The weight of the day dragged her through the front door, up the apartment stairs, and immediately to the old faucet of her shower. At first, no water came out, but after a squeak from the bowels of the apartment complex and a sputter, the water ran smoothly. She pulled the shower knob and began to undress. Steam instantly filled the small room and she felt for a moment she was transported to a different world.
She cracked the bathroom door slightly and then stepped into the shower, letting the hot water run over her face. In a moment of clarity, one can only find in a shower, she was able to brush away the idea that she’d seen anything unordinary that day. She’d always had an overactive imagination as a child; maybe the stress of the job had brought that back.
But if her childhood self had been able to talk to her, she would have reminded her that imagination wasn’t the only thing that had been with her in those early years. It was unfortunate that in her desperately needed moments of relaxation, she allowed herself to lower her guard. She didn’t notice the bathroom door creak open. She didn’t see the silhouette of the Man in the Hat glide silently into the room. She didn’t notice when he raised his hand, inching slowly towards the shower curtain. She didn’t notice as he…
REE! REE! REE! Listen, nobody needs a friend in the shower. Sure, it can be fun (or even practical in moments of procrastination) to jump in the shower with your S.O., but outside of those good times…showers are alone time and should remain as such. There’s nothing quite like that most intimate of intimate moments being ripped apart by ghouls and goblins. It’s a guaranteed shiver down the spine for your pal Maddie.
Like most tropes I pick at, this one is actually a subgenre, falling under the basic umbrella of “I know something the character doesn’t know” (“Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah”), which is a fear we’ve delved into previously (the more I write these, the more I’m beginning to see a very specific pattern in the fears these movies prey on), but again, I’m picking this set-up out because there is something specifically like totally not okay about it. So…shall we?
I obviously can’t get very far in this dissection without mentioning the showeriest of all shower scenes featured in the classic, ever-present, Psycho brought to you by the King of Jowls ‘n Creepy Shit himself, Alfred Hitchcock. I actually wrote a paper about that specific scene in high school (and got an A so…credentials!) and what I noticed then still stands true today…which is almost never the case when talking about High School Maddie’s observations. My paper was aptly named ‘Hey Look! A Shower Friend!’ and therefore, that is what I have dubbed this trope for all of tropedom.
Now what’s interesting about this fear trigger is that it doesn’t necessarily stem from our instincts. Sure, there’s the scary bits about being unaware of our surroundings (something’s there and we don’t know it, that’s bad for survival) but, what’s this fear really about? Vulnerability. Did you just squirm? It’s okay if you did, I mean we all HATE talking about being vulnerable, but the blatant fact-of-the-matter is…we are. We are actually kind of badly designed. We’ve got a lot of important bits flapping around. I mean, no wonder we created pants, right? We have spent a lot of our amazing and flexible powers of ingenuity figuring out ways to disguise ourselves. To hide the parts of us that we don’t want to be seen. Makeup, clothes, high-waisted belts, push-up bras, hair-dye, color contacts, imaginative wording on our resumes…the list is quite literally endless.
It’s become normal to shave parts of ourselves and leave other parts unshaven to create an illusion. And what illusion are we trying to create? Honestly just that we’ve got our shit together. That’s all we want. We want the other humans that see us to think ‘That person is on top of it and clearly has no psychological damage.’ But, the funny thing about this is that we all KNOW that is isn’t true for anybody. Think about it guys! Nobody is ever as together as they may seem and nobody views you as untogether as you think you are.
But embarrassment is something we learn to avoid early on in life. And so, we do our best to be…normal out there is the real world beyond our bathroom doors. While most of our lives are spent covering, concealing, contouring now apparently, this is the one place where we let all of that go. We have to let it go to be able to prepare for the next round of ‘check me out’. We are at our most vulnerable, most naked (literally and metaphorically), most raw when we are in the shower.
Now that is for two reasons. One: We’re physically naked, duh. Two: We’re in the space we believe ourselves to be the most alone…we’re emotionally naked, less duh but still kind of duh. Now, I’ll touch briefly on reason one first, but it’s obviously pretty self-explanatory so we won’t be here long. As mentioned previously, we’re kind built in a funky way that leaves some fairly important and sensitive bits free to the wolves (bad imagery I’m sorry) when we’re not clothed and padded. Remember that scene in the bathhouse in Eastern Promises? If you weren’t concerned of Viggo Mortensen’s penis the whole time, you’re not human. It is scary for us to be physically naked because our skin is easily torn, vital organs are easily punctured, and you inherently know you will not escape a single cut or bruise.
But I’m more interested in reason two: we’re emotionally naked. Please, if you can, tell me another place we frequent as human beings that is as ‘all barriers down’ as a shower? I certainly can’t think of one. It’s a time for deep thoughts, reflections, and looking at that weird thing on your ankle. It’s a time you are alone with your most genuine self and that alone can be a scary thing to face without adding any Freddies or Jasons. Don’t get me wrong, as a hidden introvert, I love my alone time, but there’s a reason people go insane and talk to volleyballs when they’re on their own for too long. Your own thoughts can drive you mad. There is no one who can be more critical, deprecating, or loathing of you than yourself. To top that all off, there is also this crazy juxtaposition of safety. You’re safe because there’s no one you’re trying to impress. There’s no one you’re trying to ‘turn it on’ for. And…I think that’s what true vulnerability is, right? Feeling okay with your own crazy banana pant thoughts and feelings. Usually, we’re keeping those stuffed in our pockets, terrified that they’ll jump out right when we’re shaking the hand of the mayor or Weird Al, but in the shower, we let those crazy banana pants hop around like the little crazy nuggets they are. One of my favorite things my Step-Son has ever said was “Yay! I love bath time. It’s my time to be alone and weird.” Nailed it, Brau.
But then, in these Hey Look! A Shower Friend! Moments…you’re no longer alone. It’s no longer okay to be your most vulnerable self. In fact, you are immediately faced with the need to be more guarded than you normally would be. And I know if I were faced with that problem, I’d probably scream, slip, and die. Let’s just be honest. My fight or flight skills don’t exist. Neither of ‘em. I’m resolved to not survive any sort of horror situation unless my Eagle Scout husband is near enough by.
What I think it comes down to is this: Facing our everyday fear of ‘they’re all gonna laugh at you, Carrie!’ is hard. And the shower is our one place to let that fear go. It’s also the one place we can get lost in our own judgment of ourselves while simultaneously not giving an ‘eff about said judgment. We are weird little creatures who try our hardest every second to not be as weird as we are. Except in the shower. Our hypocrisies and oxymorons and bat-shittery are all out in splendor, swirling down the drain to whatever tune is stuck in our head. It’s our own place to be truly alone and truly true and truly unprepared to face any demons: real or metaphor. When we see that moment we hold so dearly stripped away from our screen friends, it reminds us that embarrassment and overexposure are just around the corner. Even in the place we least expect it.
We have no tools but a shower poof and a bar of soap. We have no protection. We have no forward thought or plan in place (though I’m sure you’re coming up with your shower demon evacuation plan as you read this). Simply put, we are caught off guard as the thing we really are, without any time to put our face back on and fight a fair fight. And that, my friends, is terrifying.
Notable Hey Look! A Shower Friend! Moments:
Fear Factor Scale: