Monday, October 1, 2007


I wasn't always a bath person.

I learned how to take a shower when I was 10 years old, on a solo trip visiting my maternal grandmother. And for nearly 30 years after that, showers were my personal cleaning method of choice.

Part of it may have to do with the fact that I always shared a home with at least one other person, and didn't always feel comfortable "lazing around" in a tub.* Baths also seemed like so much work; the speed of showers appealed to my go-go-go internal clock.

Since moving into my own apartment, however, I have become totally enamoured of baths. So much so, that I now bathe rather than shower whenever I have the time.

The ritual of "drawing the bath" is part of the appeal. I make sure the tub is immaculate (even if it means cleaning the tub beforehand), then pour in my additives: plain Epsom salts, pure vegetable oil (usually sesame or olive - although lately I've been trying to use up my supply of castor oil), and essential oils (usually lavender, although in the spring and summer I also like rosewood).

I add the water last. In the cooler months I like my baths as hot as I can stand; in the summer, they're usually tepid.

I like the lighting to be really dim while I bathe. I usually turn off the room lights and bathe by candlelight - or in the summer, when candles might be too hot, I simply leave the bathroom door open, letting light from the rest of my apartment spill into the dark bathroom.

Then I soak.

And I mean really soak. I have friends who like reading the bath. None of that for me. I may take the occasional phone call (and if it's dangerous to hold cordless or mobile phones while sitting in the tub, I don't want to know), but otherwise I just lie there.

I'm reminded of Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire. Stanley always rebuked her for spending too much time in the tub (especially during the hot, New Orleans summer), but she countered that it was "hydro-therapy," and good for her nerves.

Soaking in water is good for my nerves. I feel blissed-out by the time I'm done. It's as good as yoga for my mental and emotional well-being, without the effort of actually doing asanas.

*The one exception was the period I spent as a live-in housekeeper/nanny for a family with an indoor hot tub. I did like the hot tub.

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