When we were making plans to renovate our bathroom, I pined for a free-standing tub. I negotiated like a lawyer on a death-row case when our contractor fretted that we didn’t have enough space to accommodate it and fought for it when my skeptical husband implied it wasn’t a necessary part of the budget. I bristled when my kids thought they’d be bathing in it, assaulting my personal piece of paradise with squirt toys and squealing. This will be my sanctuary, I reasoned – my respite from a world that demands that I be everything to everyone, a clean slate sitting atop slate-hued tiles. But here’s the dirty truth: I have only used it a handful of times in the two years that it’s been sitting proudly in our now accusingly serene space. Despite what my Instagram feed would have me believe, baths aren’t bliss; they are boring.

Maybe the problem is the mood, I mused at first, or a lack thereof. So I procured Himalayan salts, cued up a relaxing playlist, dimmed the lights and settled in. But all I could think about was how my back hurt and how I’d have to clean the tub afterwards, hunching over to scrub off the scum of my failure. I could picture my husband’s smirk, wordlessly telling me to admit that I’d been wrong about the tub. I watched my fantasy swirl down the drain along with the overpriced bath salts.

For months, I chased every other leisure activity I could think of to prove to my husband – but really to myself – that I was simply too busy to bathe. I took a Pilates class, I read a non-fiction book I would otherwise never have cracked the cover of, I smoked a joint with a neighbour, I took a walk in the woods with a friend, I weeded the garden, I baked a loaf of bread, I drank a bottle of wine.

The dirt under my fingernails after I gardened didn’t look very chic, and the lopsided bread was unfit for social-media consumption, but it tasted satisfying as I devoured it. (Maybe I was still a bit stoned.) By childishly running away from the on-brand iteration of self-care I felt I was supposed to like, I ended up savouring honest, contemplative moments that I never would have bothered to make time for otherwise.

My last worry, that my husband would eventually realize that I never used that gorgeous tub, finally popped like a soap bubble when I walked into the bathroom one evening and found him immersed in the bath, eyes closed in a meditative state, blissfully unaware of the scrubbing that awaited him. “Find your bliss, babe,” I muttered as I slipped out of the room, once and for all putting as much distance between me and that boring bath as I could muster.

A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.

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