There was a time some time before today when us humans as a species routinely immersed ourselves in water. Gentleman frolicked in bathhouses at their leisure, mothers set their children in tin tubs by the fire, where the gentle scrubbing of dirty boys and girls produced a slick-smooth lather, northern Europeans hopped in lakes after their saunas, baptism meant being submerged rather than sprinkled, and who can forget the joys of the local swimming pool, with its throat-stripping chlorine, sodden socks, and contested cubicles?
Of course nowadays many local swimming pools have fallen into a state of disrepair. There are exceptions, like Iceland for example, with its outdoor spots and geothermals. But for many the pools they aspire towards remain locked behind the gates of spas or country clubs, and we’re left to swim less than we’d like and not nearly so much as we once imagined.
Instead at home we shower, in some cases daily, and in others more or less than that. Meanwhile our bathtubs if we are lucky are used only sparely, the wasting ground of toenail clippings and assorted pieces of toothpaste or toilet tissue. We get our heads wet often enough, no doubt. But to be truly immersed in water: that is something else entirely.
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It is easy to labour under a misconception when it comes to swimming, for we tend to think of the act as though it entails man’s mastery over water. When we swim – so we are inclined to believe – we inhabit the upper echelons of a liquidy body, dictating the nature of the relationship between ourselves and water, steadily steering each our own course. In fact the actual experience of swimming is altogether more of a struggle. Aside from dampening our hair and rippling over our skin to make wrinkles, it gets up our noses, and burns at our eyes, and tastes strangely in the mouth, an experience which remains pleasant despite frequently being cumbersome, even noxious.
Today we all imagine infinity pools in the Hollywood Hills or Maldives or the Seychelles or someplace in Bali: we don’t want local pools, we want luxury. This is the very essence of capitalism. The heart wants what it wants and the subconscious exists to be tampered with, but if we don’t wish to show what we lack in a public setting, we can at least mimic luxury within the confines of our own households.
The first thing to do when you want to indulge in some home pseudo-swimming is to drown yourself, but only slightly. It’s a feat easy enough to accomplish: just bend over while the shower is running, or place your head inside a bucket of lukewarm water. Volume is great if you have plenty of space, but for a sense rather than the reality of total immersion, what’s required is involuntary swallowing or the deprivation of oxygen.
If you are fortunate enough to have a tub in your otherwise tiny apartment, fill it with however much water you can afford or muster from the boiler or heater. Then adorn a swim cap, lie face down, and commence splashing. If you can make do with cold water or have recourse to a kettle, fill that tub right to the brim for a do-it-yourself infinity pool experience.
And getting wet isn’t your only option. From the right perspective – crouched down and leaning close – a full sink can appear just like a pool or vast ocean. What’s that on the floor of your living room? A moist bandage which you placed earlier, reminiscent of the pool changing area. And if you simply open the door or sit out on your balcony on a rainy day clad in full swimming gear, narrowed eyes and the misty air will make it seem for all the world like you’re in the tropics.