20 May 2008

On bathtubs: a response.

“There must be quite a few things that a hot

bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.”-- Silvia Plath

I don't know that I can write of the bathtub as a function of culture--material, architectural, geographical, social or otherwise. I don't know much about the history of the bath as it pertains to Greece or Rome or Japan or India. I don't know about its development and inclusion in modern living, and I suppose that I would like to know at some point.

However, what I choose to write tonight is a reflection of sorts, I suppose. Or it could be considered as nothing more than an unfounded encomium.

Yes, that's it. An encomium to the bathtub.

Perhaps I am a bit of a cliche as I like to do a lot of thinking in the bathtub. If I am stuck on or with a metaphysical problem, and I can't come up with a good thing to say or write, I'll go and draw a hot bath. Then I will sit, soak and think.

I know that there are people who create rituals with a bath--scented candles, bath salts, bubbles, tea leaves, lavender and even a waterproof book stand. All of these things are good, and adding or subtracting these materials can certainly add to the aesthetic or spiritual or personal experience of taking a bath.

Most of my bath taking experience has been in tub/showers that look like* this:

I suppose this could explain why I'm not always a fan of baths that have multitudes of accoutrements. I don't suppose I could ever fully participate in a ritualistic full on bath experience.

Regardless, I am still a fan of the bathtub. My interest in the bathtub certainly has something to do with the clawfoot cast iron bathtubs in rowhouses all over Baltimore. Like their ubiquitous marble step sisters, the cast iron bathtub was a staple in a rowhouse. As a little kid, one feels so much smaller in a bathtub like this. The possibilities for the space seemed endless. (Was it a spaceship? Could you sleep in it? ) Perhaps that started the whole "thinking in the bathtub" thing for me.

I think that the idea of having a space just for the bathtub and my various philosophical musings, pondering(s) and (so called) crises would be ideal for an eccentric like me.

So a few weeks ago I found myself reading
Architectural Digest (they had a fantastic issue on design last month so I bought it at a bookstore. Sue me.) and I saw a bathtub much like this one:

And I thought, "surely, if and when I am lucky enough to buy a small house (one day I'll give you my top five types of house) I can have a really terrific bathtub? Even if I have to alter the floor plans of the house a little bit?"

I couldn't help but get lured in to the aesthetic appeal (whatever that means) of this bathtub. I rationalized so fully, that with the help of this bathtub, my philosphical musings would go from muddled cogitations of an eccentric to the most brilliant clear logical thoughts that I've always dreamed of having!

And I looked at other bathtubs and wondered how they might affect my thinking. How would being able to see on all sides of the bath change my understanding of the experiences? What if the bath were made of glass?

or of stone?

I don't know that I should ever have the opportunity to redesign (or design) a bathroom, but I do know that I would have a bath, not a jacuzzi (aren't those for like two people?), not something with jets of water rushing at me in different directions. No. That leads to confusion and disorganization of thoughts.

When I want a bath, I want to be alone with my thoughts. And perhaps I can do it one day in a bathroom of my own design (one with some kind of organizing principle, of course).

It would be nice to experience those thoughts in a different space then the current one, not that I'm not grateful. At least I have a bathtub.

And if I never get an oval bathtub, I'll certainly make do.

And after looking at this muddled post, I propose that I take a bath and think about what I've done here.

*this is not my actual bathroom.


Washington Cube said...

There are a lot of literary references to bathing and the bath. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, for one. "...we shared what had once been a dressing-room and had been changed to a bathroom twenty years back by the substitution for the bed of a deep, copper, mahogany-framed bath, that was filled by pulling a brass lever heavy as a piece of marine engineering; the rest of the room remained unchanged; a coal fire always burned there in winter. I often think of that bathroom--the water colours dimmed by steam and the huge towel warming on the back of the chintz armchair--and contrast it with the uniform, clinical little chambers, glittering with chromium plate and looking-glass, which pass for luxury in the modern world."

In Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, Linda Radlett is put up by her Duke paramour in Paris in a luxe 1930's apartment, fit for a mistress, with glass everything including bed, dressing table and bath, with goldfish swimming in the sides of it.

Then there is always A Streetcar Named Desire where Blanche DuBois is steaming up the bathroom with her hydrotherapy sessions.

It's interesting how writers work bathing and bathrooms into literature...

Oh yes, Daisy in The Great Gatsby bathing the morning of her marriage and holding Gatsby's crumpled letter in her hand as it falls apart in the tub.

Essentially Me said...

When I grow up, I want a real bath. Claw foot and everything.

Dexter Colt said...

Sylvia ought to have considered a hot bath the morning she woke up and put her head in the oven...

Damn, did I go there?

I still remember our cast-iron claw-foot bathtub from when I was a kid. Now, that tub had style, but I was too young to appreciate it.