We’re standing in the corner of a dimly lit room that smells strongly of eucalyptus. Every time I inhale it feels like I’m breathing into a wet, warm paper towel. I’d never really wanted to get a massage before, it involves all the things I usually try to avoid — spending money, touching strangers, being told to “just relax” — but it was a birthday gift to a friend. I’d also never been big into “self-care,” having worked in women’s magazines I discovered early on that a lot of it is advertisers wanting you to buy $78 scented candles and $250 face creams (that work the same as $8 face creams). Plus, I decided if you don’t think about how your body is slowly falling apart, it doesn’t hurt as much.
“How are you feeling?” the masseuse asks.
“Oh, I’m good, I just got over a cold,” I say, assuming she’s referring to the fact that I haven’t stopped sniffling since I walked in.
“No, I meant your body.”
I’d never thought about this before. How does my body feel? I just wake up, hurl myself from bed, throw on clothes, cram myself into a crowded subway car, and then hide away in a cubicle and type, hunched over a laptop, for eight hours each and every day.
“It’s good,” I say.
Then she spends the better half of the next hour painfully working out one decade-old kink in my shoulder. Apparently my early twenties had taken a harder toll on my body than I thought. The entire time I was on the table, I couldn’t relax. I could barely breathe in between winces, and all I wanted was for this nice lady to stop beating me up.
While I didn’t love the whole massage experience, I left the spa that day recognizing that I might benefit from a little “self-care” no matter how cringey (or privileged or commercial) the term had become. At the very least, I should start taking care of myself.
Later that week, while I was scrolling through Insta Stories, I came across a friend’s photo of a pale pink-colored bath with a Zadie Smith book and a beer. I dug a little deeper and found that there are bath bombs to help energize you, others to help you relax, even some to put you in the “mood.” I’d never really gotten into CBD products, and the bath bomb is maybe one of the most extra items in the “self-care” universe. (“What does it even do aside from make the water Instagrammable?” I thought.) But I decided to give it a shot. My knotty, Mother Willow-esque body needed to relax and I didn’t want another stranger to touch me again.
I ended up choosing a bath bomb which promised to “provide clarity and energy while also soothing those aches and pains”. Basically, I wanted a pink one because it matched my shower curtain. (Yes, I am the worst). I drew a bath in my new apartment — I was living on my own for the first time since moving out of the home my ex-girlfriend and I shared (read: extra stress) — and plopped the hot pink bath bomb into the water. I was reading Eve Babitz’s Black Swans at the time and the cover of the book matched the water. For a second, I’d finally achieved Pinterest-levels of perfect.
After Instagramming the moment (because what else are bath bombs for, right?), I slipped into the tub and let the hot water rush over me. A few minutes into the bath, my entire body felt like a masseuse had been working on it for hours. It was like each of my muscles had taken a Xanax. The bath bomb didn’t change the fact that I was single, in my late twenties, and living on my own with an expensive rent to pay, but it sure did make me feel better about it — at least for a few hours.
While I felt like a balloon floating gently above my body, I wasn’t actually high. Like a lot of topicals, many CBD bath bombs don’t contain any THC at all. In fact, the one I used kept me alert while also soothing my physical pain (read: turned me into a human tub of butter). Others, like the Life Elements Bliss Ball, are meant to help treat different skin conditions like dry skin, acne, eczema, and psoriasis, in addition to being anti-inflammatory — which is to say, they work for soreness, cramps, and pain. And if a bomb isn’t your medium of choice, there are also CBD Bath Salts.
Once my bath water turned cold and the last of the bomb had disintegrated, I got out of the tub and wrapped myself in a warm towel — a crucial step in the post-CBD bath bomb process. Later as I cooked dinner, I noticed my shoulders were more relaxed, not in their usual position, bunched up around my neck like I’d just been called on in class while not paying attention. The best part is that bath products are much more affordable than a massage — the Bliss Ball Bath Bomb costs $14 and the Vertly salts come in at $29. You don’t even need to leave your house!
While I might never become the avocado toast-Instagramming self-care yogi of my own dreams, I’m at least thinking more about my body and ways to take better care of it. I notice my breathing more, sit up straighter, and of course, melt into a CBD bath at least once a month. After roughly a decade of neglect, it’s really the least I can do.