cleaning liquid so that later on the shower can get a dry brush of its own.
The tap goes on and I stand directly under the water and wait patiently for it to cure all that ails me. In the meantime I start washing my hair. I alternate between using Oribe's Bright Blonde one and Briogeo's Color Me Brilliant.
Once I'm squeaky clean up top, I squeeze the water out of my hair and scoop out a generous portion of a hair mask. It's either something aimed at reviving the colour, like Christophe Robin's Shade Variation mask or something geared more towards restorative hydration i.e Chloe Zara's silk hair balm.
I shut the taps off while that marinates and set about scrubbing both the shower and my body. I'm usually rougher on the tiles than I am on my own skin.
I've been using the Isle of Paradise body scrubs because I was sent them for free and they do do a good job of exfoliating, but their scents are a bit saccharine for my palate. Once they run out I'll buy an Aesop polish bar soap to replace this step; in the past I've also used the gloriously gritty Ecostore manuka honey & kelp soap.
When time comes to rinse my body, scalp and shower walls, the taps go blasting back on, as hot as I can handle and I watch a sudsy purple tide swirl down the drain, hoping my demons are swept that way too.
Cleansed, I shave my legs and armpits and wash my body with Sol de Janeiro's Bom Dia Bright Body Wash - I was sent some of this by Mecca at the start of the year and have been eeking it out carefully waiting for it to show up in stores. I spotted in on the shelves last weekend so I can lather it more liberally now.
When I'm ready to leave the liquid embrace of the shower stream, I step out and wrap myself tightly in a bright towel that was once plush but whose formerly proud fibres have collapsed in on themselves.
While I dry off, I go to town brushing and flossing my teeth, then pop on my most recommended beauty product of all time - a set of teeth whitening strips. I'm not brand loyal - usual picking something on sale but has a decent percentage of hydrogen peroxide.
I cleanse my face, first with Dermalogica's Special Cleansing Gel and then the Cosrx Calming Foam Cleanser. I apply an active, like Kiehls' Ultra Pure High-potency Glycolic Acid to my face, and while that sinks in I moisturise my body, which should by now have almost dried off.
I first pat Tronque's Scar Concentrate on my hips then lather any ultra rich cream all over everywhere. If I'm going out after this I'll mix in a few pipettes of the warm smelling Choe Zara hair and body perfume oil.
Back to the face: I twist open a cellulose pearl housing Elizabeth Arden's Advanced Light Ceramide Capsules and pat the silky concoction into my skin. I seal my mug with a barrier cream, like La Roche Posay's Cicaplast Balm B5, rubbing it over every inch of my face including my lips.
Then, I'm ready to leave the cocoon of the bathroom and face the world, or sit on my bed staring at the wall.