Two Kinds of Women

Window-shopping in front of a hotel spa leaves me puzzled about the exact services involved, a little horrified at the prices, and as fully committed as ever to keeping people with sharp implements away from my feet.


Arriving a bit ahead of the appointed hour for brunch, I have leisure to wander about and check out the retail offerings deemed suitable for patrons of this gracious old hotel at the Centre of the Universe. Upscale women’s clothing and jewellery: check. Upscale accessories and leather goods: check. Over-priced deli selling imported bottled water: check.

In this undoubtedly high-rent district the offerings are all high-margin businesses. There is nary a bookstore or a Dollar It! to be seen.  Not surprising.

But there is one surprise in store for me this fine summer morning. As I pause in front of the self-described day-spa, their prominently posted price list invites my perusal. OMG! Not just the prices (which earn a Yikes! all on their own), but the services too!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I have never set hand/foot in a manicure/pedicure shop, much less a spa. There are two kinds of women in this world: those who seek out opportunities to pay a stranger to wield sharp implements on their fingers and toes, and those who do not. Having framed the scenarios in the even-handed way most pollsters do, I feel that I should reveal my bias: I am the latter type.

Quite apart from the unease about sharp implements near my digits, my restorative pursuits do not extend to sitting in a steam room, lowering myself into molten mud, or having a stranger with unresolved issues place hot rocks on my back, or wind me up in a sheet — With My Hands Trapped Inside! Indeed, it winds me up just thinking about it.  So it is that I come to this list of spa services as a newbie, a neophyte, a spa-virgin, if you will.

Still, if I had thought about it, I would have expected to at least recognize all the services on offer. Glancing down the price sheet, however, I freely admit to being not just overwhelmed by the options, but downright perplexed.

There are the facials: moisturizing, deep cleansing, firming, radiance, and age-defying. OK, I get all those. If I had 95 minutes to spare, I could get a lift (although at my age my undoubtedly needy face would not be my lift priority, I have to say). If I had to rush back to work, I could go for the 30-minute express lift, which sounds like nothing so much as an elevator bypassing the afore-referenced lower floors. Going just by the name — not always wise in marketing-land, but what else do I have to go by? — I could have a facial that appears to involve organic raspberry soufflé. I am diverted for a moment, wondering where they get raspberries this late in the season. And then there is the thermosculp facial. Already a little twitchy about sharp objects, I decide that adding heat to the equation seems like a bad idea.

There are the pedicures and ‘leg treatments’, as akin to do-it-yourself leg shaving as window treatments are to curtains, I suspect. For reasons unknown to me, these are organized both by continent/country of origin (European, French, Balinese, and Royal Thai), and by product used (rose, stone, honey and milk). My imagination balks at the Chocolate Truffle Experience. I know only one use for chocolate truffles, and it has nothing to do with my legs.

There are the manicures, with options much like the pedicures and leg treatments but with the unexplained addition of lavender. Moreover, the chocolate option has morphed from truffles into a chocolate martini. I fear that this manicure/pedicure combination would be death by chocolate, even for me.

There are the massage options with their odd mix of desired outcomes (therapeutic, relaxation), conditions (pregnancy — to treat, provoke or prevent is left unclear), and physical target (neck). I must admit, however, that it is the Couples Aroma Massage that catches my eye, although I am unsure what the aroma of a couple might be.

There are the body treatments, whose purpose is unstated.  The Back Facial in particular baffles me entirely. When uncertain, it’s always good to go with moderation, which would argue for matching the Chocolate Body Indulgence with the Body Slimming Wrap.

There are the waxing services: OK, I’ve watched Sex and the City enough to get most of those. But right below them are a range of obscure threading services. From the options (lip, chin, eyebrows) it’s clear it has something to do with hair removal, but what exactly?

There are the spa packages: ready-made combinations of individual services. If two wrongs do not make a right, neither do two or more confusions make a clarity.

The Girl’s Day Out confuses on many levels. Is it open to females older than twelve? At just 2¼ hours, in what way is it a day out? And like several other packages it announces a ‘bubbly surprise’, suggesting that the spa operators are unclear on the concept of ‘surprise’. If it’s not champagne, I’ll eat that chocolate truffle.

The Back to Basics package offers the Balinese spice ritual. In which universe, exactly, does a Balinese spice ritual have anything to do with the basics?

With no inclination to buy, I feel that I have monopolized the prime real estate in front of the window signage long enough. As I back away to make room for more likely prospects, one last entry catches my eye: the Couples Package, offering manicures, pedicures and massage for two. It also offers the men-folk an unspecified service called a ‘buff and shine’. Intriguing, certainly, but likely, one feels, to lead to disappointment.

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3 Responses to Two Kinds of Women

  1. Isabel Gibson says:

    Commenters this week have preferred anonymity. One tells me that I shouldn’t knock Couples Massage until trying it… Another sent me this link to a BBC comedy episode on bikini waxing:

  2. Norm Haug says:

    My daughter gave me a certificate for a free pedicure a few years ago. It took me out of my comfort zone but it opened a whole new world to me. There is much more to a pedicure than clipping the nails. After you leave, you will feel you are walking on air. About the same price as a hair cut but much more enjoyable. Try it and you might change your mind about pedicures.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Norm – Well, now, you see, that’s what my kinfolk say – the ones who do frequent spas. Try it, they say. You might like it, they say. And if massages I’ve had from sports therapists and physios are any indication, I expect that I’d enjoy a basic massage: that would be without the bubbly surprise or the Balinese spices. Just one question. Have you ever gone back for a pedicure on your own dime?

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