Whose brilliant idea was it to reinvent the bathroom as a steamy and sensual lovers’ retreat? When you’re married, all you really want is some privacy.
You see it in all the glossy shelter magazines—the idealized master suite with its huge bedroom, maybe a sitting area included, connected to a master bath with a toilet, perhaps a bidet, and two separate, same-size sinks, either side by side or back to back. Sometimes the space is big enough to haul in an easy chair and a reading lamp, though I’ve never been certain who’s expected to use them—when or why.
Throughout the wasteful ’80s and ’90s, bathrooms exploded in size. I remember writing about spa baths that were big enough for a massage table or opened into an adjunct spaces containing a StairMaster. The idea was to make the master bath an all-in-one retreat, where a couple could relax and renew body and spirit together.
Shower stalls expanded to include two sets of shower sprays—one overhead, several body sprays, and one handheld for each partner—plus a built-in bench where, presumably, a woman could sit and shave her legs while a man was splashing his way through a vibrating massage shower.
Bathtubs got bigger too, and two was the number that plumbing-product manufacturers were promising: Jacuzzi-style bubble-making in a tub for two. Some of today’s soothing water beauties have music piped in along with built-in, water-shielded TVs, plus the smell of some wonderful blossom or herb as a result of an infusion of aromatherapy.
In talking to couples about their wonderful new bathrooms, I try to learn tactfully if they do actually retreat there together. Some do, particularly when their kids are out or have left the nest. But most say that individual schedules make bathing or even showering together a rarity.
One homeowner whispered to me, “Yeah, we used to take baths together all the time and once we actually, well, did it when we were in there. But the truth is, I’ve gotten kicked in the balls so many times while soaking there with my wife that I try to avoid the experience.”
But, of course, the new master bath is so big that one partner could shower while the other is shaving; one could soak while the other is showering; one could be applying makeup while the other is sitting on the, er …
That brings to mind a question I’ve never asked anyone I interviewed. I always wonder about it, and whenever it crosses my mind, I think back on a guy I knew in college whom I met for a drink right after he got married. After a few, he became quite candid about the so-called period of adjustment that tends to bring a couple down to earth—not always gently—after the honeymoon.
This guy was very serious about his marriage and the demands it placed on him and his bride, specifically about the intimate turn each of their lives had taken.
I was bold enough, at one point, to ask if a turning point in their marital relationship occurred when they two of them were able to achieve orgasm simultaneously.
“Nah,” he said, shaking his head, “we did that all the time. First date, even. She’s a great fuck. Me, too, I guess.”
So? “Well,” he said confidentially, lowering his voice, “I think we crossed a line the day I took a shit while she was in the bathroom brushing her hair.”
Then he went on: “But, the truth is, when I’m sittin’ there, doing my business, I kind of like being alone. And you know what? I think she feels the same way too. When she’s in there, I wait till she comes out. For any couple who live together, a little bit of privacy can go a long way.”
Amen to that.