Americans are obsessed with master baths—en suite restrooms with double vanities and bowl sinks, soaking tubs, showers the size of lower Manhattan, Tibeca with body jets and mosaic tile. They have personal spas beyond their bedroom doors—spaces to retreat to—places to get away from.
Sara and I aren’t master bath kinds of people, apparently—or so Sara, my partner, says—pointing out that I share our downstairs bath—the one nearest the master bedroom—with my Maltese Lucy rather than with her.
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but what does it say about me that I share my restroom with a canine companion, and how exactly does this sharing work? How did it come to be?
It’s simple enough really—and purely practical.
Sara takes showers; I prefer baths. We’ve made bathroom assignments accordingly.
But our downstairs bathroom, in addition to boasting the more common attractions—toilet, sink, and fabulous tub—is where we keep Lucy’s food and water bowls, so she can eat separately from our larger dog Ralph, who insists on devouring her dinner, even if his bowl runneth over with Iams.
This eating arrangement both assures Lucy gets fed and allows me to monitor how much she is or isn’t eating. I feed her while taking a bath—stretched out in my claw foot tub, watching the flat screen TV that’s perched atop the toilet tank—surrendering to popular culture even as I exfoliate my face and shave my legs.
I know the television may be a little over the top, but if you’ve never enjoyed a good soak in a deep tub while simultaneously watching HGTV’s “House Hunters International” or CNN’s the “Situation Room,” then you haven’t truly lived, my friend. You’ve been deprived.
For Lucy, on the other hand, the bathroom is not a place to relax, but rather a staging ground for exerting her dominance, a place for guarding what is hers, not only her food, but also her bone—
It’s also a space where she feels safe to boss her big brother around—a 40 pound terrier mix who tolerates her ego with a larger-dog dignity.
Ralph doesn’t mind. He toes the line. And so do we.
It may be true that, for a long time, I’ve been interested in the way space defines people—the ways we as human beings define the places we inhabit and how that impacts the way we live. In this instance, however, it’s a seven pound white dog who’s running the show—a little dog with deafening bark and larger-than-life personality, guarding the bathroom door as if her food supply, her fluffy life, depended on it. She’s a lapdog with license to kill, her loud mouth a not-so-concealed weapon whipped out at will.
It’s clear. Lucy likes to maintain order—her order—an approach to home management that’s not only pet-oriented but canine-centric—“I love Lucy” in a very puppy perfect way.
So what then does this say about our wanna-be master bath?
About who we are and how we live?
Who’s mastering whom?
Sara says this space, like our lives, has gone to the dogs.
Is she barking up the wrong tree?