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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

Lee Cataluna
Bath rule is no dirty secret

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

It doesn't matter how late it is or how tired you are. It doesn't matter if nobody else will know or care. It doesn't even matter if the water heater is in its "off" phase or the solar panels have cooled for the night. If you're local, you gotta take a bath before you go to sleep. It's a rule.

You can't really break it down into a more specific category than "local." It's not a Neighbor Island thing, it's not a Honolulu thing. It's not particularly a city thing or a rural thing, a mauka or makai thing. It's not really an ethnic thing.

It's just a Hawai'i thing.

Not that people who live in places other than Hawai'i don't bathe. Of course they do. But when you live in a tropical climate, you have, shall we say, different issues.

Even if you live in an air-conditioned house, drive an air-conditioned car, work in an air-conditioned office and shop at Kahala Mall, somehow you get it in your head that you've been exposed to the elements all day and gotta get that lepo gone before you sleep. There is no waiting until morning. The morning shower is a whole different deal, separate and distinct from the nighttime take-a-bath rule. In lots of households, the rule is both.

When my dad tells the story of his hip replacement surgery, the kicker is always "And in the hospital, I didn't take a bath for eight days!" To him, that was the very worst part. When he tells that story, people gasp, wide-eyed at his sheer survival skills. Eight days. Wow.

The take-a-bath rule has some exceptions, of course. For example, if you took a bath late in the afternoon, you can pass on another one before bedtime just as long as your feet are clean.

When we say "bath," we usually mean shower. Somehow, the word gets held over from childhood. In some houses, it's "'au'au". In others, it's "bafe," as in "Ramona, go bafe now befo' da hot wata run out."

There's a related phenomenon, known in certain circles as "boch-and-go". "Bocha" is Japanese baby-talk for "bath." "Boch" is the local-style slang. The "boch-and-go" rule dictates you must bathe before you leave your house to go to a party, go on a date, even to just drop by your friend's place. If you are coming home from work or school, there must be a bath before you can leave again.

"Ho, I had work so late today, when I got back home, I only had enough time to boch and go." "Eh, no waste time watching TV or playing computer. Your auntie waiting. Just boch and go." "No, I cannot come straight from work. I gotta go home first, then boch and go."

But even after boch-and-go, the take-a-bath rule still stands. You can boch and go to a party, but you gotta bathe again when you get home. It's a rule. Depending on the kind of party, of course, there could be exceptions. But at the very least, your feet have to be clean.

It's the rule.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.