Friday, May 25, 2012

Dateline Paris: Back From Beauty Hell . . .

Yesterday I mentioned the conversation I had with my friend about the necessity to be rich to remain beautiful. Recently I spent a day in one of the world's most magnificent spas. Words can not explain the other-worldly divine-ness of the experience. However, and this shows you how crazy I am, while in the midst of experiencing nirvana (not being a Buddist I may be taking liberties, but you get the idea) all I could think about was the experience below which I told you about last year.

I'm re-sharing it again because I won't be home the entire day (I'm writing this in the middle of the night on Thursday). 

Regarding my problems about living "in the moment" I've been told about a French magic medical man who teaches his patients exactly how to do that. I've called for an appointment -- more on that later.

For the first time in my life I understand the adage, "You must suffer to be beautiful."

The fact I'm alive (barely) to tell the tale is a miracle. It's difficult to believe the saga could unfold in the beauty capital of the world, but it did. I was partaking -- with enormous enthusiasm and anticipation -- in what I thought would be a perfect day. I was using a gift certificate for a "day of beauty" in an obscure institute de beauté. The appellation, "spa," is slowly beginning to enter into the French language, but would, under no circumstances be applied to this place.
With my certificate in hand I opted for a full-body gommage (exfoliation) with essential oils, then (with my own money!) I added on to my gift certificate, "enveloppement," back to this in a second, but let me say I assume the experience could be likened to a seance in a straight jacket minus the heat and perfumed oils.

Let me walk you through the enfer (hell) that was my unforgettable jour de beauté.

I come in out of the rain and am greeted at the front desk -- so far, so good. My technician says, "follow me." I follow her down a miniscule corkscrew staircase into the deep, nether regions of hell. Upon stepping off the last step, I trip over another step going up into the darkened room where the procedures are about to unfold.

Elle: "I'm sorry, I always forget to tell people about that step. Don't worry, everyone trips on it."

Moi: "OK."

Elle: "Here's your paper string and hat. Just hang your clothes up over there. I'll light the candles and turn up the heat."

(Ed. Note: It already felt like a vivarium in there, but thank the gods for the candles.)

Moi: "OK."

(Ed. Note: No changing room, no slippers, no robe, no privacy.)

Elle: "You can get up on the table -- either front or back, your choice."

Moi: "OK."

Elle: "You said you didn't want "La Gourmandise Gommage" [chocolate] so I prepared one with orange oil and salt. How's that?"

Moi: "Perfect."

I lie down on my chest and she begins gently, annoyingly so, rubbing the above mentioned mixture on my body, starting with my calves, moving down to my feet and eventually working her way from the point where my neck meets my shoulders and scrupulously avoiding my hands, stopping abruptly at the wrist bone. 

(When I turn over I rip the cottony paper sheet and knock the pillow on the floor. At this point my body is fused with the hot pleather table, forcing me to descend so she can re-make the bed.)

As she worked, the room got hotter and hotter. Then she started coughing, choking, wheezing, sneezing, and generally covering me with germs. All I could think was, "We are in germ heaven, the perfect Petrie dish/Bunsen burner conditions of heat and moisture and I'm the culture."

Finally, I can't stand the hacking any longer. I jump off the table (wearing my paper hat and string and nothing else), grab my bag and hand her a box of Strepsils. She stops coughing, but not sniffling.

Moving right along. . .

Elle: "Now you have to take a shower. Be careful, it's dark in there."

Moi: "OK."

I get out of the shower and she hands me a new paper string and a towel -- not a bath sheet mind you. I dry myself and anticipate the finale, the envelope.

While I was showering she prepared the table with what looked like a huge Hefty bag, cut and spread from end-to-end to protect the pleather. I lie down and the Hefty bag immediately sticks to my body. She peels it off. This happens several times. 

Next she gingerly applies essence of rose oil, same procedure, no hands, no neck, no massage. It's hard to imagine, but liquids can be applied to the body with barely a touch. I wanted to say to her, "Just pour the oil on me and roll me around on the Hefty bag."

The envelope. . .

