An Ode to the Literary Bath

The perfect bath is like the perfect book. It envelopes you from the world. It stops time.

As an ambivert (half extrovert, half introvert), the bath has always served as a place I could lock myself away, even from a young age, when you have little other autonomy for where you get to be and whom you have to be around. It has a utilitarian component. You have to bathe anyway, so you might as well turn it into a party for one.

As a full-time freelance writer, this utilitarian aspect continues into my professional life.

One of the bedrocks of a successful writing life is the full understanding that any research that needs to be done can be done in the bath.

If you’re lucky enough to have a bath and the time to take one, and you’re one of the people whose job it is right now to just stay put, a bath is one of the most calming things you can do for yourself.

Like a fine wine, a bath cannot be rushed. (Though I read in Barbara Corcoran’s book, while in the bath, that her mother of 10 would give herself exactly three minutes to herself in the tub before the kids piled in. So do what you can!)

When you can’t leave the house, you can at least shelter in place in a warm cocoon of water.

(Since we’re writers here, let me take a moment to say that technically, an ode is “a lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style, varying length of line, and complexity of stanza forms.” But I think we use it more colloquially to mean a letter to about something the author loves.)

On the night that I took these photos, at my sister’s house, we had been, hours earlier, working on her patio when we smelled the neighbor cooking hamburgers. We started jonesing for them. It just so happened that she had not just the meat but all the fixin’s: lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup. We “did it up,” as my friends and I say when we mean doing something with a little more set up and reaping the benefits. A bath is one thing that becomes way more enjoyable when you do it up.

Please note that I am neurotic AF, and this information comes from a life of serious bath dedication. Plus I had only had access to a shower for two months before this, so I wanted the real deal. 

Bath toys for adults:

  • Bubble bath: Bubbles cover my rolls, make me feel like a kid sneakily wasting my mom’s shampoo, and they make a sound like water sizzling on fire when they fall to the floor. My all-time favorite bubble bath is the Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint. It’s a little pricey, but it’s not like a mink, it’s still in the realm of the small luxury. If they sold it in barrels, I would buy three. 
Bubble Bear isn’t my first choice, but he’s what my sister had, and he’s damn cute.
  • Or bath bombs: A new invention within my lifetime, these fizzy treats now come in variety packs, glitter, and even fun shapes. My best friend got me started on these with a gift of Lush ones, which is an expensive habit. Overall, bubble bath is way cheaper, so I just save these for a treat. 
  • This game-changing drain cover: If you’re 5’10” like me and not in the income bracket required to afford a deep tub, this drain cover will buy you precious inches of water, so don’t have to alternate warming vs. chilling your kneecaps vs. shoulders. 
At ease, bath drain.
  • Bath tray: Holy crap, I just used this for the first time at my sister’s house. What have I been missing? A lot. I should have known. Some writers have used these to write entire novels. If I’m being suuuper picky and lazy, I could use a book anchor to hold the book open, too. 
A buffet of pleasantries.

Ambiance!

  • A quick scrub: Take literally two minutes and wipe down the tub. You don’t want to be wondering what your hair is touching when you rest your head or find the random bits that were in the drain floating by. 
  • The shower curtain: My god get it out of the bath before you start the water. Nothing’s worse than having that slimy thing touching your leg. 
  • Music: I usually prefer silence, but if I were to listen to music, this is the playlist I’d use. My sister, a fellow bath-enthusiast, reminds me that it’s important to not select the volume while the bathwater is running, because it might be way too loud when you’re just sitting there in silence. “This is an art form,” she says. “Respect it.” 
  • Candles: Little drops of fire, is there anything better? (Where my fellow pyros at?) I let myself buy this ridiculously priced Capri Blue candle about once a year. Though you gotta pick a smell. I wouldn’t burn this with a strong-smelling bubble bath. I’d pair this with bath salt. They can also be nice for reading by if you have a too-bright overhead light.

Supplies:

  • Hot water, obvi: Only not so obvi, if your water heater sucks. At my last apartment, I learned that I needed to bring two huge pots of water to a boil and pour them in three times in order to get the temperature I wanted. Even then, my boyfriend would eventually hear me whining his name in the kind of voice someone might do anything to stop having to hear. He would come to the rescue with a kettle. A better solution, aka the one I’ll have to use now that I’m single, is an electric kettle near you (but not so near that you might electrocute yourself.) Perhaps on the toilet seat lid, which we pretend is not gross during bath time. 
  • Something dry: I like to have a dry handtowel nearby in case my forehead gets sweaty. Nothing’s worse than the tickle of a dripping sweat annoying you and making you feel gross.
  • A towel: nothing kills your bathly vibe more than having to run naked and cold to the laundry room to find a towel
  • Wine: If you drink, I like either a red with a glass of ice water on the side, or a nicely chilled white or rosé. Honey it’s quarantine, get some champagne if you want it. #norules. I treated myself to this rosé I remembered from my days of working at a fancy wine bar. 

Writerly Accoutrements

  • Something to write on: To write in the bath, use the Rite in the Rain notebook and pen (or a pencil) in case a wet forearm swipes across the page. My shower always has one of my favorite writerly accessories: the suction cup-attached Aquanotes.
  • Books: I like to have a few to choose from, in different genres. 

Your Phone

Should not be in the bath with you. It is a portable to the world, a pop in the bubble in which you are trying to ensconce yourself. Sometimes I will have a phone bath, but a bath bath is not a phone bath. Do not invite the world in there with you.*

*unless you have someone you might have to text to bring you more hot water.

 What’s Literary?

On this particular day, I brought in with me Kristen Millares Young’s Subduction, a book she’s been working on for years and years. What is literary fiction? It’s the perfect reminder of what can be achieved when you put the work in to make something transcendent, something that stops time. 

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