TThis month marks 10 years since my right knee was reconstructed. Years of basketball hastened the destruction of my genetically floating kneecaps, which took turns dislocating, competing until my right knee took the count.
With each outward click (and the resulting inward click), my cartilage tore further and the damage worsened. My orthopedic surgeon said that my joint was one of the worst he had ever seen, and I was a teenager at the time.
So he scooped out the meat like ice cream, dragged muscle down from my thigh, and inserted long screws to hold my newly sculpted knee together ($ 80 each from Bunnings, he joked).
Over the course of six months, I learned to walk again, slowly building muscles in my looted thigh, my pink and wrinkled scars gradually becoming familiar territory. And I healed in the water: regular hydrotherapy and daily baths.
I had always loved baths, but in those long months of recovery, they punctuated my days and brought me relief. A bathtub was no longer a luxury, but a necessity, a hollowed-out place where I could rest my cupped leg.
A decade later, a bath is still the best part of my day, regardless of the temperature or the season. But there is something special about a winter bath. The days are colder and the afternoons darker, so the water feels better. And my knees need it more. Consider touching a metal pole in cold weather. That’s what it feels like under my skin on cold days – those big screws attract and retain heat, making my knees sore and stiff. It’s like I can feel them sucking the heat out of my leg and into their own twisted, silver bodies.
I can’t feel the metal inside me when I’m immersed in a cocktail of oils, salts, and bubbles. My muscles soften; my body feels hot; My knees float and my mind follows suit. I feel calmer in the bathroom, my anxious mind is slower, cold fear thaws, and busy thoughts are unleashed, I am given permission to flow. I read, watch YouTube, close my eyes, apply masks, lather in body scrubs and hair masks, shave my legs, and have my best thoughts in the bathroom. It is my favorite place
The research backs me up: One study says that a hot bath has similar benefits to aerobic exercise (although the temperature should be higher than most home tubs can reach). Baths raise core body temperature and improve blood flow, which can lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, and reduce inflammation. And a warm bath can help you Breathe easier, release endorphins, and as I found out, reduce pain..
Instagram has increased the reputation of the bathroom. As Rachel Syme of The New Yorker wrote, bathtubs have become “another theater stage”. We read about celebrity bath rituals and watch (and post) stories of bath bombs painting the water. We see ads and influencer endorsements for expensive body washes and bath time products. And we often long for exquisite bathtubs, which are often the focal point of an interior designer’s newly renovated bathroom. I’m fine with all of this. Like Syme, I emerge from a bath “pink and calm, letting all the grime of the city surround the drain.”
Still, there are people who do not understand the charm of a good bathroom. They say it’s boring. That does not leave you very clean. Or that the sensation and pressure of a shower is superior. Too bad I can’t hear them. I am immersed, an hour and a half in a long and leisurely bath, my body pruned but without pain.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism