Today we bring you an extra special guest post by my good friend, the talented New Yorker cartoonist Tom Toro. One of the delights of being cartoon editor for The New Yorker was bringing new talent to the magazine and watching them flourish. That has certainly been the case with Tom. His first cartoon appeared back in 2010, and since then, hundreds have followed, and you know where you can find them all if you are reading this.
But now to today’s post, Tom’s own take on the terrors of bath time in honor of his latest children’s book, I’m Terrified of Bath Time, written by acclaimed humorist Simon Rich and illustrated by Tom.
Bath Time and Its Terrors
by Tom Toro
During the COVID-19 pandemic, bath time with my kid took on a terrifying tinge. What, in normal times, had been a pleasant daily ritual of suds and songs—the only scary aspect being that it would go on for much longer than anticipated—suddenly became a war against an invisible menace. The virus could be anywhere! We must scrub-a-dub-dub like our lives depended on it!
Armed with nothing but a washcloth and a bottle of Johnson’s no-tear baby shampoo, I would lather my kid’s body until he was encased in a protective shell of bubbles.
He didn’t understand the high stakes, of course. I think my pitchy rendition of “Baby Beluga” threw him off the scent. What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t conceal the state of emergency—the real reason for dunking him into a tub of scalding hot water the very instant we came home from the playground? A bad parent, that’s what! A bad parent with a serious case of eczema from the constant abuse of Purell.
As my dry, cracked, and bleeding hands worked a lather over his delicate skin, I would imagine the virus getting trapped inside the soap suds like a million malevolent little hamsters inside tiny plastic balls.
There was no epidemiological basis for my fantasy—but whatever. I needed a way to make us feel safe. Even if it meant going overboard on the personal hygiene front. I mean, I was dousing each individual grocery that entered our home with rubbing alcohol, for Pete’s sake! Sanitization overruled sanity.
This wasn’t the time for rational thought. Rather, it was the search for some glimmer of reassurance that, slathered with enough disinfectant, everything would be okay. The calamity outside would be kept at bay. Our little world would be rinsed clean of danger. The terrors beyond the bathtub rim wouldn’t make it past our soapy defenses.
We’d be safe in our bubble.
Order Tom’s new book, I’m Terrified of Bath Time, a hilarious and clever bath-time picture book by humorist, novelist, and TV writer Simon Rich, with illustrations by Tom Toro.