Clean teen
What do they do in there?
(Getty Images)
A few short years ago, it was all but impossible to get my then 14-year-old son to do the most basic ablutions. Left to his own devices, he would stew, happily oblivious, in his own juices until his olfactory-wracking personal aroma preceded him into a room. His hair would take on a curiously glistening appearance, a million miles removed from the healthy sheen a shampoo-and-condition might produce. Once or twice, while talking to him, I would be moved to say, ‘Good heavens, boy, what’s that stuck in your teeth?’ And it would turn out to be not just a bit of spinach from lunch, but rather an accumulation of a few days’ debris.

While it wouldn’t be true to say I miss those times, the opposite has become every bit as annoying. Now that he’s 18, once he’s in the shower, that’s where my son stays. His sister, who at 17 has a fairly rigorous personal-hygiene regimen of her own, can often be found standing at the bathroom door, sometimes beating on it with her fists, and screaming, ‘Leave me some hot water!’ as the shower runs… and runs… and runs.

Without wanting to delve too deeply (or, for that matter, at all) into what teenage boys actually do in the shower for 45 minutes, what do they do in the shower for 45 minutes? Especially when there are people outside shrieking for them to get out?

For me, even a particularly lengthy shower doesn’t last longer than, say, 15 minutes – by then, I’m as clean as I can possibly be, I’ve luxuriated for quite long enough in the running stream of lovely hot water, and, well, that’s it. There’s nothing more to be done, really, except get out.

Not unexpectedly, my son pays absolutely no attention to his sister’s loudly infuriated cries, but earnest appeals to his eco conscience fall equally on deaf ears. When I explain that using an entire geyser’s worth of boiling water to ablute just himself isn’t on, when there are two other people in the house in equal need and the planet is dying, he gives me one of those thousand-yard stares that all teenagers get in their How-To-Annoy-The- Hell-Out-Of-Your-Parents goodie bag when they turn 16.

I want my son, a handsome young man, to be clean and fresh-smelling, really I do, but I’d just like him to be a bit quicker about it.

Are teenage boys and girls equally concerned about their appearance and grooming? How do you make sure yours get equal bathroom time?

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