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I’ll buy any eight dollar green juice just to have something to hold onto.
I’m addicted to the intentional bloat, over-shellacking my face and overstuffing my bag with nonessentials. Product bottles are everywhere in my apartment: they spread like a poison (most of them are poison) across the top of my dresser, into my shower, and onto my roommate’s shelf in the medicine cabinet. It’s not just face and body products: coffee straws, disposable cups, and plastic bottles, the contents of which have long evaporated, creep onto my desk and under my bed.
My product use isn’t mindless—anyone who’s seen my moisturization routine or my adding-cream-to-coffee game can attest to my precision—but I’ve never have much self-control when it comes to that in which I slather myself. I’ve always found a temporary confidence in the consumption of those solvents. I’ll buy whatever face mask a Sephora employee pushes on me that may hold the promise of making me more beautiful; I’ll buy any eight dollar green juice just to have something to hold onto.
At the end of this past March, I had a bad bout of strep throat. For days, empty bottles of water, Gatorade, and stupid-expensive Harmless Harvest coconut waters clustered at the head of my bed, like stuffed animals made of BPA plastic and with contents just as comforting. The complete stillness of being bedridden also allowed the perfect opportunity to layer my face with products and deal with the resulting bottles and vials later.
As I slogged through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that was my bedroom, prone as I am to hollow declaratives, I vowed I’d never buy liquids again.
The scene was horrifying. As I slogged through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that was my bedroom, prone as I am to hollow declaratives, I vowed I’d never buy liquids again. With some consideration, I compromised with myself: I’d never buy liquids again for the next month. And thus, No Liquid April was born.
The guidelines of No Liquid April were obscured by self-serving exceptions and crooked logic, but roughly, my rule was this: I would not allow myself to buy any liquids, edible or otherwise, from April 1 through April 30. Often, this simple decree produced more questions than answers. Could I buy soup? Uh, I guess. (I was never so worried about conspicuous soup consumption.) Could I get more soap if I ran out? No, and don’t tell my roommate I’m using her stuff. Is hummus a liquid? No, I think it’s a plasma. Does alcohol count? This one is contentious: no. For better or for worse, my drinking habits are far less troublesome than the way I down rosewater facial toners or lavender iced lattes.
I’m aware that sharing this performed martyrdom this is probably the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever done. There’s incredible privilege in writing about opting out of buying facial cleanser for 30 days without needing to acknowledge that I have free and abundant access to clean drinking water. Throughout this experience, I haven’t experienced thirst. I have good friends willing to buy drinks in cafes instead of me so that I can use their bathrooms. I have a makeup bag already teeming with twice-used products. I work in an office with a water cooler and a seltzer machine and a swag table often toppling under the weight of free shampoos, perfumes, and lip glosses.
Could I buy soup? Uh, I guess. (I was never so worried about conspicuous soup consumption.)
I ended up saving about $25 per week on drinks and probably hundreds more on shipping and handling for cult-favorite clay masks, but I flubbed No Liquid April a few times. On the first warm day of Spring, I bought an iced latte. Mid-month, I repurchased a quarter of an ounce of the roll-on perfume I’ve been wearing since I was fifteen. Once, I was so hungover en route to meet my parents for brunch that I bought a bottle of Poland Spring and downed it cowering in a corner of the bodega, hiding from direct sunlight and any peers who might see me giving in. Most of the times I came undone were because I’m a slave to the motions of routine, rather than by cravings.
I know plenty of people who do their own No Liquid April, often in a more profound sense. I have Catholic and Jewish and Muslim friends who fast for various parts of the year. I know several people who do a post-holiday detox during Drynuary. Some friends have deleted Seamless. My editor partakes in a challenge she calls Only One Peppermint Mocha Iced Frappucino Per Summer. Hell, I even know people who diet.
I understand that there can be real pleasure in denial, but No Liquid April has been more about learning that I am able to remain myself without the totems I surround myself with. I’m a master of overkill, carrying makeup I’ll never reapply and water I won’t drink and books I’ll never crack open around the city with me, weighing me down. I’ve been known to go to punk rock shows with a backpack bulging with facial mist and eyebrow gel. But even without these props, my life—and my look—didn’t change at all.
I’m aware that sharing this performed martyrdom this is probably the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever done.
Truthfully, most of the promises about change and renewal that attract me to makeup and beauty are hollow. I continued to exist as I did before, without moisture. I looked the same in April as I did in March and every month before that, with no more or no fewer wrinkles or pimples or patches of dry skin. I ran out of mascara and smoothing hair serum pretty early in the challenge, and nobody noticed my pair of un-popped eyes and unsealed follicles. The same goes for ingestible liquid: I’m no more invincible or even more awake in the world with a cup of coffee in-hand than without it.
I’ve always been in a state of dull panic about being without enough water, or contact solution, or shampoo, or Retin-A (those fall pretty high on Maslow’s Pyramid, I think). A hobby of mine is fantasizing and preparing for impossible apocalyptic scenarios, whether it's my train coming to a standstill underground until I die of dehydration, or someone dismissing me as a human based on the relative fullness of my lips and the strength of the artificial glow on my cheekbones. Neither of these things have happened, let alone during No Liquid April, and in the course of a single month, I was able leave most of the baggage I carried around with me, on my back and in this excitable head, at home. My disaster contingency plan started to feel less pressing, the weight of my backpack less substantial. With a slightly lighter load, I’ve been able to drink everything else in.
Claire Carusillo is Eater's social media editor.