“I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
— Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“I take baths all the time. I’ll put on some music and burn some incense and just sit in the tub and think, ‘Wow, life is great right now.’”
— Brian Austin Green
I am a man and there’s nothing I love more than the comfort and relaxation of a warm bath. I listen to Slayer, I know the dialogue of Arnold Schwarzenegger films by heart, and I would like nothing more than to eat a steak and potatoes dinner while watching the NFL playoffs. But I shamelessly spend upwards of an hour in the tub. So you can suck it, hegemonic gender norms.
1. Let’s get it right out in the open — there’s no part of your daily life more akin to being in the womb than taking a bath, an analogy that I fully admit is as potentially unsettling as it is comforting. But there’s just no denying that you are essentially sloshing around in a warm, enclosed porcelain uterus: the sounds of the outside world transmitted to you all muffled and distorted through various barriers, your eyes opening and closing in an almost embryonic slumber, the mind a blank slate, your naked body awkwardly contorted to fit its confined vessel, filmy layers of soap and shampoo turning the tub’s water into a cloudy primordial stew. Again, I apologize for the use of the verb sloshing, but let’s be honest about the womb/bath similarities right here from the very outset of this discussion.
2. Baths aren’t about cleanliness, which appeals to me. After all, you’re really just floating in a pool of your own dirt and grime. Perhaps this is why I tend to mentally replay the worst events of my day there — in a bath you are not scrubbing away your impurities, merely wallowing in them.
3. One difference between the womb and your tub is that it’s totally cool to drink alcohol in the latter. Perhaps you ladies out there, as well as gentlemen more sophisticated than myself, may choose to bring a glass of wine in there with you. Personally, I’m more of a rum and coke guy. But if you think I’ve never drank a Colt 45 in the tub, well, get off your goddamned high horse, okay?
4. Perhaps even better than an in-the-tub nightcap is taking your morning coffee in the tub. If you’re not doing this every Sunday morning, you need to get your fucking head examined. I mean, leisurely sipping a mug of coffee in the tub makes breakfast in bed look like a prison sentence in Pakistan, if we’re talking overall relaxation and comfort.
5. But, of course, you’re not just sitting around drinking in the tub, right? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but chances are you want something to engage your brain as your body drifts in a state of blissful tranquility. So just go ahead and rest your liquor or coffee or what have you on that cornered area of the tub where the lip extends back to meet the wall, or whatever the situation is with your particular tub, wherever it is that you place amenities such as shampoo or conditioner, and go ahead and pull out a good book or a magazine or the newspaper. I do my best reading in the tub, away from the distractions of my phone or the internet, free from unnecessary stimuli beyond the slight, soothing gurgling of running water. I’ve currently got a copy of Infinite Jest in there, and by currently, I mean since 2002. I’m getting there, okay?
6. There’s an intrinsically freeing and intimate quality about baths that makes the indulgent bouts of slothful escape described above seem more acceptable. During the work week I fantasize about idle Saturday afternoons spent lying on the couch reading and watching old movies; yet, when that opportunity arrives, I tend to kick or berate myself for wasting the day away or get in a depressive funk from the stagnancy of it all. But there’s something about the tub that’s so playfully decadent and absurd that I never judge how I spend my time in there – it’s okay to read an entire Goosebumps cover to cover, or rest my laptop on the toilet seat and watch three episodes of American Gladiators. I’m already a grown man taking bath, so what difference does it make?
7. I also do some of my finest thinking in the tub, by which I mean it’s where I’ve had such perceptive insights as, “I don’t think that’s a freckle…” or “Hey, was that a surprise party or an intervention?” I’m no Socrates, but you can’t dispute that the tranquil repose of bathing lends itself to introspective probing. The distinct emptiness of the white noise and bleached porcelain leaves you with nothing to contemplate but yourself – I would imagine many that many serial killers had transformative moments in the tub.
8. Of course, there’re few things better than a hot bath on a cold winter morning. Although, I have a serious bone to pick with whoever decided to place the tub in the room with the coldest floor in the entire house. Most of my baths are so long because I feel like the bathroom floor is holding me hostage.
9. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to fall asleep in the tub, but I’ve done it literally hundreds of times, including a few while blackout drunk. Once one of my college roommates almost broke down the door because he thought I died in there. From a psycho-emotional standpoint, shit can get pretty dark in the tub.
10. Like most of my writing, this is slowly becoming about alcohol. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the bath, coupled with copious drinking water and aspirin, is also one of the only suitable cures to a hangover. So if you get drunk in the tub one night, you might just want to hang in there right through to the next morning and well into the afternoon. As Homer Simpson once said, “To alcohol – the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
11. In movies, a lot of times you see people (okay, it’s always women – shame on you, Hollywood) talking on the phone in the tub. I’ve reluctantly answered calls in there a few times and attempted to disguise my location, but it’s always resulted in the caller going, “There’s a really weird echo on your end…and it sounds like running water. Are you taking a bath?” which is my cue to make static noises into the phone and hang up on them. This is a good thing, though – I don’t need to talk. I’m a naked guy immersed in water, okay? Just let me be. This is how I chill.
12. It’s like a shower, but horizontal. What do you like better, standing up or lying down? Right.
13. Beyond the womb parallel, the other readily apparent analogous for the tub is a tomb — marbled, enclosed, sepulchral. So, uh, do with that what you will, but it seems that a bath is sort of a metaphor for life, or, more likely, vice versa. Either way, I think I just deciphered the last 45 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.