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.

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