How to Relax When Everything Sucks

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Photo: Sam Edwards

Last week was the kind of week that made you question everything. Are we moving backwards? How can we stop all the hurt? Will this shitty cycle ever end?  Like many others did when the headlines and 24-hours news cycle became too much to bear, I forged an oasis to retreat, to heal, to try to forget. I ate like Matt Damon trying to catch some lbs real quick and watched crap TV because it made me feel dumb and good. When I finally felt comfortable enough to venture outside, I shopped. All of these things were fantastic and mind-numbing, but it was a bath from which I drew the most relief.

What’s so great about a bath, you ask? Well not much. When New Girl’s Schmidt once described bathtubs as “medieval filth cauldrons” I nodded like a bobblehead toy affixed to a moving car. They’re kind of boring, and bathtubs — unless yours is new, recently resurfaced or tacked on to a swanky apartment — are kind of gross. But last week I found myself willing to try anything to chill the hell out.

My first bath started out as a shower. This is the first rule of bath-taking actually. You must always shower first to avoid wallowing in your own dirt. I perched my laptop on the toilet seat and watched The Martian, which for the record, is not nearly as good as Interstellar (that other Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain space movie). But before I could sit down and realize that wow, everyone who told me The Martian is better is a damn liar, I filled the tub with Santa Maria Novella’s bath salts. I could tell I was in for a treat. For one, the label is mostly written in Italian, which means something (that it’s Italian). Another thing is that the salts are fragranced with melograno, which sounds far more poetic than simply saying it’s pomegranate-scented (which it is). After dumping in a liberal helping of the salts, I topped off the water with a ten-second pour of Moroccanoil (the body-oil version, I’m not nuts). It could have been any oil, really, but that’s what I had on hand.

The bath itself was so warm and relaxing that I began to understand why babies might want to kick it in utero for a sold nine months. For the first time in days I felt more at ease. Not totally healed, but it was a start.

I decided to double-up on baths the very next day because I discovered a few things from my first experience. In addition to the calming effect of wading horizontally in a vat of oily water, my skin had gotten a lot softer. Mind you, I was taking this bath in an apartment with no air conditioning in DC, which, quite frankly, is a special kind of hell. The dew from the humidity and bath water clung to the bathroom walls like sweat. My hair ballooned to twice its normal size. That special blend of heat, water, and oil made my skin look great, my pores appear smaller, and my hair feel softer.

The second time around I employed the help of Pursoma, one of those farm-to-skin brands that was founded by a model who wants to make the world a better place. The line’s products include words like “detox,” “earthbound,” and “resurrection” and are unsurprisingly 100-percent Goop-approved. I hesitantly tried “Digital Detox.” Hesitantly because I saw “detox” and was unsure whether the bath would give me a mean case of the shits (Gwyneth loves the shits). Aren’t you happy it did not?

The instructions for Digital Detox are kind of intense. I was told to first drink a glass of purified water, and then to add sea salt and a sprinkling of Pursoma, which is essentially finely-milled clay. After soaking for 20 minutes I had to rinse the clay residue from my skin but resist taking a shower. I was told to conclude the clay experience by wrapping myself in a towel and sitting under a warm blanket for 15 to 30 minutes like some sort of human Chipotle entree, but if you think for a second I did that, you don’t know me at all.

Weird hippie experience aside, the clay soak was pleasant in a general, expected way, like free bread with your soup, or complimentary breakfast at the Hilton. I was beginning to feel whole again.

For my last bath, I launched a satchel of Phytomer’s slimming bath salts into play (see the aforementioned aggressive eating). I loaded the bath up with Moroccanoil again, though in retrospect, something like coconut oil sounds quite nice. In the end I didn’t notice any body “contouring,” but I did feel lighter. It was Sunday night. Tomorrow was time to work.