When I was a kid, I only bathed on Saturday nights. My mother had introduced this schedule as the one kept in her childhood home, and it was how they did things on Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, so I assumed it had some foundation in reality. My mother didn't bathe much more frequently than me, usually twice per week. For my dad, showering was a huge production that involved venturing into the generally flooded basement to use the only bathroom in the house with a roll-in shower, so he mostly stuck to what some call "a whore's bath" of rubbing wet towels on himself over a sink. Dante showered a lot.
At one point when I was in elementary school, something in our primary bathroom broke. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember we couldn't bathe at home for about a week until it was fixed. My mother took me to the home of another PTA mom in our neighborhood to use the shower. She had a daughter my age and one slightly older. When I finished in the bathroom and was combing out my hair, the girls asked if I would be coming over every single day like this. "Oh, no, I only shower once a week anyway," I reassured them. The girls laughed. "So... you're like a dog?" the younger one asked, and they laughed again. My face burned. That was when I realized I didn't shower enough. Thank god it happened without my having to be "the stinky kid" at school, as so many children of hoarders endure.
Showering more often was easier said than done. I couldn't just go take a shower whenever I wanted. I had to ask permission. Because, as my mother said, "Someone else might need to use the bathroom," or "Dante might need to take another shower." She seemed to want Dante to shower at least twice a day. She frequently told him he "smelled ripe." If he countered, "I just took a shower," she would say, "So? Take another one." He was a teenage boy, but I still don't know what that was all about. He usually smelled like soap to me. My mother's most frequent response to my, "Can I take a shower?" was, "Didn't you just take one yesterday?" or "Didn't you just take one on [other day of the week]?" I wasn't allowed to shower more than three times per week until I moved out for college and no one could stop me anymore. My mother frequently cited articles that said your hair's natural oils are the best conditioner, as well as the time Dante's pediatrician had allegedly scolded her for giving the newborn Dante baths everyday until his skin dried out. "These are the face and fanny days," he had allegedly told her, and somehow this quote was supposed to relate to my personal hygiene as a young adult.
No one else had to ask permission to use the bathroom, or let everyone else use it before turning on the shower. Dante frequently took over what was considered the only usable bathroom in the house for what seemed like hours at a time, forcing me to use my dad's not-cleaned-in-my-lifetime-and-you-could-smell-it bathroom. My mother insisted the reason I had to ask permission to shower was because no one could stand to use my dad's bathroom and I needed to make sure no one might need to use the bathroom while I was in the shower, but I had to use my dad's bathroom whenever Dante felt like spending quality alone time in the usable one. If you've read my other posts, you might recall that was not-so-coincidentally where Dante kept his stash of pornographic magazines and my school yearbooks. It was also not-so-coincidentally the only room in the house where my mother didn't habitually try to walk right in and then pitch a fit if the door was locked.
The last time I stepped foot in my parents' house, none of the bathrooms were in a condition I would call usable. My mother had moved in with her parents at that point, and she had left the "good bathroom" with a heavily clogged toilet. It still wasn't worse than my dad's bathroom, but my standards had gone up. I drove to the local library to use their public restroom rather than deal with the ones in my parents' house. Then I went back to my hotel and rinsed the mold spores out of my nose and took a shower.