Spa Bah Humbug

Every six to eight weeks, I grit my teeth, put on a brave face and go to a hair salon. There, hot wax is drizzled on my eyebrows and upper lip, then roughly yanked away so that the tiny fine hair below comes out by the root. Then a stranger will hold my head underwater and come at me with sharp implements, while asking me probing questions about my personal life. For this experience, I pay about $20 bucks more than the cost of a two-year subscription to my favorite writing magazine.  

Last trip out was particularly ghastly. It was close to 37 degrees Celsius with the humidity (that’s about 104 degrees Fahrenheit state-side). I was tired, I was smelling the sweet greasy goodness of food court egg rolls while missing lunch, and I needed to get back to the office as soon as possible. So when the waxed hair ripper person told me to relax and enjoy the process, I pulled the face. If you’ve ever raised a teenaged girl, you know the face. Just so happens, I’ve never lost the talent for giving that look.

“What, you don’t like to be pampered?” she said.

I believe I growled audibly.

Truth is, I do. But I have never understood why women view necessary acts of hygienic maintenance as pampering.

Perhaps it’s because I have a thing about being touched by strangers. I tremble in the doctor’s waiting room every check-up. Not because I’m afraid of her finding a deadly disease, but because of what she has to do to go looking for one. I don’t even want to discuss the trauma I endured when my long-time dental hygienist went on maternity leave—thank God this was her last child. I like my optometrist. He keeps his distance.

Inevitably when middle-aged women discuss plans for a “girl’s night out” (a term that, as a lesbian, has always had a whole different range of connotations for me, but I’ve learned to keep that out of the conversation), the talk will at some point turn to spa-going. And I will turn to leave the room. I don’t do spas. I don’t get spas. I have a perfectly good bathroom at home, two of them in fact, and enough body/face/hair goodies to explain why I’m practically on a first name basis with the staff at Sephora. Even if they do speak loudly and read the labels to me because they think I’m too old to figure out a moisturizer on my own. Or that I’ve lived so long, I’ve simply forgotten how to read

As this is, more or less, an opinion piece, I want to make something very clear. I do not like spas. Therefore, I do not go to spas. That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t go. I don’t think all spas should be put out of business. I don’t think they’re sexist, harmful to the environment, fattening or cruel to small animals. I just think removing my dead skin cells is a job better left, quite literally, in my own capable hands.

But it did give me cause to mull over what I consider pampering. Spending $100 guilt-free at Powells is pampering for me. Do you know how many used books you can buy for a C-note?  Last time I did it, the USPS let me keep the mail bag. Playing hooky from work and seeing a weekday matinee, preferably an obscure literary bio-pic or something like The Hours (I’ve seen it seven times), the kind of movie I can’t talk anyone into seeing with me. And sometimes, it’s a Friday night bowl of the sugary, kiddie cereals I probably shouldn’t eat, consumed while getting my West Wing on DVD fix. Ahhhh. That’s the life.

So for now, you won’t be seeing me at the spa. But if one ever decides to screen Capote and serve Alpha-Bits, I may have to reconsider.


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