Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bathing-Machine Etiquette


If Asmodeus or some other imp could reveal to the thoughtful critic, the private lives of the bathers of America, France, England and Japan, it would be possible to ascertain which of these codes of bathing etiquette is associated with most correct and purest lives ; but as the data are not all accessible, each of us may draw the conclusion he pleases. 

Bathing Machine Etiquette

Apart altogether from the wide difference, between the description of bath used by various nationalities — differences dependent somewhat upon climate — there is great diversity in the etiquette surrounding the bath. In Western Europe, England and the United States, the private bathroom is usually occupied by one individual at a time, but the etiquette of sea-bathing in England differs widely from that of this country, which has adopted the bathing customs of the continent of Europe, or rather those of France. 


In England, the beach of seaside resort exhibits several ranges of little wooden houses on wheels, called "bathing machines." The proprietors, or attendants, who have an office near, are on the lookout for bathers, and for a small sum give the bather the exclusive right to a machine, which is immediately drawn into the water to a convenient depth for a plunge.

The bathing machines for men are always separated by a considerable distance from those for women, who always wear a bathing dress consisting of a long loose gown. The men wear a waist cloth, or nothing, according to the measure of their own prudery or that of the town authorities. Most bathing machines have a hood, which can be let down so as to secure privacy, and the very prudish of both sexes stay inside its protective folds. The sexes never associate while in the water, so that sea-bathing in England seems a solemn affair for the young men and women of this country, who love the sea bath for the chances it affords for flirtation and exhibition of physical proportions. 


Sirens and lady-killers have but scant opportunities at Brighton or Hastings, compared with those they enjoy at Long Branch or Cape May. The latter are reduced to watching, glass to eye, from the promenade or hotel windows, the capers of the former as they coyly crouch at the edge of the tide, or float far out upon the waves. There can be no romping and dipping, no close inspection of sinewy or graceful contours, no admiration of artistic abbreviation of costume; but, to make some slight amends. Old Neptune flirts with the long blue dresses and lifts them past prudery line.

In Japan they have no nonsensical prudery. Men and women bathe together, and a man does not scruple to introduce his friend of his own sex to his wife or daughter as all stand vesture-less in the water. Properly interpreted, this shows that a Japanese husband has more confidence in his wife and more in his friend than any Celt, Teuton or Anglo-Saxon has yet developed. 
If the confidence is warranted by the want of results, this absence of prudery is a decided step toward a higher civilization. 

If Asmodeus or some other imp could reveal to the thoughtful critic, the private lives of the bathers of America, France, England and Japan, it would be possible to ascertain which of these codes of bathing etiquette is associated with most correct and purest lives ; but as the data are not all accessible, each of us may draw the conclusion he pleases. — Philadelphia Record, 1885

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia