Boxers or Briefs?
How about a day at the spa?
There are some questions that men are fairly certain they’ll never ask, either of themselves or others.
We never ask ourselves what kind of underwear we’re wearing or if it’s appropriate for others to see. As long as we’re wearing good pants, we believe, no one will care whether we’ve chosen boxers or briefs this morning.
We never ask ourselves what kind of soap we use. If it makes us smell better than we did when we started, what does it matter?
We most certainly never ask whether we can get a facial if we have a beard and mustache.
That is, until we’re getting one. I have now asked all of these questions. In fact, I got to ask them all in one day when my girlfriend, Sarah, suggested we take a day off to visit Bodyworks Day Spa in Sedalia and indulge in a couple’s package together. I eventually went along with it, but the first thought that popped into my mind was a question:
What exactly do you do at a day spa?
I asked Sarah this, and she tried to explain as we drove to Sedalia, but her words didn’t really sink in. The question stuck with me, mile after mile, even making me slightly nervous. The closest idea I had of a day spa were television commercials of people—women, to be exact—being massaged by muscular men while relaxing on a soft table in a steamy room with gentle music playing. Men generally like to do things that other men do: Baseball. NASCAR. Rock n’ roll with lots of drums. Powerful gardening tools.
Where are all the men in my images of spas?
I asked myself this, but before I could thinkof anything to tell myself, we had arrived at the place where I would get answers. Nestled in the Thompson Hills Shopping Center in the western part of Sedalia was the spa, Bodyworks Day Spa. So do I say that I want “the couple’s package,” just like I ask my barber to clean up the sideburns and the back, my usual cut? Fortunately, Sarah had taken care of the reservations. Unfortunately, for me at least, the front room had lots of fl oral patterns on the walls and makeup on display. And candles. And a floral scent that was actually quite pleasant except that it brought all those questions about the manliness of this adventure brimming up to the surface again.
Was this really a good idea? Is today jockey shorts day?
As we prepared for our treatments together, Sarah and I were escorted back to a room where we settled into waiting with a warm neck pillow and cup of hot tea. Both were quite soothing and enjoyable.
Pam Vaught, owner of Bodyworks, came back to greet us for our day at the spa and reassured me about whether the day would be more like the front floral room or the neutral colors of the back.
“My brother is always saying we should have an entrance from the back for the men,” she said, laughing.
Sarah and I then prepped for the first part of the day: a scrub to replenish the skin using salts, crushed rose petals, and a bit of massage oils. And this is where the underwear question came up.
“Today is a jockey shorts day,” I said to Sarah after thinking a moment.
Usually when I choose between boxers or briefs in the morning, that’s the last time I think about it. Not today. But it turns out, I could choose to keep underwear on or off because this massage works the entire body, including hips and glutes, I chose to have just the towel for the massage.
We laid down on tables facing each other as candles flickered gently in the corners of our connected rooms and enjoyed the scrub, though it was a different sensation than I had expected: coarse, like rocks being rubbed through the skin, but also cleansing. As I thought about how my skin felt renewed—all those dead cells scrubbed off—we got up and redressed, heading for a bath to complete the cleaning process.
Walking through the hall to the bath, another question came to me that I hadn’t asked in a while.
When was the last time I took a bath?
The last time I took a bath was when I was seven. One night my parents had turned on the shower instead of drawing a bath, and that was that. Bath times were bygone. And when I was a child, none of the baths had ever involved bath salts. I remembered that as I climbed out of the soft robe and set my water glass on the tub’s edge, easing into the warm water.
I settled in and sipped the water, tapping the Jacuzzi button on the side of the tub to start the flow of relaxing jets around me from several different angles. My massage therapist, Kellie, had said bath salts would help the skin by cleaning out the pores that had just been opened with the coarse scrub.
Perhaps they would, but I also noticed the bath was better than any I had ever taken at home. The water was softer, gentler, and lulled away any last anxieties I had about this adventure. After a few moments, I lay back against the tub’s edge again and closed my eyes, marveling for a moment at this moment of utter relaxation.
There were all kinds of things I didn’t have to ask myself as I absorbed the warm water around me and listened to the soothing oriental music and whale sounds flowing from speakers above me. I didn’t have to ask if I was happy, because I was. I didn’t have to ask myself if Sarah was having a good time, because I knew she must be, in her own private bath. I didn’t have to ask whether this was a manly thing to do, because any man would envy the degree to which I was able to unwind, just sitting in this pleasant water.
When the knock came on the door that it was time to go to the next part of this luxurious package, I had only one question in mind:
It gets better than this?
It does, actually, get better. Better even than that bath was the warm pad Kellie now laid across my spine, soothing my back, several minutes later as part of the massage that is the centerpiece of the couple’s spa package. Again in the joined room facing each other by the light of the flickering candles, we could watch as the other enjoyed a massage that thoroughly worked and relaxed every muscle in the back and body. In contrast to the rough motion of the initial salt scrub, this massage was just the smooth action of Kellie’s hands.
What makes a really good back massage?
It began with a neck massage then came up from the shoulders through the hair on the back of my head, then worked down across my arms and legs and then up again from the soles of my feet, through the hips and leg muscles and to my spine again where I could feel the warm pad settle as I exhaled deeply.
I got an occasional glance at Sarah enjoying the same treatment, but most of the time, my eyes were peacefully closed, enjoying the sensations coursing through my limbs. Kellie said she was massaging with an apricot-scented oil, though other scents were available, such as cherry or apple.
In most contexts, these scents might seem feminine, but this was different. I didn’t mind the apricot oil at all. By this time, nobody, man or woman, would have cared too much about the scents, only the skill of this massage. Finally, I put the robe on again, and an already fully dressed Sarah came back and told me what the final part of the day’s package would be.
“Now it’s time for your facial,” she said with a smile.
Could my beard be a problem?
Men like their beards. In fact, ask any guy. He’s probably grown a beard at least once in his life. We all do it. We associate it with manly things, like lumberjacking. We enjoy our beards, so we don’t often question them. And when I mentally pictured a facial, I remembered images in commercials of women with no facial hair.
But here came Denise, to give me a facial. “Can you do a facial on someone with a beard?” I asked as I lay back on the table under a small bluish light. “Of course,” Denise said. And that’s just what she did.
The gentle massaging of various creams and the steam and vacuum cleaning of the pores were not only cleansing for skin that hadn’t seen any kind of consistent treatment since high school, they were also quite relaxing, adding to the effects of the massage and the wine.
When it was time to go and I changed back into my day clothes, I felt something new in addition to being relaxed: I felt quite healthy, that I had actually put time into taking care of my body, something most guys don’t do, and I also felt energized. Again in my jeans and sweater, I slipped on my loafers and reflected for a moment on the day’s events. I took a calm, deep breath and smiled.
I was really glad Sarah had been with me. Getting the treatments as a couple had not only been romantic, but also reassuring.
Why had I ever been nervous?