There is nothing in the world as quite as wonderful as a bath.
I like them best in giant old clawfoot tubs, the kind you can fill right up to your chin, but I’m not picky. I will happily get in any old tub, just as long as I’ve bleached it beforehand. Hotel tubs, gross as they are, are a last resort if I’m really desperate.
As a child, I would watch my mom pour her almond-scented Jafra oil in the tub and luxuriate there, forgetting she had two little blonde children demanding her attention if just for awhile. I wasn’t allowed to use the Jafra, which meant I wanted it more than anything. I’d sit in our peach-painted bathroom that perfectly matched the magic oil inside the bottle, and inhale its sweet scent. The one time I snuck some (and got caught) was the most magical, decadent bath of my entire life.
My fascination with bath potions never abated. Now, I pour as much bubble bath as I possibly can in the tub as it fills, watching them swell into huge clouds I sink right into. I buy rose-scented bath bombs and glitter bubble bars from LUSH, pretending I’m a fancy mermaid princess. In the winter, I add Vitamin E oil to keep my skin from losing its moisture to radiators and bitter Minnesota cold. When I feel sick, it’s straight into a raging hot bath of eucalyptus and lavender bath salts.
I do all sorts of things in my bath. Sometimes I leave my phone in another room on vibrate so I don’t feel the need to check it every two minutes. I read giant portions of trashy novels. I slap on a face mask. I bring whiskey and Brass Monkeys and red wine in with me. I send emails. I plan parties. I talk to the cat, who has a habit of sitting near me as I soak. I send all sorts of photos, depending on our relationship. I chat with my mother four hours away in North Dakota. A bath in the afternoon where no one else is home and you can marinate as long as you like, use up all the hot water if you damn well please, is a luxury.
Boys will say, “Baths are for girls!” They’ve kept baths on the backburner, a relic from childhood where they floated toy boats on oceans of Mr. Bubble and their moms shaped shampoo mohawks on their heads. But oh, sometimes you can coax one in with you. They like the idea of a slippery naked girl covered in bubbles and secretly, they’re tempted and fascinated by all the fancy oils and powders and elixirs you’ve poured in there, but they’re loathe to get in. “We won’t fit,” they say. They’re vulnerable, getting naked in front of you outside of drunken hookups or regular bedroom activities. Ah, but you will fit. You’ll make it work. The faucet might jam into your back, but you’ll get over it. All sorts of magic happens when it’s a boy, a girl and a bathtub. Have you ever seen that episode of “Sex and the City” where Aidan draws a bath for Carrie and gets in with her? That was one of the most genuinely sweet and romantic moments of the series. There’s a companionship outside of the sexual promise of a shared bath. Once you’re together in there, you have nothing to hide.
But sometimes, I just want to be alone, Margot Tenenbaum-style. I want to sit in my tub of pretty scented bubbles and twist my hair up and think about nothing, to stare at the wall or at my toes and zone out. It’s just me in there: no phone, no book, no Patsy Cline and no companion. I rarely get that kind of quiet anymore.