I could have sworn I wasn’t a spa person.
Before last week, I’d had two massages and two facials in my life, and my general feeling was that while they were–sure they were–nice, they weren’t any sort of top-life activity for me. I would rather run errands than lay there doing nothing while some uniformed strong-woman worked out my kinks and perfected my pores. Anyhow, I don’t have any real issues that warrant spa treatments, I’d reason. A tight trapezious muscle isn’t much to write home about. And besides, I rather hate to be fussed over, so it’s fine. I’m set.
Last week, I stayed at a luxurious spa resort called Miraval. A bevy of wellness-boosting activities were mine for the taking, as were numerous 8.5 x 11 inch pages-worth of spa menu items. I had signed up for a modest amount of activities, as well as a single spa treatment prior to my arrival. The treatment promised to be the fanciest thing to ever happen to my body, and felt like such an unnecessary indulgence that I dismissed the idea of it as soon as my eyes lit up from reading its description. Were it not for City’s insistence, I would have landed spa-side with not a single spa treatment planned.
My first night, I spontaneously booked a late-night manicure. I figured if ever there was a time to get one, it would be a week of un-real life, in which I wasn’t constantly peeling off storage tub labels, jamming my hands in various dark corners, and subjecting my nails to other debauchery.
The polish was a purple dark enough it almost looked black, and I couldn’t stop admiring my own digits. “Yo City, look how much more exciting my hands look.” I waggled my fingers in his line of sight on at least three separate occasions.
“So exciting, babe.” He replied, his gaze never once leaving his phone screen.
“You know what?” I said, “I think we should schedule facials.”
We both made our selections from the skincare menu and booked the appointments for the following day.
My Third Ever Facial, heretofore known as My Best Ever Facial was utterly lovely; my skin felt squeaky clean and refreshed. It was also notably absent one blasted, compacted pore which had been bugging me for weeks, the successful extraction of which had caused my aesthetician to announce “Mic drop.”
Two days later, I was back in the spa for my pre-scheduled treatment. By this point, I was right at home in the robes, much more comfortable than I’d imagined they would be, and was happily donning the spa sandals with not a thought as to their potential bacterial infestation. The seventy-five minute session included a salt scrub, an algae gel-thing, a scalp massage, and a lymphatic massage.
With two days left in my stay, it seemed a shame not to take every last advantage of what I’d come to discover was a mecca of wellness and pampering.
During my first ever deep tissue massage, my massage therapist carved out trenches between my muscles with his thumbs, and as I laid there, amazed at how excruciating it was, I felt sure that if pain was any indicator, I’d be leaving with a brand new back.
By this point, my purple nails had begun to chip rather severely, and so I smartly secured an express manicure appointment on my last night.
I’m pretty sure I managed to walk away not a total spa addict. I mean, I don’t have any immediate plans to book any appointments in Seattle, or start roaming the planet in search of the best vampire facial or hot stone massage.
But as I lay on the table, my therapist rubbing and flicking my back with an oil I’d been instructed to select by scent and not by name, I decided something. “I like the spa,” I thought to myself. “Yeah, it turns out I definitely, really like this.”
Maybe I’d been conceptualizing spa treatments all wrong. Maybe they weren’t just fussy extravagances. Maybe they were something more akin to responsible self care. “After all, think of what you put your body through,” I thought. “Think how much you ask of it.”
On the way to dinner one night, City’s mom, an avid Lipton tea drinker, announced that after not having more than five combined sips of coffee in her whole life, she suddenly felt a curiosity about it. “Lately, the smell of it…” She licked her lips.
A couple of weeks ago, my client revealed to me that after a lifetime of feeling deeply insecure, she’d finally gotten a breast job. After the initial consultation she’d wondered “Am I really That Girl? I could have sworn I hated That Girl.”
“I feel like I’m a third-wave feminist.” She said, placing every single bra in her old size into our donate bag. She was thrilled with her decision.
After twenty-some years in which he probably did a combined total of four things just for himself, this summer, my dad took a solo trip to one of his favorite places.
“I always imagined I’d feel much too guilty leaving mom behind to do something like this for me,” he told me over the phone. “But I think it feels pretty important to do. I think I’ll start doing this more.”
I was almost too stunned to reply.
Every day, in both trivial and significant ways, we are making contact with our conceptions of ourselves as we move through the world.
I know I like that; I know I don’t like that. That makes me feel good, and that makes me feel bad. That intrigues me, and that turns me off.
We have to rely on past experience to inform what is and is not for us, and what we do and do not enjoy. It simply isn’t realistic for us to newly assess each and every option every time we broach a topic. Knowledge born out of past experience is what enables us to effeciently make it through the day. Nay, to survive!
But occasionally, it is not only healthy but wonderful to check in with ourselves, asking ourselves if what we’ve held to be true for a long time still is, determining once again what calls to us, and challenging our beliefs about our potential, our preferences, and our possibility.
To surprise yourself–even it’s about something as silly as a spa treatment–is one of life’s greatest delights, and we should relish the feeling when it arrives.