I’m somewhat reluctant to broach this subject because it’s not a particularly masculine one, but let’s be honest: that ship sailed a long time ago to the tune of poetry readings and beloved standards of American musical theatre. So here’s the thing: lately I’ve been taking a lot of baths. Not nightly, but certainly with the same frequency that I condition my beard, which is another not especially manly thing that, you know what, forget I mentioned.
This has been going on for about three months now. The desire to have a bath started shortly after my surgery, when, due to certain tube-age, I was unable to have one. All I could think about was, “God, I can’t wait to get this thing out of me so I can have a bath.” A bath seemed like the answer to all my ills – something simple and comfortingly old-fashioned, like chicken soup or a mustard poultice.
And indeed, in the subsequent weeks and months, on those days when I’ve been sore and uncomfortable, the heat of a bath has certainly helped. Maybe it’s a placebo effect, but soaking is good. “Just going to have a quick bath,” I’ll say through a grimace, and then I’ll disappear into the bathroom.
It’s very therapeutic, but now that I think about it, I probably just like lying in the tub.
Baths get a bad rap. Many people find them appalling – stewing in your own filth, they say. First of all, stews are delicious. Secondly, unless you’ve been working in a coal mine, your filth is likely to be well diluted by the bath water. Thirdly, it’s hot water, so it’s not so much stewing as, in fact, steeping.
I also think baths are scorned because they are perceived as if not effeminate then certainly soft. Showers are loud, with pressure and pulsating action, and you have to stay vertical and on your guard so that the clammy shower curtain doesn’t blow in and touch your skin, which we can all agree is the worst. Showers are practical. Showers are butch.
Baths, on the other hand, are passive, quiet, secretive. You don’t scrub; you soak. You recline. You take your time, which makes people on the other side of the door wonder exactly what are you doing in there, all that time just stewing/steeping?
More to the point: what can’t you do!
For starters, I make sure my bath lasts at least a good half hour. I am at heart a cheap man, so if I’m running all that hot water, I’m going to fully exploit the burning up of the electricity bill. The same would hold true if I were a bubble guy; I would stay in that tub until all the bubbles were de-bubbled. But I am not a bubble guy. I draw the line. No bubbles, bombs, fizzy things, oils – none of that in my tub. Cat hair, I got, but it’s accidental.
So I’ve got a good half hour in there, plenty of time to read a couple of chapters or play a game of online Scrabble, though the latter is never entirely relaxing because there’s the constant fear of dropping the tablet in the tub. I started writing this column in the bath!
Tea is good. Any beverage is fine. The other night, my wife tapped on the door. “Are you decent?” she asked. “Well, I’m in the tub so I’m as decent as I’m going to get.” She walked in with a fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie on the plate, and the cookie was the size of the plate because my daughter made it, and she would rather make two trays of giant cookies than waste time making four trays of regular cookies. So that was nice. But again, you don’t want cookies in the bath water because that really does start to look like stew.
So you can see why I’ve been drawn to the tub this winter. Comfort, quiet, cookies. It’s been a cold winter and we keep our thermostat at a brisk 63 degrees – gotta cut back on the furnace if I’m pouring money out of the water heater! The bath is the only warm spot in the house.
Plus, why not? Why shouldn’t I soak in a tub? And why should I worry that it’s perhaps not masculine? After all, slouching in a tub for hours at a time entails perhaps the most male trait of all: hiding.