Every so often, a question comes along that divides the nation.
What color is this dress?
Who should be the president?
And now, which way do you face in the shower?
It might not be a topic that’s literally ever crossed your mind until this very moment, but it turns out this question unlocks a shockingly heated debate — and can leave you wondering, do you ever really know anyone?
For the TODAY newsroom, this all started a few months ago when producer Zoe Marcus returned to the office from a family vacation, her world rocked by a conversation she’d had around the family dinner table. Her father, who was heading into cataract surgery, expressed concern about the aftermath — how would he shower when he wasn’t supposed to get his face wet?
What do you mean, his family asked. You don’t put your face directly into the water… Do you?
Why yes, Wally Marcus replied. Of course he put his face directly into the water — didn’t everybody?
As the Marcus family found out that night — and as I later discovered when Zoe posed this question to our office (throwing it into pandemonium) — there are two types of people in the world: the nozzle-facers and those who face away. (There is also a smaller third category of "spinners" — those who rotate direction throughout their showers — but most people I talked to fell decisively into the first or second camp.)
The crazy part is, nozzle facers assume everyone is a nozzle facer, and face-away-ers assume everyone faces away.
When Zoe asked me, for example, how I take a shower, I answered immediately — I face away, obviously; I’m not an animal! I was then shocked to learn that my husband, who I’ve known for 12 years, is a nozzle facer. “WHAT?!” I shrieked. “That doesn’t even make sense! How do you breathe???”
This reaction was quite common among everyone I super scientifically (read: extremely anecdotally) surveyed. Husbands and wives felt betrayed by how little they understood each other ("Who are you!"), co-workers shouted ("That's just wrong!") and furious emails were exchanged. Men, it seemed, were more likely to put their faces directly into the path of the nozzle, unbothered by water in their eyes and noses, while more women seemed to prefer facing away — possibly due to factors of height and hair length.
None of the people I talked to had ever thought about this before, ever, and every single person was shocked to learn that showers could be done differently than the way they'd been doing them. (There's an analogy to be made somewhere in here about our current political climate...But we'll leave that for another time.)
The great Shower-Facing Question, dormant for centuries, has inexplicably bubbled up in recent months, blowing lots of minds along the way.
It surfaced as a “conundrum” on the Slate Political Gabfest (at which the audience seemed split between the three personality types), a Reddit thread, and even became the subject of articles by Bustle and Sports Illustrated (where, I was happy to find, facing away from the shower is enjoying a comfortable lead in their poll).
Though we all feel entitled to our shower positioning, there might actually be a right and wrong choice here.
“The real scientific answer behind it has to do with moisturizing your skin,” Dr. Cameron Rokshar, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital, told me, noting that facing away from the nozzle has a clear advantage. “The more exposure you get to water, and especially hot water, the drier your skin becomes. If you face the shower and have a whole bunch of water hit your face for 10 or 15 minutes, and you get and out and do nothing about it, that has a drying effect. Water, as it evaporates, takes more water with it.”
That being said, Rokshar admitted he’s a total spinner.
“I probably face the shower with the water hitting me,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think you face one way the entire time — I’m probably a 70-30 kind of guy.”
So go home, find a loved one, and get to know them in a way you've never known them before: Ask them which way they face in the shower.
And if they blow your mind with that one, try another Wally Marcus favorite: Sock, sock, shoe, shoe, or sock, shoe, sock, shoe? You might just find you understand them a little bit better.
Meena Hart Duerson is the Editorial Director of TODAY.com. You can find her on Twitter here.