BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
Taking a bath is something that most women don’t do often enough. I’m not talking about getting clean, I’m talking about taking the time to draw yourself a bath. As little girls, we’re always taking baths, but when we get older, we start to see bathing as a superfluous thing.
I began to find myself sneaking baths when I was a teenager, usually when I had the house all to myself. I would put on my baby stereo, switch on a dimly lit lamp, and fill the tub with the hottest water possible. I would slowly drop my body in my mother’s tub, with the water still running. I think that bathwater running is one of the most beautiful sounds imaginable. It’s a simulation of a natural thing; it’s a waterfall coming out of a pipe and splashing into a porcelain pool, it’s magical.
Once the water stopped falling, I found the silence just as beautiful. I’d sit in a froth of bubbles, and then lay in the dissipating sea-like foam, and then as the last of the soap would fade away, I would find myself floating. I imagined myself in my mother’s warm womb, where I think all girls must have had their first moment of bliss, and I would think about when I was 5, and I would cross my ankles so I could make a fin of skin. I imagined my body speckled with scales, and then the warm water my mother would pore over my head would bring me back to a muted reality, one that I found to be joyful, because I was still immersed in water, cleansed with the love of the woman that cared about me the most.
My grandmother had a bathtub that was almost mythic. It was covered in pale green tiles and was the size of a baby’s wading pool. It had tiny steps that led to its shallow bottom, and to me, they led to eternity. Before she died in 1995, I remember seeing my grandmother’s bathtub go so long unused, that eventually its pipes wouldn’t release any water. Someone told me she used it once, on the day my parents got married, so she wouldn’t mess us her beauty salon hair. I would do anything to see her there alive in her majestic tub, and it always makes me sad to think she never used it again.
Now that I’m in my 30s, bath time happens maybe three times a year, usually when I’m traveling alone or with my mother and sister. Through friends and social media, I’ve been coming across a lot of interesting women who are making their own bath products by hand and I find this to be a beautiful thing. They make me want to be a mermaid again, a witchy mermaid. These are women who are creating things to help us to take care of ourselves, to help us see that something as seemingly simple as bath time, is really a political act. It's taking the time to tell yourself that you are worthy of water and warmth.
Here's two women and independent business owners who are making beautiful products that have been getting me to meditate on the magical women in my life, including the one I see in the mirror everyday.
Loquita Bath and Body: I discovered this company from a Facebook friend who posted a picture of their bath bombs. I was taken with how delicious they looked, like treats from a witch’s kitchen in a fairy tale. The company is headed by Yamira Vanegas and it is based in Norwalk, CA. She originally began with a brand she still owns called Lolita Lacquer, which specializes in nail polishes, but she began to follow her creative leaning towards bath time.
She says, “ Loquita is a line I created because I love bath and body products, especially from smaller indie brands that focus on details… it's bath and body cón character. My goal is for you to open your order, smell it and instantly feel nostalgia or familiarity.”
Concha Bath Bomb: I respond most to the shape and texture of the bomb. It looks like seashell-shaped pan dulce. It reminds me of a panadería my grandmother Betty used to take me to on the east side of Fresno, CA, a neighborhood that is dotted with small Mexican owned businesses. When I dropped the bath bomb in my tub, it made a gorgeous white froth and smelled like baked sugar. I sat in the tub for nearly an hour, immersed in its subtle decadence. I felt like a brown Aphrodite when I emerged from my tub, my skin was soft and the remnants of its sweet scent lingered on my body all night.
Cafecito Body Butter: This comes in a miniature jar, but you only need a nickel-sized amount to smooth out rough places like elbows, kneecaps, and legs. I put it on after drying, post-bath. Like its name suggests, it smells like a sweet, milky little cup of coffee. This reminds me of my great-grandmother, María. When my mother and I would visit her, she would brew a fresh pot of coffee and serve us from a canister of cookies that always sat on top of her old kitchen table.
She was in her 90s and a beautiful hostess, always looking to bring us light, while sometimes poking fun at the men in her family. She would put the little bit of coffee in pretty delicate cups. So this little jar of body butter reminds me of this, of my great grandmother’s cups of coffee. It’s strong and feminine and lovely.
Firme Arte Internet Bodega
I first learned about Firmearte from a dear friend. She left a Posada spell soap on my desk one day at work. I still haven’t used the soap because I find the smell and shape and look of the soap so intoxicating—it’s dotted with glitter and looks like a hazel-hued sky. Based in Sacramento, CA, Firmearte was founded in 2011 and is owned by Natalie G., who says the company represents, “…strong, empowered, witchy human beings dedicated to the pursuit of truth, self growth and a divine connection to the universe…. Queer Hopi- Xican@ Arte, Cultura & Magick.” Natalia lovingly refers to her customers as “Babes,” and her company has a positive and politicized spirit. It’s mantra is, “Witchy Cosas Made With Manos Not Machines.”
Limpia Smudge Soap: This reminds me of my mother, who is known for her cleanliness. One might call her a Rosie the Riveter Feminist, or the 1980’s echo of her, the Charlie Perfume woman who seems to do a little bit of everything, but she is a much more complicated woman than that.
My mother is a single woman, is super domestic, is a full time kindergarten teacher, but most importantly, she makes her own rules. I know my mother would love how this soap feels and smells so clean and fresh, it seems like a gift. A gift you’d give an intelligent and powerful human being. What gets to me the most about this soap is that it has a subtle hint of sweetness, which feels like little bits of love.
Cochin@ Dry Shampoo: I love the name of this shampoo because it speaks to my feminism. I grew up hearing my grandmother and aunt use this word to reprimand myself and my cousin when they thought we were getting a little out of line. I like how this shampoo celebrates our inclinations to be bad.
I have naturally curly, frizzy hair that’s on the dry side, so I only wash my hair every three days. I also dyed my hair green recently, so I’ve been shopping around for dry shampoos, so that I can maintain my fun color as long as possible. The shampoo is very lightly scented, so it’s great for those that are sensitive to scent, or like to get their fragrance from other things, like their soap, body mist, or perfume.
I sprinkle a very small amount on the crown of my head and brush out my hair with a vent brush. Bath time is great for when you don’t want to wash your hair because you don’t have to get your hair wet and you can still get relaxed and clean. This Cochin@ Shampoo made my hair look witchy clean. It’s truly a small wonder.
What most impressed me about these two women/bosses, besides the fact that they are chingonas, was that both of them included a handwritten note of thanks, a small satchel of candy, and their contact information. I used to think things like this were rare, but now I know they don’t have to be. Women are making their own brand of magic every day, and we need to honor and support the unique ways in which we create.
Bathing can get us to the womblike state, when we were full of light and imagination and possibility. So, lately, I’ve been floating and swimming in my bathtub. I feet cared for and yes, I’m beginning to feel like a mermaid again
Monique Quintana is the Editor-in-Chief of the literary blogazine, Razorhouse. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno, and her work has been published or is forthcoming in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among others. She is a Pocha/Chicana identified mother, daughter, sister, lover, and teacher from California’s Central Valley.