1. Book a massage.
The first thing I do after reserving a room at a resort is call their in-house spa and make a reservation for a treatment of some kind. The second thing I do is stress out about a) the exorbitant fee and b) the choices available. Do I want Swedish, deep tissue, hot stones, lavender and honey, or one that wraps me head-to-toe in cellophane like a modern day mummy? For 50 or 80 minutes? Will I be taking a mineral soak along with said massage? Have I heard about their one-of-a-kind rain tunnel? No? It’s a must!
Fine, fine. I tell them to sign me up for all of it, as long as I have a female masseuse who doesn’t hurt me.
In fact, if she barely touches me, that would be perfect.
Because, here’s the thing. I don’t even really like massages. I’m only there to lounge in a terrycloth robe and drink tea infused with jasmine while reading my book to ambient musak.
I put the date on my calendar and wait.
2. Prepare for the massage.
Upon check-in at the hotel spa, I am told that the 20% gratuity will be added to my bill so that I don’t have to worry about tipping anyone. Great.
Only, how do they know that I’m going to like my massage that much? What if it isn’t that enjoyable? Then I’ll have to speak to the manager and try and get a refund and I really don’t like conflict and then I’ll be more stressed out than I was walking in the door.
So I’m sure I’ll love it!
I am led around the corner and introduced to the keeper of the keys. She takes me to my locker and presents me with the much-anticipated terry robe. She tells me that, as a part of my mineral soak, I can walk around the pool areas and water-treatment rooms, some of which are co-ed. “You can wear your bathing suit or go naked, that is up to you.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like to be naked. Even just around myself, I prefer to be clothed.
I am not one of those ladies who can dry her hair in the locker room with a towel around her waist, her boobs just bobbing around, gossiping about which trainer left for a better job at another gym.
Add strangers to the equation - including men, for goodness sakes - and a bathing suit is definitely called for. The style I have packed for today is a full-coverage black one piece with ruched sides and a self-skirt. This bathing suit is larger than most of the Kardashian’s wardrobe.
I adjust my ginormous Lycra wet suit and tighten the belt on my robe. I’m ready for my mineral soak.
I am led to a row of bathtubs, one of which is filled with suds. Next to the bath, there is a plate of strawberries, orange slices and three cucumbers. I am told that the cucumbers are for my eyes.
I have to wonder why there are three of them.
This doesn’t relax me.
I am directed to get into the bath and to sit sideways. “The minerals affect your ability to sink – they tend to make you float right out of the bath!” My tour guide explains. So, although the tub is over six feet long, I have to smush my body in the top corner, keeping my legs sort of folded underneath me, and hook my right arm around the metal rod running the length of the tub. “You good?” She asks. I try to give her a thumbs-up, but don’t want to move my hands for fear of floating away.
She leaves me to my “peaceful” soak. I cannot really put my head back, because when I do, my legs shoot up and break the surface like Shamu at a Sea World show. I have trouble reaching the cucumbers, but manage to put them over my eyes. They sting. I now cannot grab a strawberry since I can’t see it because I have burning cucumbers on my eyes.
Did she say she’d come rescue me in 10 minutes? Or was it 15?
This is fun.
I hold on tight to my fetal position and try to think heavy thoughts.
You are the Titanic, sinking, sinking, down, down, down.
Eventually, my tour guide reappears, and I say a little prayer of thanks to the heavens. “Alright, then, time to move to the rain tunnel!”
Now that’s an understatement if ever I heard one.
Twenty or so rain jets arranged in a grid greet me from the ceiling. Twenty or more greet me from the sides, and another 10 or so sit underfoot. It’s designed like a human car wash.
More directions come, but this time they get lost in the loud current. “Use the loh on your ske to cle,” is what it sounds like to me. She hands me a jar of exfoliant and makes circular motions around her arms. I nod, scrub and then head for the tunnel.
As I walk through the punishing storm, I feel like Forrest Gump in Vietnam:
“One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.”
When I emerge, my sinuses are clear but I can barely stand upright.
“Now you need a steam,” the tour guide says, meeting my tsunami-ed form at the other side. I nod and shake the rain off me like a Labrador, starting at my head and ending with a really satisfying butt shimmy.
Then I enter the glass-tiled fog.
Ah. Eucalyptus. Steam. I sit. Peace at last.
Until I try to breathe and realize I can’t.
There’s no air in a steam room. So now I think I’m dying. And the more I try to breathe, the harder it becomes to do. I’m sucking at hot, heavy, mint-scented clouds that won’t budge. I’m on the verge of having a really good panic attack.
It must be 400 degrees in here. My skin is going to start melting off.
I try to see through the fog to read the temperature on the wall, only I can’t see past my outstretched hand.
This place is like a giant glaucoma simulator.
My grandfather had glaucoma. Now my aunt does. I start worrying about genetics.
And suddenly, I “see” it: this is what my future will look like! Blurry around the edges, everything encased in mist.
I have to escape this chamber of horrors.
I pull the door of the steam room open and take a giant gulp of pure, non-eucalyptus infused air.
Step 3. “Ready for your massage?” My tour guide smiles.
I waddle behind her, fully submissive now and prepared to face my fate. I have lost the feeling in my lower extremities, and am numb everywhere else.
Bring on the hot stones.