Writing Activity: Describe a Bathroom

Francois Flameng - Bathing of Court Ladies in the 18th Century 1888

Inside the warm ladies’ room, with its milky gray, acoustically sensitive tile, only one stall was in use. Zee and Greer took the ones on either side of it, trying to look like normal people availing themselves of a public bathroom. Greer sat down and dipped her head, seeing the edge of a woman’s gray suede boot beneath the divider. She held very still and didn’t make a sound. From the other side of the graffitied wall, with a disturbing message scratched onto it in a very small hand–please can anyone help me i like to cut myself–there was a pause, and then the predicable release. The single strand, the straight line from body-opening to waiting water, the ordinariness of Faith Frank, famous feminist, peeing.

Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion
George Augustus Freezor - The Bath
George Augustus Freezor – The Bath
Schnick schnack trifles for the little-ones by Oscar Pletsch 1867 bath
Schnick schnack trifles for the little-ones by Oscar Pletsch 1867
Richard Scarry's Chipmunk's ABC by Roberta Miller, illustrated by Richard Scarry (1963). A mother chipmunk washes her son's ears while a rabbit watches on.
Richard Scarry’s Chipmunk’s ABC by Roberta Miller, illustrated by Richard Scarry (1963)
Maurice Lobre – Cabinette de toilette de Jacques-Emile Blanche 1888
Standard Baths and Lavatories advertisement 1909
Standard Baths and Lavatories advertisement 1909
Arts & Decoration Magazine February 1929 bathroom for a plumbing advertisement
Norman Mills Price American 1877-1951 advertisement for plumbing fixtures
Norman Mills Price American 1877-1951 advertisement for plumbing fixtures
Roger Wilkerson

Bath time is full of magic.

The faucet flows like a waterfall, the bathroom floor is a distant shore, toy boats sail against the waves. An imagination-fueled adventure on the high seas is just what it takes to get little one clean.

Illustration from an advertisement for American-Standard that appeared in magazines in July 1948
Illustration from an advertisement for American-Standard that appeared in magazines in July 1948
Kohler Bathroom 1927 Art by Roy Huse Collins
Tight Times bathroom
All Around Me Opposites by Shirley Hughes
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, by Bernard Waber, publ. in 1965
Marie Hall Ets, 1960
Leonard Weisgard

A RECENTLY VACATED FAMILY BATHROOM

In the morning I would roll from my bed without turning on the light to put on my turquoise polka-dot girdle, my pantyhose, and my dress. In the bathroom my father ran water, coughed, blew his nose, rubbed the radio dial back and forth, spat into the sink, and flushed the unhappy old toilet. I finished my reluctant dressing ritual as he burst from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, and went to wash my face, brush my hair and pee. The toilet seat was moist with steam, the mirror fogged, the bath mat damply rumpled on the floor, and the sink blobbed with his thick discharges of toothpaste. I performed my toilet cocooned in my father’s smell of hair oil, Old Spice deodorant, sweat, and faded urine, and then went to sit at the breakfast table with him.

from Two Girls, Fat And Thin by Mary Gaitskill

CARNIVALESQUE BATHTIME

Gargling by Frances Tipton Hunter (1896 – 1957, American)—the illustration was used in a Listerine ad

There’s a limited number of scenarios available to picture book storytellers for young children. In a young child’s life, bathtime features large. Bathtime can be terrifying and fun in equal measure. Commonly, the main child character (or child stand-in) does not want to have a bath, and considers it a form of torture.

But once the child gets into the bath, they generally (though not always!) start having a great time.

Parenting: Can’t get kids into the bath; then you can’t get them out.

Molly Brett (1902-1990)
Katie the Country Mouse Goes To London by Philip Mendoza
Lonie Bee 1950
Arthur’s Eyes
Arthur’s Eyes
Oili Tanninen, 1967 bathroom
Oili Tanninen, 1967 bathroom
By Peter Newell (1862 - 1924)--Illust. f. The 20-Mule Team brigade, Anonymous, ca 1904
By Peter Newell (1862 – 1924)–Illust. f. The 20-Mule Team brigade, Anonymous, ca 1904
Eugen Hartung
Tom Vroman, from “Alexander”, 1964

Even for art and stories for adults, the bath is depicted as an escape, sometimes in a wacky kind of way, where our true (secret) selves are revealed.

Saul Steinberg
James Hill 1954

Bath time has always been identified as a node of particular promise in gay and sexual liberation struggle. Whereas now we have the private spa, historically, public bath houses and beaches are where the temporal discipline of getting clean has been rejected entirely in favour of the capacious anti-functional temporality of bathing: bathing all day, bathing for bathing’s sake, bathing with and in other bodies, playing all day on the Moebius strip between cleansing and contamination; that knife-edge between soaking and dehydration, oceanic bliss and drowning.

Collective Turn Off, Sophie Lewis

THE CREEPY BATHROOM

Just as kitchens can be either cosy or creepy, so too can bathrooms.

Barbara Ninde Byfield (1930 - 1988) The Haunted Spy Doubleday, 1969. Written and illustrated.
Barbara Ninde Byfield (1930 – 1988) The Haunted Spy Doubleday, 1969. Written and illustrated.
Poster by Dutch artist Koen van Os (1910–1983)
Marie-Madeleine FRANC-NOHAIN [1878-1942] Alphabet In Pictures 1933. Playing with a boat toy in the bath
Morning Noises by Alain Grée, Wonder Books, Inc. 1962

Header painting: Francois Flameng – Bathing of Court Ladies in the 18th Century 1888

Lemon girl young adult novella

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