I turn 40 this year, and I'm just waiting for my husband to ask me what I want for my birthday. I've got my answer all prepared. It's probably not what he expects, though. In the years before kids, he'd have gotten off easy with jewelry or clothes, dinner out, and a gift certificate to a day spa.
But after ten years and four kids, my idea of the perfect birthday gift has evolved. What I really want this year is four hours in my own bathroom alone and uninterrupted. Just peace and quiet and porcelain.
I suppose this makes me a cheap date, but after ten years of doing whatever I've got to do in the bathroom in front of an audience, four hours of bathroom solitude sounds better than anything he can charge on his MasterCard or wrap in black "Over the Hill" gift wrap.
My birthday fantasy looks like this—me loitering in the tub with my eyes closed. Around me there are no action figures, no stick-on alphabet letters, no naked Barbies. (Talk about depressing. The last thing I need when I'm bent over shaving my legs is a naked Barbie smirking at me.)
I want no little urchins there to offer commentary on my breasts or belly or buttocks. I don't want to hear that I'm getting fat but "Don't worry, Mommy, you look good that way," or "Hey, the water goes WAY down when you get out."
I want to shave my legs without delivering a safety lecture about my razor. I don't want to share my shaving cream with anyone, no matter how much fun the stuff is. I want to fog up the mirror without having to peek around the shower curtain and answer, "What letter is this, Mommy?" I want the curtain to stay shut and not be fanned open every few seconds, inspiring me to once again explain that shower curtains are for keeping water off the floor.
I want to let the water get as hot as I can stand it. I don't want to hear that anyone is taking up all the room; I want all the room. I especially don't want to hear, "Oops! Guess I forgot to tinkle before I got in the tub." I want to stretch my legs without it being seen as an invitation for a pony ride. I want to towel off without having to teach an anatomy lesson entitled "Why Mommy Looks Different Than Daddy."
And while I'm at it, I want to do what I need to on the toilet without spectators. I don't want to have to remember who tore off the toilet paper for me the last time so I'm sure everyone gets their turn. I want to pick up a magazine, read an article from start to finish, and actually comprehend what I'm reading. I want to close the door and not have little notes slid underneath with my name on them, or see tiny fingers wiggling up at me.
Then I want to paint my nails—only mine, no one else's. I don't want to have the "But, Sweetie, nail polish is only for girls and mommies, not boys" talk, which is usually followed that evening by the "Oh, Honey, I only did his toenails" talk. I want to give myself a pedicure, a facial, and touch up my roots without once stopping to yell, "I'm in the bathroom. No, I can't come to you; you come to me!"
I don't care where my husband takes the kids. He'll think of something. I just want four hours to luxuriate in my own bathroom alone! Hopefully while my husband is sitting in the McDonald's play yard staring at his watch, he'll remember he's turning 50 this year. Perhaps I'll tell him I'm toying with the idea of declaring the remote control off limits to anyone but Dad for that long, glorious afternoon. Consider the possibilities!
Mimi Greenwood Knight is a freelance writer who lives in Louisiana.