You say spa, I say torture chamber

Last night as part of my week-long self-imposed 35th birthday extravaganza – which began with yummy burgers and fries with SB on Wednesday, and continued with my leaving work “sick” at 11:30 on Thursday, going home to take a nap and gorge myself on a s’mores birthday cupcake – I treated myself to a massage and facial.

I love a good massage and don’t mind being touched by a stranger. As I’m lying there, I don’t really think I’m being rubbed up by Person A but by these disembodied hands. But last night was different. My masseuse – an Amazonian red head with the unlikely name of Miles – had to go and make conversation beforehand. She saw my book, Wicked, thus beginning a short and pleasant chat about Gregory Maguire’s books.

So when the massage began, I could no longer think “disembodied hands.” I thought “Miles” and felt rather weird. But soon I forgot about this. Maybe it was the dim lights, or the soothing music, or the faint smell of lavendar and eucalyptas. Or maybe it was that Miles started beating me senseless.

I could take the kneading of my shoulder muscles, and the bending back of my fingers, and even the hard rub down that nerve in my thigh, but when she started to attack the knots around my shoulder blades, I began to understand how Tom Skerritt felt in Opposing Force.

“Ow,” I said as she pressed down, thinking she’d let up. Most masseuses do. After all it’s a customer service industry. Miles didn’t.

“Take a deep breath,” she said.

Wrong answer! But I did, though my nose and out my mouth, and it actually helped.

Then she did it again – and again! “C’mon,” she said. “You can do it.”

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be relaxing? But in a way, it did feel good, in combination with the deep breathing and the tears pouring from my eyes.

But she wasn’t done yet. Next she attacked the nerves in my ass cheeks, and bent my legs in half so hard I thought my quads would snap. (I couldn’t imagine her doing the same to one of the doughy ladies in the waiting room.) And yes, at the end I gave her a tip. A good one too.

Next up was the facial. Have you ever noticed how during these treatments you regress to an infant? You lie there unmoving, helpless, naked. Your body parts get moved around, you get swaddled up in towels and blankets.

Usually I’m into it, at least for a little while, but perhaps the facial went too far. After applying a mask, the woman covered my entire face with gauze, except for tiny air holes for my nose and mouth. I was already covered with a sheet and towel, which she pulled up to my ears. Then she left the room.

Although I had no problem breathing, I felt like I was having trouble so I quickly yanked an arm out of my mummy wrap and widened my nose air hole . I imagined Michael Jackson with his face all wrapped up except for a tiny sliver of a non-existent nose.

I lay there and lay there. I tried to relax. I listened to the relaxing music which suddenly seemed creepy, like the soundtrack of a David Lynch movie. I touched my nose again. Air hole still intact. I opened my eyes and tried to see through the gauze. Too warm suddenly, I moved my limbs around trying to escape the seemingly endless sheet.

I began to panic. Was she ever coming back? Could I take the gauze off my face? Would I get in trouble if I did? Were those footsteps? Was it her? Would I be here forever?

Finally, she returned. She seemed to have been gone for an inordinate amount of time but it was probably only about 15 minutes. As she removed the gauze and loosened the blankets, I felt utter relief, as though I were being born again, but with clear skin and (temporarily) clean blackheads. Now if only I could learn to go on the potty.


  1. I don’t like the massage therapist to talk. It is NOT relaxing. I had one guy start talking about how he could totally kill someone and get away with it by feeding the body to sharks (this was in Hawaii and right after the Laci Peterson drama.) Yeah, that’s a nice comforting image as I’m lying there naked in a closed-off room.

  2. I don’t like when they leave the room either, I feel like it’s sorta cheating, after all if my service is supposed to be an hour I want you working on me for an hour! Not just putting things on my face and walking away. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever had gauze put on me before. I think you went to a weird place :)

  3. I hate to think how much you paid for that whole experience.

  4. zerodoll: i don’t like the masseuse to talk to me either, and that was a pretty creepy one you got there! luckily, miles took a hint and shut up pretty fast.

    sitcomgirl: i feel like that too! sometimes i appreciate the private quiet time, but that night i was antsy. and the gauze might have been a first, i can’t remember.

  5. r42k: it was a good experience overall – though yes, pricey.