We all remember the moment our life changed. The time-stopping, earth-shattering, vomit-inducing moment that cleaves your entire existence into “Before” and “After”.
Maybe it was when you realized that it’s not “all intensive purposes” or that it’s ESpresso and not EXpresso, or that “Beatles” is actually a pun. Maybe it’s when your mom revealed you had a twin who you consumed in the womb. Regardless, your moment shakes you to your core. It changes the way you see the world. It changes who you are.
My moment came a few weeks ago, on a Sunday. Moments always come on Sundays, hidden in that heavy cloud of anxiety that hangs in the dead space between weekend and week. Night had fallen, and I emerged from my bedroom — a naive, hungover girl, unaware that everything was about to change.
In the living room, my roommates were watching the season finale of The People v. O.J. Simpson. They had started watching that morning and, like high-level athletes, had sacrificed their health, hygiene and personal relationships to power through the season. We watched as the juror said “Not guilty,” and we gasped, and Sarah Paulson’s jaw trembled and we said “How great is Sarah Paulson?” thirty-six times, and we watched as Cuba Gooding Jr. returned home, triumphant (“Remember Radio?” “We don’t talk about that,”) and we watched as he stepped into the shower, ass to the camera.
If I had kept my mouth shut, none of this would have happened. If I had stepped away to make a cup of tea, or call my grandma, or if our grumpy downstairs neighbor, finally fed up with our heavy footfalls, had decided to light the building on fire, my life could have continued more or less as it always had. Instead, I checked out Cuba Jr.’s butt (I’m not really a butt gal, but Cuba’s keeping it tight) and made the observation that changed everything.
“I hate it when they do that in TV shows. Nobody showers like that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Nobody showers facing the head like that. You always shower facing AWAY from the water.”
“Wait. You face away from the water… right?”
Reflection. Mentally, we all traveled to our cramped, mustard-yellow bathroom, orienting ourselves in the perpetually-moldy shower.
“I face the head…” Caroline ventured.
“Me too,” said Hannah.
If I had been standing, I would have collapsed, a hand thrown theatrically across my face to block out all of the offensive opinions. Unfortunately, I was curled up quite comfortably on the couch, so all I could do was drop my jaw and gape in disbelief. And shout.
“That makes NO sense! You’d have water in your face the whole time! You couldn’t breathe! How do you rinse your hair?!”
“First of all, can you not hold your breath? And you’re not just sticking your face in it the whole time!”
“Yeah, and you’re not frozen! You turn around to get both sides.”
“Then how do you wash your front?!”
“It just sort of… cascades everywhere.”
We were a house divided. We started on a grueling debate, texting friends, shouting, offering olive branches that were snapped and then clumsily taped back together. Eventually, tired and hoarse, we turned back to the show, our heads swirling with questions like “Can you ever really know another person?” and “What is reality except in action?” and “I’m like… clean, right?”
The next day, halfway through my shower, I turned to face not only the water, but my destiny.
When I was twelve, I was body-surfing with my grandfather when a wave pulled me under. Before I could get my footing, another wave crashed over me, and then another after that. I couldn’t tell what was up and what was down. I swallowed what felt like gallons of water. I was sure I would die.
That’s what facing the shower head was like.
I turned around, spluttering and gasping for air. I wondered if facing the shower head was some sort of fetish, like those people who masturbate with plastic bags over their heads. I guess I would never know. I finished my shower and stepped out into the world — a very different world than before.