I inherited the massage gene from my mother, but along with it, at least 12 generations of pietist separatism of one sort or another, so spas make me nervous. I have yet to encounter a “relaxation room” (the waiting area) that achieved anything close to relaxation. You get a robe. Other people are in robes. Robes tie in front, with knots that loosen — particularly when you are trying to maneuver some curvilinear, high-concept spa chair. What is relaxing about guarding yourself against drop-away exposure under these circumstances? I hold a glass of wine in one hand and clutch at the robe knot for dear life with the other and try to not make eye contact with the bridal party at the other end of the room. Five women about to have six hour spa treatments — and me, clutching my robe knot. What is relaxing about this?
Someone approaches me with a tray full of exotic berries, celery, and cucumber. What is this? Pick one?
“No,” says the lady with the Filipino accent. “You may have the whole tray.”
But, wait, I’m holding a glass of wine and my robe knot, and I’m locking my knees together in this Finnish relaxation chair and there is no end table in sight, and what is relaxing about this? I release my death grip on the robe knot to try a blueberry, but instantly regret it because that means — you stupid — the whole tray is yours now. She can’t very well give it to the bridal party after you’ve soiled it that way.
“Um,” I ask, “is there a relaxation table for my relaxation berries?”
“You may just balance it on your lap.”
Oh really. How does that work? I guess you wedge it under the lip of the triple-tied robe knot.
The sweet tempered Filipino lady — who, I’m quite certain has never had a self conscious moment in her entire life — actually rests the tray on my lap for me and leaves. I become conscious of the cold stainless steel against my bare leg and then I realize the exotic berries may be serving as a kind of fig leaf. Not quite, but close enough to do a complete number on the relaxation theme. If I want to eat these berries, I need to let go of the knot.
This is delicate work. It is not relaxing. It takes concentration and balance. I become aware of some fungus on one of my toenails. Why am I spoiling this bridal party with middle age toenail fungus? What was I thinking? Normal people who can walk around completely naked underneath a bathrobe, in public, are trying to have a good time. I know those ladies are too polite to talk about it out loud, but I can hear their conversations 6 hours from now, in their cars. I have become part of the wedding lore. This will be a scrap book memory joke of some sort. Toenail fungus man. Berry tray fig leaf man.
My name is called, but I still have cucumber and exotic banana on my tray. My wine glass is half full. Is it just me or does the robe knot feel as though it’s loosening? My relaxation has now come to maximum fruition and, in a state of visible agitation, I spill a little wine on the arm of the chair, lose a few berries, rest the tray in the chair next to mine, (which is way too close for a relaxation room), but manage to stand without becoming “nude, fat art class model man.”
The massage therapist — all of them — assume you know every massage type and technique known to mankind.
“Do you want Swedish, Deep Tissue–” she begins to ask, in an Eastern European accent.
“Anything,” I say. “Just make it relaxing.”
“A stressful week?”
“Not really. Just maybe the last 15 minutes or so..”