Steve Nazarian says soaking in a hot tub relieves his stress and amuses his wife.
I’ve never been the manliest of men. That is not to say I’m at all girly or even a bit ambiguous in my dress or demeanor. I simply don’t conform to the textbook definition society has given to men. Let me explain.
Although I earned twelve varsity letters in high school (for cross country & track), I do not watch sports on TV. Sure I might watch the Super Bowl at a party, or the Olympics every four years, but I do not have ESPN in my DirecTV package, and I don’t ever miss it.
I have a BA in English, which by itself is probably neutral, but when you add the double major in theatre, I definitely lean into negative manly territory.
I do all the grocery shopping and cooking in our house, where I live with my wife of seventeen years and our four children. I also have a 1,000 sq ft workshop in my basement filled with a large collection of dangerous power tools. I do all the work on our three cars, including brake jobs and other larger repairs.
All added up, I probably have an equal number of manly and non-manly things on my scorecard – that is until you get to the last thing… my love of taking baths.
Ever since I was a kid I have loved baths. In high school, I would soak my sore running muscles in a hot bath in a therapeutic manner, but as I became an adult I increasingly escaped to the solitude of a hot bath in a dark bathroom, to relieve stress and do some of my best thinking.
When we moved into our current house in 2002, it only had one bathtub. We now have three, but the story I am about to tell hails from when we only had the one.
My wife is an Intensive Care Pediatrician. She does difficult and important work, but around seventy nights a year, she does this work from the hospital. On these nights, I am home alone with the four children.
One hot summer night I was getting the kids to bed when my neighbor Bob walked across the street and knocked on our front door. He wanted to borrow some tools, but I was up to my ass in pajamas, blankies, and bedtime stories so I asked him to come back in half an hour.
I had just closed the bedroom door of my oldest when I spied Bob coming back across the street. The air conditioning was on, so I quickly descended the stairs and met him at the front door so he wouldn’t ring the bell. If he had, no doubt curious children would have popped out of bed. I ushered him in, asking him to keep his voice down.
Bob was repairing the screen door to his back porch and wanted to borrow a couple of pipe clamps. I have pipe clamps in four-, six- and eight- foot lengths, so I asked him what size he wanted. He said the six-footers should be long enough.
Not wanting this exchange to go on all night, I suggested he take the eight-footers since an eight-foot pipe clamp can be made six feet long, but not the other way around. He insisted the six-footers were all he needed.
Down into the basement I went where I retrieved two, six-foot pipe clamps and brought them to Bob waiting in the front hall. I told him I had no plans for the clamps, so he could keep them for as long as he needed. He replied that he was gluing a broken part of the door, so he would return them the next day.
I said good night and locked the front door as he walked away.
Being done with the child and neighbor business of the evening, I decided I would take a bath.
I went to the fridge and grabbed a beer before shutting out all the lights and locking all the other doors. I went upstairs, undressed and wrapped a towel around my waist. I turned on the tub in the bathroom at the top of the stairs and lit a few candles.
The tub about which I am speaking takes about fifteen minutes to fill, so I took my beer into the office off our bedroom to check email on the computer. The office was an addition built ten years after the house, and as a result is not connected to the air conditioning.
So, there I was, sitting in the hot office, the glow of the computer screen lighting up just me and my towel, next to the only open window in the house.
As I clicked through my email I thought I heard something, but then it went away. A moment later I swore I heard it again, and as I turned my head toward the window I could plainly see what it was. Directly below me, standing in my driveway was Bob, holding the two six-foot pipe clamps.
As I rose up to the window I figured out the noise I had heard was Bob shout-whispering, “They’re not long enough.” I walked back into the cool of the house thinking to myself, “Well, of course they’re not, you jackass, I told you to take the eight-footers.”
I flipped on the front hall light and opened the door. Bob came in and I took the six-footers from him. In nothing by my towel, I took them downstairs to my shop. Moments later I emerged with the eight-footers, but as I handed them to Bob at the bottom of the stairs, he looked at me with a concerned expression and said, “I hear water running and I smell something burning.”
Not wanting to explain myself at all, I simply looked him straight in the eye and said, “I know.” Fortunately, he did not persist in his questioning, taking the eight-foot clamps quietly home. I can only imagine what he said to his wife.
Before going to bed, I called my wife at the hospital to recount the events of the evening with the children and to say goodnight. At the very end of the conversation, I told her about Bob, the clamps, and the running bath. As I hung up, she was still laughing.
In the Seinfeld episode called “The Outing,” Jerry was thought to be gay because he was single, thin and neat. I happen not to be gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
With nearly two decades of marriage and four children on my side, on the surface, I look like any other manly suburban dad. However when you add in all the details I’ve shared already, plus the whole bath thing, I understand why my wife likes to say that I am “gay on paper.”
If it’s okay for men to sit in hot tubs and saunas, then why not bathtubs? At the very least, those who would judge my bath-taking habits should get their own damn pipe clamps, right?
Photo: Steampipe Trunk Distribution Venue/Flickr