Friends, take my advice. You need a bath. No, really. Go now to your linen closet or your dryer, if you haven’t put away the laundry yet (I haven’t), and choose the heaviest weight, largest, softest, best towel you have. Fold it (yes) and place it near the bathtub. If your bathroom is as small as mine, that might be on the toilet. No problem. Don’t clean the bathtub unless it is absolutely necessary. Put away your desire for perfection, and just turn on the tap, hot but not hot enough to turn your feet red when you get in. Pour in a couple of caps of bubble bath. I recommend mandarin and jasmine, but whatever scent you like will do.
Oh, go back and grab a washcloth, too. Okay, get naked and take a moment to relish the feeling of freedom. Stay naked while you find some source of music and drag it into the bathroom: a radio, your laptop, whatever. Or just turn the television onto one of the music channels you actually enjoy and turn it up loud enough for you to hear in the bath. Grab a book, too. Something with “moonlight” in the title would be perfect, especially if you can manage to hear “Moonlight Sonata” while you read in the tub. Candles? I only add those occasionally, as my bathroom is so small I may turn around absentmindedly and set my hair on fire.
Okay. get in. Wait. Get your best face-washing, makeup-removing product, soap, foot scrub, razor, shaving cream, loofah, and a bath pillow if you have one. I do, a gift ... a luxury. Now, get in and wash your face first.
I want to say something about the face wash. I’m forty-four, and I’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and money on beauty products. Recently, I went back to my mother’s product, Noxema, because guess what? Mama knows best, she really does. Noxema is creamy, rich, minty, cooling, smooth, and relaxing. It’s also inexpensive, and the scent takes me back to my mother, who died about four years ago. With that jar open, she’s as close as she used to be in her old blue bathrobe. It’s a wonderful scent, pleasant and not overwhelming. Slather it on, lie back (ignore any rolls of fat around your middle that might be tempted to distract you), and leave it on while you listen to a whole piece of music. Did I mention “Moonlight Sonata,” on classical guitar? Marcus Miller on YouTube, live in Seoul.
Then rinse your face, pick up your book from on top of the towel, lie back again, and read. A whole chapter, minimum. Here’s where you may start to wish you’d brought along a glass of wine and a clip to put your hair up on your head. But that’s for next time, girl. You can’t sop up the whole experience at once, unless it’s not too late to reach over there to the nearest Walmart version of a drawer on wheels and find a clip without leaving the bathtub. Settle. Read. Listen. Smell. Breathe. Feel. You are Madame Soule in her Mount Laurentian cabin (see The Moonlight Man, by Paula Fox). You have just come back from skiing (yes, you know how to ski and ski often, though you live in the midlands of South Carolina. That means you also speak French, mon petit chou, and can sing along with Emilie Simon, “Fleur de Saison.” You are engaged to a Hungarian count who is arranging your dinner at this very moment.
Finish the chapter yet? It’s time to shave your legs, underarms, nether regions. (You can use Noxema again, try it). Just look at those pretty feet, those calves that carry you so confidently and steadily from place to place, those bendable knees, and thighs that people admire as you whip around the art museum in your wheelchair. Yes, darling, blissful bathing is equally accessible. The count will lift you into the tub, bring the music, the wine, etc. If he won’t, we will get someone who will. Someone who appreciates how breathtaking you are, how insightful and kind, how lovely and intelligent. Who will shave you, if you like.
Now for the Tropical Coconut Sea Salt Foot Scrub by Avon. Concentrate on the heels but go between the toes and all. Slowly, dear. One foot at a time, a whole sing-through of “Chanson de Toile” on each. Don’t you dare look at a clock or reach for your watch. It can’t have been more than forty minutes.
You’ve just remembered the pretty blue bar of perfumed soap you got for Christmas. Next time. Use the organic peach goat milk soap you do have there, I hope. Spend extra time on your shoulders and your arms, your exquisite neck that helps to keep that clever head balanced. Add more hot water, lie back again, and listen to “Il Pleut.” Don’t move. Meditate. You are the “Dame de Lotus.” Rest the warm washcloth across your breasts or across the scar from your breast surgery or across the scar where a breast used to be. This is your own rare body. Bless it. Slide down deeper in the water. If the faucet drips, what does it matter? Your children are perfect, even if they are absent from you now. If you have no children, what do you mean? What is that cat, that dandelion you pluck and wish upon, that grandmother’s dish you’ve wiped dry a thousand times, that novel you have not finished. These are surely your children because they keep calling you back, as children do.
Shall we let the water out, listen to the drain pulling it down and down? Shall we lie here while the water pulls away from the body, until all the water is gone, listening to “Blue Night”? Close our eyes? Yes. Whisper a prayer of gratitude?
One hour. Give it to yourself.