The Perils of Self-Care


Our Daily Correspondent


From an early twentieth-century ad for St. Moritz.

Here is a partial list of things to dread about spa treatments:

Getting lost in a locker room and wandering into a broom closet. Sitting around in white in a waiting room with a bunch of other people in white, looking like a group of Latter-Day Saints. Soothing woodwind music. Scented oils. Having someone say you’re tense. Having someone not say you’re tense when you know they’re thinking it. Sterile places. Grimy places. Telling yourself to relax over and over. Wanting to talk to people. Wanting to be left alone. Expensive massages during which you worry that everyone else is way better groomed. Cheap massages where you worry someone on the next bed is getting a happy ending. Technicians who are brisk and critical. Technicians who are tactful and pampering. Dubious slippers. Panicking and saying, yes, I am a runner and that’s why my feet are so battered. Babble about peptides and DHAs. Babble about toxins and natural products. Relating your inadequate skin-care routine. Having someone ask, Did you enjoy it? after a facial when enjoyment really didn’t seem to be the point. Being naked. Being naked except for that frumpy little elasticized thing. The knowledge you’re supposed to enjoy it. Hearing your mother’s voice in your head talking scornfully about “self-indulgent women” who require more than a bar of Ivory soap and a bottle of Head & Shoulders. Looking blotchy afterward. Looking the same afterward. Wanting to pass. Not wanting to be confused with these sorts of women. Losing your locker key. Overtipping. Feeling sick. Feeling like Sisyphus. Feeling privileged. Feeling poor.

And here is a list of things to like:

  • Free tampons
  • Us Weekly

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.