Illusions of the perfect bath have haunted me for years. It’s not quite a Captain Ahab thing—at least not yet. Dozens of bath related products dot my bathroom counters and cabinets and other miscellaneous surfaces—I’ve accumulated an unrivaled collection, one that’s gone completely untouched. Each time I receive a new one (perk of the job), I smuggle it home, pretending that my lower Manhattan tenement apartment’s bath tub is actually usable, and will certainly be improved when I have a jar of pink salt teetering on its ledge. During acute moments of clarity, I literally ship these jars home to my mother in Illinois, who recently redid her bathroom and is now the proud owner of a beautiful clawfoot tub that is always spotlessly clean. (She doesn’t have roommates.) I figure, the few times a year I fly home-home, I can take a bath in a tub truly worthy of my time, finally putting all these gosh darn products to good use.
Given this level of passion, you’d assume I’d achieved a certain level of excellence when it comes to bath-taking. In fact, I’ve assumed this about myself—for years! This site features dozens of bath how-to guides either penned or edited by yours truly. The best bath products to use when you’re sick. The best podcasts to listen to—while in the bath! A bath for every season, a bath oil for every mood.
And yet, I’ve recently had to take a cold, hard look in the mirror. I think about my days and realize: While I have had many a revelation in the shower, I’ve only ever had one predominant thought in the bath: Am I…enjoying this? For one, the water is absolutely never the right temperature. Goldilocks was swimming in time; I, unfortunately, am not. For two—and this is a big one—most of these products are just OK. Maybe a full 3-pounder bag of Epson salt is powerful enough to relax my muscles, but they don’t sell Pursoma Digital Detox by the pound. (If they did, it would price out to about $54/lb.) Bath oil is the most confusing product of them all. Common knowledge suggests that after a bath, one should hop directly into the shower to rinse off your own filth. (Please allow me one courtesy “You’re soaking in it” mention.) But then what’s the point of bath oil? Wouldn’t it be better to invest in body oil, to be applied post the post-bath shower? And don’t get me started on how I have to bribe myself to stay in the bath just five more minutes—can you stand it? by watching a particularly good episode of The Office. I certainly would not need the encouragement if I were watching in bed. Let me tell you.
The thing is, I don’t have answers for you. At least not satisfying ones. After hours and hours of contemplating if I’ve given up on baths for good, all I can offer you is this: As embattled Vanderpump Rules on-again, off-again DJ James Kennedy has often said about pasta—it’s not about the bath. Relaxing or not, hygienic or not, actually enjoyable or not—it’s the IDEA of the bath that I believe has captivated me. It’s the physical manifestation of the relaxation I crave, the luxury I wish to be a load-bearing pillar of my life. A bag of Goop Martini Bath Soak is the perfect token of that—accessible enough, and a constant suggestion that I’m at least on the way to living somewhere that looks like The Apartment by The Line (RIP). This is a useful bit of self-awareness to have; maybe I can stop wasting my time waiting for the water to cool down to the right temperature and, I don’t know…take up a hobby? (Don’t even get me started on the positive sustainability angle this has, too.) More likely I’ll just shift gears to another symbolic-but-empty luxury gesture. Byredo hand wash is awfully luxurious, for instance—and using it has a public health benefit to boot!
Photo via ITG.