The Sex Life of Sponges

Donna is back home with me. The hospital discharged her eight days after open heart surgery; four nights in the ICU and four nights in the cardiac step down unit. The evening before they discharged her, the Physician’s Assistant told me he’d spoken with the social worker and the physical therapist and they all agreed Donna would do better at home with me than in residential rehab. Medicare is providing a visiting nurse and a visiting physical therapist. We went home with a shower chair, a commode, a walker, a drug regimen, and an exercise plan.

It caught me by surprise. The original plan was for residential rehab, and I thought I had at least two more weeks of bachelor living before Donna came home. I had some straightening up to do. Her first night back I cooked a simple dinner. We ate at our dining table, and then sat on the couch and listened to Beethoven Piano Sonatas. It was very sweet.

Our new sea sponge.

Our new sea sponge.

Donna’s nurses in the step down unit gave us a lot of information and advice for a healthy recovery. Mila explained to me how to bathe Donna in the shower. She told me to use a soft sponge and clean the wound area first, keeping the incision out of the direct line of the shower spray. And to give Donna a clean towel every time she showered.

I may be an oblivious butch, but I usually give my towel the sniff test before I use it, and keep reusing it until it is close to funky. I consider this part of my reduce, reuse, and recycle lifestyle (i.e. lazy, procrastinating, and cheap). We only own six bath towels (two for me, two for Donna, and two for house guests) plus two old towels for drying Gracie off after it rains. Loads of laundry are in my future.

I don’t worry about germs. I don’t use Purell. I eat stuff that falls on my kitchen floor. I’ve got a dog who tracks all sorts of dirt onto my couch and into my bed. I probably only wash my hands a third of the time that I should. I’m a clean freak’s nightmare, but no one has ever gotten sick after eating dinner at my house.

We own one washcloth, which is dubbed “The Bercovici washcloth” because we purchased it twenty years ago for a friend who visits us from Northampton. She thought it was odd that we didn’t use washcloths. I guess it depends on how you were raised. We only break it out for her visits. There was no “soft sponge” in our house. There is now.

A late night trip to my local fancy pharmacy revealed an astounding array of bath accessories. There were loofahs, synthetic mesh puffs, sisal body scrubbers, boar bristle brushes, and cellulose and natural sponges. I chose a natural sea sponge.  I think it resembles Donna’s heart. Its got valve holes.

I set up the shower chair and figured where to place it so that the spray wouldn’t hit her incision. Then I practiced how to wash with the sponge. I sudsed the sponge up and it was so soft, and so luscious, and so very sexy. I ran it over my chest, and over my scars, and under my arms, and around my neck. Why didn’t anyone tell me to use a natural sea sponge before?


She sells sea sponges by the sea shore in Kalymnos.

Our second vacation together was to Kalymnos, Greece. It was (still is?) a relaxed, low-key, no scene island in the Dodecanese, near Turkey. An island known for its beaches and sea sponges. There were a dozen stores in the port selling sponges, and we scoffed at them because they were tourist traps. We didn’t buy one.

If we had dropped our pretensions, and been a little more generous and indulgent, we could have have a lot of fun playing around with those sponges. It wasn’t necessary to wait for open heart surgery. A worthwhile lesson for our next trip.

Notes: Most commercially sold sponges are synthetic. Natural sponges are sea creatures, and they are predominantly hermaphrodites (they are both male and female). This page explains how they reproduce sexually by producing sperm and fertilizing other sponges, or asexually by “budding.” This video gives a little history and information on sea sponges and the sea sponge industry.


22 thoughts on “The Sex Life of Sponges

  1. Widdershins

    Having been on the receiving and applying of after-hospitalisation-sponge-showers with Mrs Widds, I’ve come to the conclusion there’s no greater example of true love than to experience that kind of trust.


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I had some help from Donna washing my hair and after my surgery, which was nice, but the sponge is very special. There is also something very sweet about having someone else towel you off (with the one-use clean towel).


  2. Barbara

    I think your post is magnificent!
    Everyone should have a person in their life who has their back and incision the way you have Donna’s…


  3. MainelyButch

    I had to laugh at your Butch cleanliness paragraph…I too am frugal and use the towel to the bitter end i.e. just before funky….I’m guilty of not washing my hands enough, and I let the dog have free reign in all areas. There’s more dog hair than carpet fibers on my floors…I live the Butch bachelor life for sure….it’s only when my Femme lets me know she’s coming to visit that I really freak out and start cleaning up! LOL Rock on!!! ~MB


  4. Maria

    I’m glad Donna is back home. Wishing her a swift recovery.
    You know I’m not going to comment on the OCD issues I have but I need to know; did we shake hands? Ha xx


  5. anexactinglife

    Curious about whether you received the same shower and incision care advice after your surgery? I am not a germaphobe either. But can you microwave a sea sponge to sterilize it like you would a synthetic dish sponge?


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      My surgeon told me to shower away from the spray initially, but nothing about washing it first and using a clean towel. I don’t know if it is because her incision is a straight line to the heart (danger of infection) or just a different approach. One thing I’ve noticed is that every surgeon has a different regimen to follow after top surgery (drains, compression, scar care etc.) and there is more variation in aftercare than I expected.

      Sea sponges are supposed to be safer than cellulose sponges (less bacteria) – but you can rinse them in a diluted bleach solution to clean them. We don’t have a microwave (long story) so I’d probably go the bleach route.


  6. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC)

    Yay, for Donna doing so well! And think of all the brownie points you are earning for taking such good care of her!
    Okay, I think I must have a tad bit of OCD because I sweep our floors everyday and vacuum the carpets at least twice. I do at least five loads of laundry a week even though there is only two humans living here. I make sure to wash the rugs, cat blankets and our bedding every week plus our clothes. I do reuse shower towels but three times is my absolute limit but I do not reuse my washcloths.
    But I owe you a big thank you. . . I’m putting a natural sea sponge on our shopping list!


  7. Pingback: Sitting on the Fence | A Boy and Her Dog

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