Bath, Beneath, and Beyond

Continuing on with shaker sets that imply an invisible beneath, there is this pair:Bathers

Once more, the shakers represent something that is standing in water, this time two bathers.  We see only the top third or so of their bodies, but knowledge of the way things usually are allows us  to assume that the expectably normal other two-thirds nevertheless exists, hidden under the surface of the water their apparent nakedness, bathcap and washcloth, and the bubbles surrounding them imply.  Once more, they turn the surface they sit on into an implied body of water that they sit in–one that appears to continue under the impenetrable surface that  they seem to penetrate merely by being placed on top of it. 

For a long time after receiving the gift of this pair, I’d imagined they represent two somewhat cherubically sizeable ladies.  A clearly mistaken assumption, as my first closer look at their backs quickly revealed:

Bathers Back

Unless the one on the left is an unusually bald lady, he is clearly just an ordinarily bald gentleman.  So why didn’t I realize that sooner?   I think it’s because, in the miniverse of salt and pepper shakers and in the kitschy world of popular culture more generally,  nudes tend to be exclusively female: witness my postings earlier last year about shakers representing a variety of naked bodies and body parts, all of them female.  A quick Google search reveals a number of different shaker sets representing parts or all of female bodies, but only a very few of naked male torsos.

Once I did realize that one of these bathers was male, I also realized the rarity of this one being depicted as old enough to be bald.  Once more, there are occasional very stereotyped depictions of old people in salt and pepper shakers–see earlier posts showing some–but not all that many middle-aged ones.  Both older people and young people can easily be understood to be, and depicted as, cute.  It’s harder to depict middle-aged people as cute.

Unless they’re chubby enough to look roundish and adorable.  As these two do.  And that makes them fitting residents of the salt and pepper world, all set to mildly scandalize us by taking a bath together before (or maybe after) who knows what.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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