BATH

January 21, 2011
heart tub hamam
Heart Tub Moment (source)
Cağaloğlu Hamam, Istanbul, 1741 (source)

 

The rough opening for a standard American bathtub, in 2010, is 60 by 30 inches. The resulting bathing well of a standard American bathtub is 55 by 24 inches. The average American male is 69.5 inches tall. The discrepancy in dimensions, 14.5 inches, allows for a full grown American male to lie comfortably in a standard bathtub with his knees bent and head resting above water. For bodies less than 55 inches in height there is the possibility of total submersion (In the year 2000, 341 accidental drownings occurred in bathtubs in America, making bathtubs one of the most dangerous fixtures in any home).

 

In 1921 only 1% of homes in America included purpose built bathrooms. The Mathews Flats in Ridgewood, New York, constructed from 1900 onwards, where I currently reside, were some of the first examples of working class row housing in the city to incorporate cold water plumbing and full bathrooms in every apartment. The rough opening of my combination bathtub shower in Ridgewood is 51 inches in length (a normal size by New York City standards, but meager when compared to contemporary norms elsewhere). The bathing well of my combination bathtub shower is 44 inches in length. At 71.5 inches tall, the discrepancy in dimensions, 20.5 inches, does not allow me to submerge more than half of my body at any given time

 

The freestanding J-230 Jacuzzi Hot Tub has a rough size of 84 inches by 84 inches. The bathing well is large enough to accommodate five adult males comfortably in a seated position with heads above water. The hot tub is currently marketed as a form of social entertainment, but was initially developed in 1955 for medical purposes (the Jacuzzi brothers built airplanes and agricultural pumps prior to developing bathtubs). In the 2010 fictional filmHot Tub Time Machinea hot tub is used as a vehicle for time travel. If hot tubs were actually capable of traveling back in time I would pilot one to 1900s Ridgewood, New York and direct the builders of the Mathews Flats housing stock to expand the standard size of bathrooms to, at the very least, accommodate 60 inch by 30 inch tubs.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

The Cağaloğlu Hamam, located in Istanbul, provides a chimerical setting for some explicit activities.

 

In the women’s bathing area, a lantern dome is fitted with spherical glass ‘elephant eyes’ which catch and deliver multi-directional light. The cupola sits atop a series of high arches which are supported by elegant columns. The dome illuminates a heated central platform; a marble octagonal extrusion used for washing and laying out. It is surrounded by an offset, slightly more private series of stepped bathing niches which deliver warm water through delicately ornamented fountains.

 

Female clients, who are nude and variously draped in cotton cloths, languish about the steamy space, bathing and relaxing. Others don the requisite mother-of-pearl embellished sandals and hobble precariously through the mist. Masseuses with robust bodies and relatively skinny legs, tend to the bathers. The bathing attendants are dressed in garish spandex swimsuits variously worn as desired: off one shoulder or with the top-half peeled down to the waist. They aggressively scrub the bathers beneath the lantern dome, under the gaze of the ‘elephant eyes’, until the platform is covered in rubbery rolls of blackened dead skin. Between clients, the masseuses step aside and inexplicably wash their nether regions.

 

In the Cağaloğlu Hamam romance and reality are juxtaposed.

 

Erandi de Silva

 

 

 

 

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