I have this amazing girlfriend, whom I shall call Gladiolus. We met inkindergarten and became close friends in high school when we agreed that one shouldn’t wear plastic in one’s hair. (It was the ’80s.) She has a delightful sense of humor and a fully engaged mind. Over the years, we have assembled a group of delightful, engaged human beings around us, and we have, as mothers, made some more.
Whenever I travel to her house for a visit, I am in awe of her bathing sensibilities. Her various bathrooms are always clean and appointed not only with soothing colors but interesting and uncluttered arrangements of vials and doo-dahs, all of which, upon closer inspection, have interesting and meaningful and beautiful things on the labels, including organic ingredients, funny sayings, deep thoughts, or comic insights.
Gwendolyn’s bathrooms reveal the orderly thinking of a composed mind. The steps of her ablution are evident in the accessories: matching shampoo and conditioner, milled soap inside a loofa, and a neatly hung razor under a mirror in the shower. The products make it clear what one’s shower tasks are, without any distractions. Around her bathtub, beautiful containers full of scented bath products and sample packets are artfully arranged near neatly stacked jars of salt and sugar scrubs and a wooden bristle brush. All of these are emblems of her personal motto, which you find in the signature of her emails: “Be well, find joy, and exfoliate.”
Yet for all this attention to little luxuries (a bath at her house will take me hours, because I have to open every jar and smell every product), Genevieve can prepare herself in minutes flat and be ready for the day. Her ritual takes her into the bathroom for short dips between making food and getting dressed. By 7 a.m. the dogs are walked, breakfast is ready, her eyebrows and jewelry are on, and all she needs to do is take out the hot curlers and put on her shoes.
These are the thoughts that run through my head as I get out of the shower at her house and rummage under the sink for a towel. She showed me where they were when I came in, but doing things in the right order is never my strong suit; I put foundation on my face as an afterthought. I am grateful for the feminine culture we’ve shared over the years; my own ablution performance went from a loathsome childhood routine to a pursuit of pampering and rituals of self-care.
Gwyneth and I raised sons together. We both provided them with soap and toothpaste and the things boys need to grab in the shower. I tried for years to impart the “5 things” bath/shower routine that took me 34 years to come up with (shampoo, condition, wash face, shave legs, and I know there was a fifth thing, oh yeah, soap up the armpits) to Enzo, but the bottle of teenage cleanser never got any emptier, even when he swore he’d washed his face. I learned to consider it a triumph that he remembers to brush his teeth nightly and flosses when told.
At 18, though, he really does smell nice. He has finally found an ablution routine that makes his brain click. I have to give Old Spice credit for manufacturing creative, funny matching shampoo and deodorant flavors for young men. And I have to give Gardenia credit, too: It was her son who turned Enzo on to “scent layering,” a new fashion frontier for boys.