Swamp Thing

For the first few years of my daughter, Clementine’s, life, we lived in a house without a bathtub; this meant that my maternal paranoia about her drowning during a bath was somewhat muted. Somewhat, but not completely—as anyone who has ever bathed an infant can tell you, the fear of them slipping under the water if you so much as even blink is an ever present fear. In fact, I don’t think it’s something you ever quite get over—my youngest is now ten, and if things get too quiet during his bath time I’ll start banging on the door, picturing him somehow wrapped up in the loofah cord and held underneath six inches of water, like one of those bizarre deaths in the “Final Destination” movies. (As a mother, I had to stop watching those movies when every single one of those deaths started looking plausible to me. “See,” I would always say whenever one came out, “I’m not being overprotective. You can die in a freak mining accident, train derailment, elevator fall, etc.”)

Given, then, my somewhat unreasonable fear about bathtub drowning, you’d think that I would have been happy when Clementine started preferring the shower to the bath. After all, no one has ever drowned in the shower, have they? Well . . .

Maybe not the participant, but as far as innocent bystanders are concerned, I have to say that death by drowning is still very much an option. This is because, no matter now much we beg and plead (in our bubbly little drowning voices), Clementine cannot seem to take a shower without flooding out the entire house.

The problem arises from the fact that, in her world, there is no use in preparing for, or trying to prevent, the worst—the worst is inevitable, and when we fight against it we only kick out at our own bleak destinies. (This is the “what’s the use of anything” school of thought, first invented by Nihlists before being perfected by teenage girls. And yes, it is an actual school; their uniforms are black on black.)

What this means for the rest of us is that Clementine sees absolutely no reason to ever attempt to keep the water inside of the shower, because all such striving is ultimately futile, and hopeless, and pointless. Worse yet, any such attempt on her part—such as actually putting the shower curtain inside the tub when she showers—would be tantamount to somehow denying this heartfelt philosophy, and from then ultimately surrendering to the demands of our corrupt society. It’s just a shower curtain, I know, but still.

If I was richer, of course, she would have a room with her own bathroom, and I wouldn’t have to bear witness to what the continued effects of hopelessness + Suave Strawberry Essence were. But unfortunately, I’m not, and she doesn’t, and so I get to experience the wrath of the swamp thing every time I go into the bathroom after her. Which, I admit, isn’t that often—my lungs just can’t take the damp. Also, I was kind of hoping that if I left it alone—if I let things reach the absolute limits of squelchy, fetid, disgustingness—that eventually she would make the change herself.

That’s right: it was my hope (a foolish one, I now see) that she, herself, would eventually see the error of her ways—that she would eventually grow tired of using towels that smelled like ripe cheese and had mushrooms growing from their corners. But I must have underestimated her capacity for suffering, or at least her acceptance of it. Or maybe she just really likes Spanish Moss. In any case, I must admit that my path of passive resistance has been an abject failure, doomed from the start.

Maybe those Nihlists have a point after all.

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