I am all about water conservation but I firmly believe that once a year you should take a huge, hot bath.
This year’s opportunity came last weekend in Estes Park, where we had gone for our first overnight trip with the baby. The motel room was small and outdated in many ways but updated in the sense that it had a jacuzzi tub doubling as a shower jammed in the corner next to the bed. The first thing I said when I saw it was yikes. The second thing I said was I should probably take a bath in that. The beau agreed, not least because he’d be within easy ogling range from any angle in the joint.
The last time I took a bath was September, in the middle of a hotel room in California. I was pregnant at the time and felt a little bit like a dope on display. I think it’s difficult for most people to feel anything but vaguely embarrassed when they’re nude in front of other people, even romantic partners, or maybe that’s the Puritan cultural imprint talking. Body stuff is challenging to talk about because we all have our Things and too often our Things don’t overlap with other people’s Things and so everyone winds up feeling alienated and misunderstood. All of which is a long-winded way of saying I wanna talk body shop, sorry about that.
I think the “love and appreciate your body for all its done for you” sentiment comes from a good and worthy place but much like Evelyn Couch being encouraged to study her own vagina in Fried Green Tomatoes, I can’t get comfortable with that. It doesn’t feel natural to me. What feels natural is a state of general malaise. That said I had coached myself in advance, all through my pregnancy, to just be chill with whatever I wound up with afterwards. “You are totally fucked,” I told myself, and I felt almost cheerful about that. I was already going through the Creeping Decline of the Thirties and pregnancy was only going to accelerate the process. There was freedom in the acceptance. Knowing that it’s all downhill from here out doesn’t have to be crippling or saddening if you don’t let it. I mean, the good thing about a downhill is that you can coast.
Much like life, my postpartum body came bearing good news and bad. The good news was that in the days following Vera’s birth my belly steadily deflated like a leaky air mattress, the kind that has your ass on the floor by 4:00 am. The bad news was that the leak stalled out a little too quickly, leaving me with a rounded pooch that hangs over the tops of my pants like a bored teenager hanging over a railing on a family sightseeing tour. The good news is that I escaped new stretch marks, and the bad news is that I ended up with a scribble of varicose veins up my thighs and around my knees, which makes me feel stellar in a skirt. The good news is that I look sort of like my old self again, the bad news is that I’m droopier and and more dimpled than before. And then there’s the scar, a red rope tucked between two folds of skin, and the fact that the left and right sides of my abs still aren’t speaking to one another and maybe never will.
So on the one hand I feel fine and on the other I feel like a broken coffee cup hastily glued back together by an intoxicated person. But I was about to take that bath!
It was a huge tub, if I hadn’t mentioned that already, and it took forever to fill. I did not manage the temperature very well and it ended up being way too hot and getting in felt very much like Bugs Bunny climbing into a cooking pot. I tried to turn on the jacuzzi jets but the motor made the whole tub vibrate like rumble strips on the highway, so I shut them back off again and just sat there in the middle of my tiny manmade lake, staring back at the baby staring at me from the bed four feet away.
“It’s hot in here,” the beau complained, and he mercifully did not follow it up with any kind of Nelly reference. “Sorry,” I said, and took another sip from my wine glass, which actually contained bourbon and ginger ale. I had been thinking about posting a picture of the wine glass on Instagram with a caption that said “notes of bourbon and ginger ale” but that wasn’t very funny and I would have just deleted it later out of embarrassment.
I like baths but I never know what to do in them, especially when I have a small and vaguely creepy audience. So I spent a lot of time gazing critically into the water at my own body, and getting hotter. I got so hot that my scalp started sweating, and beads of perspiration were trickling down my face and neck. Sweating like this always makes me think of how I read somewhere that Gwen Stefani treats her hangovers by going into her steam room, because of course she has a steam room. I imagine it as a rough-hewn cabin in a golden meadow. I think if I had the money I’d steam all the time, because it was definitely starting to make me feel better about pretty much everything.
After a sufficient amount of time I rose from the water like a Phoenix, feeling strangely powerful for someone who had recently eaten half of a pizza. In the bathroom mirror I saw that the remains of my eyeliner had smudged into inverse triangles below my lids, making it look sort of like I had two teardrop tattoos. The green laminate countertop was comically low, hitting below my crotch, so the effect was that I felt like a giant. A murderous, droopy, unwieldy giant.
I kind of liked that.
The moral here is not that you ever need to love yourself or feel good about yourself or even come to a place of acceptance about your body. The moral is not that you ever need to drink bourbon or even take a bath. There is no moral. Many of us have already spent a lot of time and energy pedaling uphill in our bodies and its okay to coast in them now.