The idea behind the straight jacket/envelope is that once the dead skin is exfoliated and rinsed clean, the rose oil will penetrate into the epidermis and leave it feeling like charmeuse

Now she finally purposely wraps me in the Hefty bag, my arms are along my sides and she locks me into a heated something or other, snap, snap, snap.

Elle: "I'll set the timer for 20 minutes and then I'll be back."

Moi: "OK."

Instead of lying on my back, I'm lying pinned to the table on my stomach. After about three minutes the pain starts radiating from my neck, across my shoulders, down my spinal column finally pooling out in the lower lumbar region where it stays and congeals, occasionally sending messages back up to my neck.

Another adage leaps to mind in my near delirium, "stewing in her own juices." I'm boiling alive and there is no escape.

I'm generally not claustrophobic, but I'm getting wild and have no way to alert anyone to my pain and suffering. Plus, I'm dying of thirst.  Ten minutes in I consider doing a fish flop to turn myself over. Then, despite the raging agony, I have a lucid moment wherein I realize I couldn't get the proper leverage off of the table and would probably flip myself onto the tile floor and knock myself out. As the minutes ticked ever-so-slowly by I begin hallucinating about how pleasant it would be to lie unconscious on the cool, cool tiles. 

She walks through the door to the ring of the bell, spreads a few more germs about the room and releases me from my envelope prison.

Elle: "You can get dressed now."

Moi: "OK."

Elle: "So how did you like it?"

Moi: "I hated it. I thought I was going to die."

Elle: "That's too bad, a lot of people really like it. It's probably because you were lying on your stomach instead of your back. I should have mentioned that. It can be quite painful."

I get dressed, walk out of the dark room, and trip down the step.


Cindy at enclos*ure said...

This reminded me of the MRI I had lately, but it sounds even worse. At least I finished with a lot of pictures of the inside of my head. Did your skin feel better afterwards?

linda said...

Oh no!!!! I am so sorry.( I was laughing so hard , as you did a great job writing that, but feeling so terrible for you at the same time)

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I know it is wrong to laugh at another's discomfort...but this was hilarious! I guess we just never know if a spa experience is going to be wonderful or hell. I am very claustrophobic and would have been out of there way before you...even wearing just a string!

Linda C. said...

OMG! I was laughing while I was suffocating in that hell hole with you. Don't know how you lasted in there as long as you did.

Lost in Provence said...

Just so you know, you are not alone. No matter how fancy the salon, I can never relax and enjoy getting my haircut now after the shiver me timbers experience I had a the Frank Provost salon across from Le Bon Marché. The one where it took me three years to grow my hair back. :O

You are a stronger woman than I to transform your crazy experience into something so, so funny--the best kind of therapy!

vicki archer said...

I know we shouldn't laugh... but... glad you made up for it n a more beautiful envelopment recently Tish... Happy weekend... xv

NotesFromAbroad said...

I am only laughing because you tell it so well but if that were me .... there would have been much screaming Let Me Out Of Here in many languages, mostly incoherently I am sure ..
Claustrophobia and I are old friends.. the trip down the staircase would have been sufficient.
Glad you made it out alive. besos !

kathy peck said...

I've had a few similar "spa" experiences, but yours is hilarious, because of your writing, and of course, the distance.
Looking forward to hearing about your Nirvana spa day and also about this medicine man - I could sure use some help about living in the moment.

Mona Thompson Providence Ltd. said...

I've never been here before but you had me hanging on every are quite the storyteller...what an awful experience...

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I love the Spa...
your experience sound horrific and you should get your money refunded. Complain!

Seriously a sick esthetician is just wrong. I hope tht you do not catch what she had.

On a side note, I had a salt scrub massage and wrap at the Willowstream Fairmont Hotel Spa and it was pure bliss. Try another spa Tish.

Karena said...

Tish I am so sorry that your Spa day turned into The Day of Hell and Back!
They should have refunded the money for the horrid experience, I would contact the owner/ manager. Or is that too American a thing to do, culturally?

Art by Karena

BigLittleWolf said...

It all sounds miserable!

(But you are hilarious.)

xoxo for a better weekend...

The-Countrypolitan said...

OMG... I could just feel your pain and agony...

