Chris’s brother is now back in Melbourne for Christmas from Sydney. He got back on Thursday night, so the family house is packed with all six of us now for the very first time. The family house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, so all of us comfortably have our own bathrooms to use. Chris’s dad told us that they had recently had the water pressure reduced across the house, which was most notable in the shower heads. The reason they did this was that they were advised by their plumber to reduce it, otherwise it may cause future problems for all their machines that use water (washing machine, dishwasher, etc.). Everyone in the family loves their water pressure in the shower; in fact, Chris says that one of his absolute favorite things to do when he gets back to Melbourne each year is to simply turn on the shower head in his bathroom and let the water stream down on him… because the water pressure is optimal, and he loves that feeling on his skin. When their dad mentioned the water pressure had been reduced, I hadn’t noticed it at all in the shower we used; it still seemed quite strong to me, other than the fact that the shower head is different in this bathroom given we switched bathrooms with his brother, as his brother’s bathroom has a full bathtub, which makes it easier to bathe Kaia.
Well, Ben noticed the shower pressure had changed immediately. He asked his parents what happened, and they explained. Yet somehow, oddly enough, the shower pressure in their parents’ master bathroom had not changed much, if at all. So now, instead of using his own shower, Ben is now going to continue using his parents’ shower while he is here! His dad had asked me if I had noticed a difference, and I said no.
The reason this is even a topic for me is that all it reminds me of is exactly how weak and terrible my parents’ water pressure is in their shower. In fact, I know, for a FACT, that it’s gotten weaker by design over the last 10-15 years, as my dad has not only changed the shower head multiple times, but he’s actually reduced the water pressure. He did not do that because it was too strong, but rather because a) he wanted to save money on water, b) there was a drought which advised all residents of California to reduce water usage… but hey, it ended!, and c) he insisted it was just better for the environment. It was never a discussion. He just did it and didn’t even tell my mom. No one else’s opinion or comfort mattered. It was his executive decision, and it was never going to get reversed no matter what.
The water pressure is so weak in that shower that my showers likely take a longer time there because the water feels like it’s just dripping out — slowly, painfully, meekly. Yet the few nights I actually do spend at my parents’ house nowadays, because my dad is so cheap, he occasionally will try to lightly ask me to shorten my showers. My showers are actually quite short when I am not washing my hair, and given I am only there for at max three days at a time now, it’s truly amazing that he would even ask me to do this.
The other reason this is so triggering for me is that it doesn’t seem to matter what it is, whether it is day to day living, traveling, once in a blue moon events… my dad’s cheapness seems to apply to everything. In some way, it’s almost like he wants to prevent himself from truly enjoying the experience of anything… at seemingly all costs, not just financial. He cannot even learn to enjoy the simplicity of a good shower head and water pressure. Part of me wonders if it’s just because of his upbringing, because his parents had so little and thus he had so little, and so he really grasps at every last penny he has as a result of that childhood in fear it will all disappear into thin air suddenly, despite the fact that he has more than enough now. But there are plenty of immigrant stories of families who had nothing, yet when those kids grew into adults, they managed their finances well and were able to enjoy. So the more I think about it, the more I think he just has a mental block that prevents him from enjoying or liking anything.
“Do you think your parents are capable of being happy?” my therapist once asked me.
“I suppose that depends on how you define ‘happy,'” I responded back.
It seems the older I get, the less I can give a straight “yes” or “no” answer to ANYTHING, which is so aggravating sometimes.
Because perhaps for some people, “happy” means always complaining about the most minute things; maybe it means doing the exact same things in the exact same routine every single day and not veering away from it. It can be sameness all the time. Maybe it means always comparing your kids to other kids; maybe it means always looking at people who have far, far less than you (read: are truly living in poverty) and using that as a reason to not make your own life a fraction more comfortable. And if that is the case, then there’s not much else you can say or do for them. But then… if I really wanted to know, maybe I could just flat out ask my dad the simple but very loaded question: “Are you happy?”
Well, to be honest, I am not sure I want to hear the response to that.