When I was an infant, I was bathed in a plastic container in the kitchen sink by whoever felt I needed to be cleaned, with whoever was already in the room present.
When I was a rather small child, I bathed mostly with a sibling (on rare occasion, due to geographic limitations, a cousin) with rather often an adult in the room, depending on the age of the other child in the bath.
When I was a slightly-less-small child, I still bathed largely with a sibling, but the bathroom door was shut, and it was just the two of us. I don’t remember if this was because I hated to be alone or because the family was trying to save water or for someone other reason. Regardless, this was when I learned about genitals and, supposedly, the difference between “boys” and “girls” and the fact that genitals were the only thing that mattered when making this distinction; all other gender markers flowed from the crotch.
My family eventually taught me how to shower, and baths fell to the wayside because showering was basically the coolest thing ever invented. I could be like a grownup, my singing sounded better than when I was sitting down in the tub, and seriously I just like the feeling of warm water running over me that doesn’t get cold just from sitting in the air. I stopped taking baths because who wants cold water, and who wants to be a kid. (Oh, past me, everybody wants to be a kid, whether they admit it or not.)
Cut ahead to boarding school, where a long bath could make me angry like nothing else when I needed to pee or wanted to shower that night as well. Why in hell would I do something to my suitemates that I couldn’t stand them doing to me? Not to mention this was the time of What The Fuck Is This Body Doing (more commonly, or least more publicly, called “puberty”) and one roommate’s description of her mother washing dishes as “swishing them around in dirty water and calling them clean” that immediately made me think of how taking a bath is exactly that, and so. No desire to swish myself in dirty water, no desire to lounge around naked longer than necessary for cleaning. I did not need to see What The Fuck This Body Was Doing any more than necessary, because it was wrong wrong wrong — and you might guess (or already know) that this is about when I dug my feet in and started screaming to myself that “female” was just not on.
And then dorms at college were even worse, and then in apartments still there was this whole What The Fuck, Body thing, and so I just never even thought about it until one day, I found myself moving into a place where there was a shower, but the shower doors were not yet installed and a shower curtain was Just Not On with the landlady, and I had to take a bath or go dirty. And it was awful because there were no doors – not on the shower, not on the bathroom, not on the dressing room between the hall and the bathroom – and the water was gross at first because nobody had ever used this tub before, and I had to look at my wrong wrong wrong body way too long, floating in wrong wrong wrong ways in a tub full of water. As soon as those shower doors were installed, it was back to No Bath Land for me, no looking back.
I sort of thought I’d live there forever, but then the other week I had a terrible horrible no good very bad day wherein my afternoon calm-down-already shower wasn’t doing the trick and I ended up sitting on the floor of the tub with the water running over me, being grouchy, and then I accidentally kicked the plug and the water started to fill up in the tub, and then suddenly I was sitting in a bath. And I was already clean from the shower, so that wasn’t gross, and I was so frustrated from the day that I just shut my eyes and didn’t look and didn’t feel and just floated my mind as surely as my body in that warm water … and it was awesome.
Clearly, enjoying one bath in an uncommon state of mind isn’t enough to decide me that all baths are okay. So I took another one. For science. And because I was tired and didn’t quite feel like standing up under the warm shower any more. And it was weird, and I could see all the wrong wrong, but then I covered that with a warm wet washcloth and closed my eyes and it didn’t matter anymore.
So I took another one. For science, again, I tell you. Only this time, I didn’t shower first, and it was disgusting, so I drained the water, showered properly, and tried again. (When I say it was disgusting, I do not mean the water appeared disgusting; it was the same kind of disgusting that makes me suddenly remember that smelling shit means there are tiny shit particles in my nose, or that this meat used to be an animal that I totally would have snuggled, or that once I heard a story about someone eating a worm out of their apple. It’s all in my head, but I Just Cannot after those disgusting thoughts enter my head.) Post-shower bath: fantastic again.
So in order to take a bath, I have to appease science-brain by showering first, even if only quickly and vaguely. Then I have to appease gender-brain with my washcloth-covering. Then? Then it’s awesome. I think I need some bath toys. Perhaps with those, I can turn gender-brain back to kid, before it was brainwashed into ascribing body parts to gender, and I won’t even need the washcloth anymore.
Also, bath toys would just be fun.