The Sweet Agony of the Spa

elephant_spaAside from a pedicure here and a facial there, I didn’t experience my first “spa day” until I was 26. My boyfriend at the time got me some uber-deluxe-platinum-premium-special-person package that included six hours of being poked, prodded, polished and dusted in cocoa powder. By the time I was finished with the nails, hair, makeup, massage, wrap, reflexology and facial, I looked like a million bucks and felt like a train wreck. I made him cancel our anniversary dinner and put me straight to bed. Relaxing is painfully exhausting – fantastically exhausting.

Flash forward some odd years and I eat up any opportunity to be pampered – in spite of the pain (except manicures – that’s real torture). In my years of excruciating bliss I’ve been jabbed with hot stones, poked with sticks, and walked on by tiny little ladies in Vietnam with freakishly strong toes. When it comes to finding the pleasure in the pain, here’s a little run down of the rub down:

First, you’re stripped down to a robe and sandals and all your worldly possessions are locked up for the foreseeable future. Next, they hole you up in a room where you aren’t allowed to talk and the only sustenance is water laced with vegetables.

Finally, they call you into the “treatment room.” Here, you are laid on a table that looks suspiciously like that contraption they had Hannibal Lecter strapped to and are told to “relax.” Then you spend the next 49 minutes trying to do just that.

Once you close your eyes and brace yourself the real torture begins as one at a time, your senses are fussed with:

Sight: Whether face-down in the pillow vice or face-up and blindfolded by a wet towel or sliced produce, you have no idea what awaits you. Every so often you dare to open your eyes for a peek at the size of the shoes under the table.

Smell: A cocktail of incense, scented candles and herbal oils fills the room with intoxicating intensity lulling you into submission. Every so often a waft of something new floods your olfactory and you tense with anticipation at what new concoction will be slathered upon you – and you think maybe, just maybe, it’s a can of Duncan Hines vanilla bean frosting.

Touch: Depending on your torture du jour, you could become the victim of anything from having your first layer of skin peeled to being tarred in shea butter and feathered in banana leaves. Your “deep tissues” will be rubbed, you will be bent like a pretzel, and you may even experience the brutality of pore extraction.

Intuition: In the most painful form of self-torture, your inner monologue will run rampant with the possibilities. Is she going to remember to do my left leg? Should I remind her to do my left leg? Is that vanilla? I thought I said I wanted eucalyptus but I swear that’s vanilla. Or is that cinnamon? Did she already do my left leg? No my left leg is cold; she couldn’t have already done my left leg. Did I shave my left leg? There has to still be at least twenty minutes left. That’s definitely not eucalyptus. Damn cucumber blindfold. Wow this feels fantastic I wonder if she’s free next Thursday.

Sound: In the background, a symphony of birds, rain drops and various wind instruments plays so subtlety you can’t tell when one song begins and the next ends. You strain to find the rhythm among the ribbits and tweets and just when you think you’ve figured it out, it’s all over.

Taste: At the end of your treatment, you are released back into the wild tired, throbbing and holding a cup of herbal tea tasting strangely like whatever is still slathered on your face.

After you return to reality and spend the rest of the day being red, sore, and useless, it dawns on you that going to the spa is one of the most wonderful, painful, fantastic uses of your time and energy and you can’t wait to do it again. What’s your spa torture of choice?

Related post: I Hate Manicures

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About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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17 Responses to The Sweet Agony of the Spa

  1. pfstare says:

    They are exhausting but lovely aren’t they? Mrs Thatcher was I believe, a devotee of having a massage once a week. The only thing I think I’d ever have agreed with her on….

  2. lostnchina says:

    Hilarious! As much as I love going to the spa I’ve never found it totally relaxing and also like to focus on the masseuse’s feet (got to see some funky footwear that way). You’ve encapsulated my spa experiences.

  3. Love this commentary! I love the pain of relaxing! But I wish American spas would take a note from spas in Asia that place a lovely little bowl of flowers below your bed so you are not starting at the floor.

  4. So true! We walk a fine line between relaxation and masochism.

  5. I love spa treatments – mostly massages. Yes, yes, LEGITIMATE massages. Thai massages are pretty cool because they do a whole bunch of twisting and stretching.

  6. I always end up coming out feeling dirty, unkept and lazy. “What is your skin exfoliation regime? Mmmmmmm…..what? …..oh do you mean when I wash my face with the shampoo?

  7. whenexactly says:

    Microdermabrasion! The more it hurts the better I feel!!!!

  8. ashleemae says:

    I’m almost 32 years old and I’ve never, ever had a single spa treatment. Oh, not true…I once had a pedicure and I’ve had acrylic nails (back when that was cool) before. Do those count? I’ve always wanted to do the full treatment…Deliciously painful deep tissue massage, total body exfoliation, and whatever they do to suck all of the gunk out of my pores. Maybe someday!

  9. nathanjedi says:

    As a man, I never understood how women withstand all this torture, and yet still say it was “relaxing”. “Men are tougher then women” my ass.

  10. I was pondering this earlier. Massage is def torture! http://wp.me/1W1q0

  11. paywindow7 says:

    Does the word masochist have any relevance here?

  12. That sounds blissful! I can relate to every one of those senses, plus the inner monologue (chuckled out loud sitting in a full doctors office!) is spot on. Did she do my left leg? Pretty sure there’s stil time left…always on my mind haha unless I’ve dozed off ;)

  13. Love massages but can never rationalise spending my pittance of a wage on them so it’s usually a bday thing :)

  14. sophpearl says:

    Love this! And I can totally relate to the “did she forget my left leg” internal dialogue. Probably my worst nightmare…Well, one of them.

  15. I’m scared to go to the spa for all those reasons!

  16. iamjjstone says:

    I absolutely love your descriptions of the spa treatments, and of course I absolutely love spa treatments, too. Hilarious!

  17. You know i have the same opinions of spas and actually hair salons. So many women tell me that the salon is a nice, relaxing experience for them. A time where they are able to unwind and be stress-free. It’s the complete opposite of that for me…

    I go in the salon, knowing that I am going to hate the experience. I spend over $100 to get water in my eyes, hair pulled out, dye everywhere, my eyes and face getting poked with either a finger or a brush. Then to top it all off – if I have a new hair idea, I should just forget it – because the stylish does as she wishes. Why don’t I leave, you might ask? Because I’ve been there so long and actually “afraid” of hurting their feelings. How do we get ourselves in these situations? I find I’m able to speak up in most aspects of my life, but spa/salon going experiences, I am at a loss for words.

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