Belle de Ville said...

The first time I had my hair done in Paris, the hairdresser pulled out an overly used brush that was full of other peoples hair. It was disgusting.
I will save all hair and beauty treaments for the US.

Mary Timmers said...

You need to be awarded some kind of medal, and a prize for writing about it SO well. Thanks for taking one for the team, and letting us come along. Hoping for a quick recovery for you!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Tisa, I do not mean to laugh at your horrible experience but your description is hilarious.

I am happy that you survived to tell your tale.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Cynthia, The Traveling Artist said...

I can truly sympathize with you!
Several years ago we went with another couple to the Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa with another couple. Our room included a complementary spa treatment and I was excited to get a massage. My friend, however, was dying to have the salt scrub and herbal wrap and I gave in to her wishes. The salt scrub was painful, but the wrap was torture. Our male(!) attendant had us strip and wrapped us all the way up to our necks in the too-hot herbal sheets then he put another hot cloth over our eyes and left the room for 25 minutes! I had a major claustrophobic attack and thought I would die, after suffering sufficiently burning up under the wrap from hell! I survived but have never again wished to be wrapped or restrained in any way. Yours sounded worse, and germy, too! My profound sympathy!

J. Beaudet said...

What a good laugh! I'm still laughing! Sorry it was so miserable for you.

Gwen Skinner said...

Tish: After reading this I will NEVER sign up for the treatment. I laughed and I know it wasn't funny because I felt so sorry for you. I'm sure in hindsight you can laugh (I hope) but it was a great story...Gwendolyn-cherchezfrenchfemme - (I'm tickled pink!) :)

Anonymous said...

This was hysterical! Sorry, but it was! I had a similar situation with a gift certificate and massage therapist who didn't speak a word of English. I have terrible low back pain and tried to tell her to stay away from my low back. She misunderstood and instead focused on my low back despite my repeated efforts to make her stop! It was night mare! I left in pain that lasted for 4 days! Trish

Anonymous said...

Dear Tish

So sorry to hear about your dreadful experience. As another claustrophobic can fully understand the horror. But after the event you've managed to convert a truly awful experience into a hysterically funny tale.

I once foolishly ran into a plate glass wall thinking it was an open door and jarred my neck and spine. Went to a sports massage therapist who gave me the most gruelling and painful massage I'ver ever had in my life. I kept groaning and yelping and telling him it as too strong but he just pressed even harder. I had bruises that lasted for weeks. After leaving the massage salon I was so wrecked I had to sit in my car for two hours as I was totally unable to drive!
Best wishes

Idiosyncratic Fashionistas said...

We absolutely loved your story and your use of dialogue presentation is phenomenal. It was like reading a wonderful British farce, with a French twist, so to speak. Looking forward to enjoying more of your wonderful sense of humor!
Jean & Valerie

Anonymous said...

I too apologise for giggling at this rendition of 'beauty treatment'. As one who is perhaps overly cynical I cannot seem to buy into the whole beauty/pain/$$$$$$ industry. One only needs look at a healthy fresh face to see the magic. Good food and water, exercise, fresh air and cleanliness and perhaps the right genes is all that is needed

California Girl said...

This begs the question, "Did you tip her? "

Anonymous said...

It's true! I am a great lover of (American) spas but every beauty treatment I've had in Paris has been pretty awful. I still remember the pedicure/manicure I had lying on my back on a massage table while the poor esthetician tried to keep the polish and little bowls of water from falling off. Or the very expensive massage I had in the grotto at L'Hotel. The woman lightly, very lightly, kneaded me for about forty five minutes. No technique, no massage.

I admire the french pharmacies and the french DIY attitude towards beauty. It's best done at home, I guess!

M-C said...

Glad you can find it in you to make such delicious fizzy lemonade out of very sour lemons indeed.. Yes, I find that the French totally get the prices of American spas, but are a lot fuzzier on the details :-). Plus there's that peculiar thing of demonstrating how straight you are (even though your job is to smear stuff on naked women all day) by developing massage techniques that don't involve touching. Which kind of goes with the brutal female gyns. Sigh. Do tell us about Nirvana when you re-emerge.

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