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.
A Candle For Every Mood
Every tub needs a designer candle. Here are our picks for best luxury candles, according to mood.
Burn: Diptyque in Figuier
Too tired to choose? Go with the benchmark candle that arguably started it all. It’s available in an elegant size for your vanity—and a nearly obscene trash- can size that costs as much as your first car did. This fig-tree-inspired scent is allegedly Meghan Markle’s go-to and definitely the go-to for people who are addicted to Pinterest.
Burn: Overose in Nympholia
This monochromatic candle is basically a sexy starter pack: It’s Parisian, it’s the exact shade of afterglow, it’s a woodsy scent with notes of rose and ripe fruit—and it has a come-hither elegance that leaves you feeling satisfied but wanting to light its fire again and again.
Burn: Otherland in Rattan
This deeply millennial candle smells like sandalwood and moss and will remind you of the vintage rattan baskets you bought on vacation in Silver Lake, L.A., when you were still riding high on your turmeric latte and organic grain bowl. (You were going to use them to hold farmers’-market fruit, but you actually just use them to hold takeout menus.)
Burn: Boy Smells in Ash
With its coal-black beeswax and braided wick, this gender-neutral candle will look at home atop your limited-edition tarot cards. Just be careful – the firewood, charcoal and hay scent might have your neighbours thinking you accidentally lit your back issues of Gentlewoman on fire.
Burn: Cire Trudon in Empire
Like the JLo of high-end candles, this exclusive brand has been around forever (since 1643, specifically), but its wares are as gorgeous and covetable as ever. This scent is a mix of notes of pine, rosemary and lavender for a heady fragrance that smells as green as money – which is appropriate since these cost as much as a week’s worth of groceries.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.