ome time during my first year of marriage, my husband told me that in his family he had learned to wipe his body down with the damp washcloth after a bath or shower. The idea was to remove excess water from the skin before drying off with the towel. After a while, I adopted the same procedure, never giving the practice much thought—until recently.
One day last year, while standing in the shower wiping my dripping body down with the washcloth, I began to wonder why on earth I was going through these motions. The more I thought about it, the more it made no sense. I began to examine the possible source of this habit to see if there was any validity in continuing. I followed the trail back through the family habit history and figured it out.
My husband was born in England several years after World War II, where towels were few, heating scarce, the climate damp, hot water infrequently available, and children plentiful. Under those circumstances it made perfect sense to keep the few towels the family owned as dry as possible as the kids filed through the bathtub on Saturday night. After all, mom couldn’t just toss the wet towels into the dryer to emerge fluffy and ready for the next wet child.
While Canadian-raised if not born, my husband still had parents who remained, in their habits at least, resolutely English until their dying days. They managed to pass on a great many of their English habits to their offspring. Washcloth pre-drying was one of those.
So, some thirty-five years later when I stopped to ask myself why I did this, I had to admit that the reasons behind the habit did not exist in my life. I have more towels than I can use at any one time. I have a clothes dryer, a warm dry house with forced air heating, and no one is going to use my towels after me. Furthermore, by dropping this habit, I shave about five minutes off my time spent in the bathroom at shower time.
I did a quick calculation and discovered (if I got the figures right) that I’ve spent a total of twenty-two days of my life just wiping the drips off my skin before wrapping up in my towel.
By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that this is not about the washcloth. It’s about habitually doing things that have no basis in need but that we keep doing anyway because we never stop to examine why. These little habit can get in the way of doing other things of more value. It’s also about questioning why we do the things we do and whether they hold any value anymore.
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