Go to your favourite search engine and do a search for the phrase “pamper yourself”. No wait, don’t. It’s a far too terrible thing to inflict upon an innocent net surfer.

If you were to do that search, you’d find an assortment of links, most of which are encouraging the person reading it to, indeed, pamper herself.

From this, it seems that the act of pampering takes many forms. Sometimes it’s a weekend away at a health resort, sometimes it’s curling up on the couch watching an old Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film, other times it’s drinking a cup of herbal tea.

But it seems that the most common, most mentioned form of pampering, the uber pamper is a long, hot bath, preferably by candlelight. A wet dream if ever there was one.

Like some people use drugs or alcohol to mask their troubles, others use herbal lavender fizzy bath balls with natural botanical extracts.

There are two kinds of baths. There’s a bath taken as a means of cleaning the body. These aren’t so common, as showers make cleaning youself quicker and easier. Then there’s the bath taken as a recreational activity, which has created the cult of bath.

The whole idea is that in this modern world we live in, everything is really fast-paced, hectic and stressful. But all this fast-paced hectic stress can be magically undone by submersing the body in a tub full of warm water. No wait, something is missing. There also needs to be candles (electric light is too stressful, apparently), some incense or essential oils wafting around, some bubble bath (or is it a foaming soak?), and maybe some jazz or other background music to add to the bath experience.

The cult of bath has grown in recent years. Bubble bath, the former domain of little kids (“make bathtime fun time!”) and large bosomed women with bouffant hair-dos and champagne glasses, has become totally mainstream.

Producing bubbles isn’t enough for a modern bubble bath. There has to be something else to give it that extra special touch. Natural ingedients are important. Even if the amount of rose extract is so small that by the time it gets in the water it’s practically non-existant with dilituion, that doesn’t matter. It’s something real and natural in this fast-paced, hectic, stressful world.

Also important is for the bubble bath to have an aromatherapy componant. This basically translates to a really strong smell. The idea being that soothing smells make people feel better. They also make people smell like cheap bubble bath.

Then there’s colourtherapy, which is just an excuse to dye the bubble bath garish shades of orange, and somehow the get-up-and-go of the colour orange will soak through to the bath-taker.

The cult of the bath has started to infiltrate shower culture too. When is hot water not soothing and relaxing? When it’s 7.00am and it’s spraying at you from a shower nozzle. The wonderful world of shower gel is the flipside of bubble bath. The ingredients are mostly the same, the only difference being that while bubble bath relaxes, shower gel invigourates.

I’ve noticed at my local supermarket the flavours of shower gel that always seem to sell the most are the ones that purport to be the shower-gel-equivalent of a cup of coffee. They are usually orange in colour and have a citrus fragrance. Grapefruit is popular, possibly as an alternative to eating one for breakfast. But, just as coffee isn’t a substitute for sleep, neither is shower gel.

My favourite cheap-crap shop has an exceptionally large range of bad bubble bath. For small dollar amounts you can buy really cheap-arse bubble bath. The packaging of some stuff is amazing. Some bottles come on sushi rolling mats and a pseudo feng shui design, others have bits of twine wrapped around to give it an earthy look.

There’s also stuff that gets described with phrases like “soothing muscle soak”. Well, I think it’s really the skin that’s being soaked in it. But it they’re going to include stuff that’s under the skin, it could be “caressing kidney soak” or “luscious lung lather”. Could there be a market for that?

Taking a bath can be really nice, but all the candles, bubble bath and other acoutrements won’t really make it anything other than a tub full of hot water. Like booze or drugs, a hot bath won’t make the troubles of the world go away, but it might make them seem less significant.

And remember: a bath may feel soothing, but it’s only one degree of separation from a spa pool full of fat people.

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