I am susceptible to trends. I get dressed, thinking I am carefully attuned to the soft voice of my own internal style, and then look into the mirror and see a crumpled copy of an Instagram influencer, circa 18 months ago. I like vitamins and juices. I am receptive to the idea that owning certain things will make me feel better. I believe I am one Tupperware purchase away from tripping the wire that sets off daily gym visits and predawn wake-ups and leaps up the corporate ladder. Even now, as we speak, I am the owner of multiple $18 lip balms.
My possessions and I keep up a quiet, often unsatisfying relationship. I buy things, hoping they will act like psychiatric drugs crossed with religious epiphanies, and they pile up in my apartment like what they are—elegantly packaged plastic. I seek the better-living-through-careful-capitalism that the age of online reviews offers. I get melted candles and sooty charcoal drinks.
There’s only one product I’ve found that costs very little and makes me feel that goop-y, goodly nirvana, that delivers on the inane belief that I am “clean” and, well, that gives me a feeling of both crackling pleasure and puritanism—seltzer.
Violently carbonated water, more than life events or human touch, makes me feel something. It’s a feeling I chased after for a long time—that thing other women seem to get when they come home from work and put on sweats and pull their hair back and drink a glass of wine. I don’t like the taste of wine. But I wanted that feeling.
So I went through a period when I applied a single-use Korean face mask every night. I could not be comfortable until I was in my room alone, looking like a child in a ghost costume on a rainy Halloween. My roommates got used to seeing me coming around a corner and managed not to scream. But the experience didn’t bring me the sense of contentment I was after. It didn’t soothe me.
Still, I wanted to feel better. I wanted to feel good. I wanted that placid, pleasure-laden experience that I’d seen in the movies, often depicted between glasses of wine and the erotic exhale: “That was a day!” But I have never met a drug or an alcohol that felt just right to me, so instead I spent roughly the cost of an econ major’s textbooks on CBD products—gummies, mints, tinctures, and sodas. The business of CBD seemed healthful and kind. Mere conversations with CBD salespeople felt like sinking into a suede beanbag chair. I read that CBD would make me feel calm but not drugged. I just wanted to come home, light a candle, and consume $24 worth of CBD. I do believe that CBD works for many people, but it did not work for me. I had to admit that I was essentially in a seedy folktale of my own creation, trading money for beans.
I had set out to eat or drink or smoke or slather on something that would make me feel luxurious but not extravagant. That thing turned out to be carbonated water from a can. Seltzer, like everything else I like, was brusquely inserted into my life by ad campaigns and influencers who made me think it was my idea. Even though I grew up with a mother who housed liters of Pellegrino the way addicts chain-smoke cigarettes, I started liking seltzer at the same time everyone else did—in 2016, when a drop in soda popularity encouraged seltzer brands to campaign aggressively for the millennial dollar. The Midwestern seltzer brand La Croix became explosively popular, and cans of it came to signify minute, tasteful indulgence. Even in New York City, a can of La Croix from a 12-pack cost 50 cents at most. I started drinking three a day.
My first nightly sip of seltzer satisfied like oxygen, primally. It tastes the way it feels when my thumbprint lights up the screen of my iPhone after a 35-minute-or-longer break. It stings and makes me salivate. My eyes fill with tears. “That’s right, cry!” I tell myself, shuddering, as I pour more sparkling water into my mouth.
Over time I moved on from La Croix to Bubly to Spindrift to Trader Joe’s “Seltzer With a Splash!” which is the cheapest seltzer that still makes me feel as if I am being spanked on the tongue. I want seltzer to hurt me. I want it to have some brutality. If I’m not crying, it’s not strong enough. There’s a trend online of people sharing that they want to be attacked by people they’re attracted to—they want Timothée Chalamet to run them over with a car, or Mitski to hit them with a cruise boat. I just want seltzer to murder me.
The biggest impediment to my seltzer habit is carrying it into my house. Twelve-packs of seltzer are economical but heavy. I trot home with my brick of seltzer cutting into the soft of my inner arms, tingling with anticipation. I open a can and hear it hiss and think, Ah, cracking open a cold one with the boys! and grin maniacally at the walls of my empty apartment. In my daydreams I use my obscene wealth to fill an infinity pool with seltzer and watch as it pours onto the horizon but is never depleted.
Seltzer is a pleasure that feels like a small violence, though it is exorbitantly innocent. I like to feel the top layer of tissue on my tongue seared by the sharpness of bubbles and acid. I don’t care if I drink and still feel thirsty. I don’t care if my home becomes unrecognizable under the litter of crushed aluminum. I just want a moment when I come home after work and remove my mind and put it to the side for safe keeping, and fill the empty place with seltzer.
People say life’s really about the little things, like warm hugs and gardening and nice, quiet moments with tea or whatever. I hate that! I think life is about the big things, like health insurance and falling drastically in love. But once a day I find meaning in the little ritual of the bubbles that sizzle against the surface of my tongue, each one a tiny, painful pleasure.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer at Glamour. You can read more of her seltzer content on Twitter.
Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap. It’s become a punch line, a cliché, a cash cow for 1-800-Flowers.com and Godiva. But in these troubled times, shouldn’t we embrace the one occasion our culture has that is devoted to pure love and affection? This week we’re reclaiming it with unconventional takes, off-label objects of affection, and an ode to…Twitter? This is My Kind of Valentine.
Originally Appeared on Glamour