A Day at the Spa

Recently a friend wanted to take me – as a fun thing – to the Turkish-Russian Baths in the east village.  It wasn’t something on my bucket list but it was kind of one of those things that I’d been wondering about since a boyfriend got us a day at a day spa – a nice one – years ago but came back a few days later with a card from the Baths. I never asked how he happened upon it.  Some things fall into the category of TMI.

First, a note about bucket lists. Do people really have a list of ‘before they kick the bucket’? and where did that expression come from anyway? Did a lot of people die milking cows? Or standing on a bucket to hang themselves?

Frankly, I don’t have a bucket list.  I’m not going to kick the bucket. That sounds sort of, oh, you keel over quietly and knock something down on the way into the great beyond. I walk into stuff or hurt myself on sharp objects on a daily basis.  It’d be nice if on my last day on earth I could just not. It seems like dying would itself fulfill the I can’t seem to get through a day without something going wrong, don’t you think?  So instead of a sort of slo-mo falling over, I have other plans.  I’m going kicking and screaming, clinging onto whom and whatever is within grasp, shouting Lawdy Don’ Cha Take Me Yet, even if I’m 105, like a tenant I have. The one with the life lease. I don’t think there’s a going kicking and screaming list and if there is it’s too long to be a cute saying anyway, so I’ve just discarded the whole concept. Soup to nut buckets.  

So I’m in the baths, back to the story, and there’s the cold dip which makes your feet cramp at the touch, I can’t even imagine where next to me the guy’s balls were, there’s the regular steam, the sauna which is hot, the even more crazy hot sauna where your fake metal earrings start to burn the skin beneath them, the aromatic steam which if you have any sense in your 5 senses, will make you nauseous after about 3 minutes and there are the massage rooms where massage and god only knows what else, goes on.

The person I was with disappeared into a massage room with a Russian guy named Ivan. 

After a dip in the pool, well that killed 3 seconds, and some steam time and some sauna time I was now 9 minutes into waiting for my buddy’s 1 hour massage to be over and wondering what to do.  So I sat down. Do I not know better by now? Walking = moving target, sitting = stool pigeon. However there was only so much walking one could do up and down a narrow hall without appearing like some psycho neutoric, so I sat.

Sure enough, a guy with long hair and a long white beard asked if I would like some salt.  I passed on the urge to ask if it came with a margarita underneath and said yes, sure.  I mean, when in Rome…. So he reaches into what looks like a feed bag hanging on the wall opposite me and hands me a handful of salt.  As promised.  I wasn’t completely sure what to do with it, as it came out of a feed bag I was afraid I might have to eat it, but figuring we were all there, walking around in just a smidge over naked, it must be meant for smearing – or schmerring as this was – after all – the lower east side.

So schmear I did and it felt good.   Thankfully he didn’t jump up and scream “what are you doing! That’s salt! You’re supposed to eat it!”  Of course it was free but not completely, because free is sometimes a relative term. I got a lecture on the ingredients, on what he did, which I can’t relate here because it wasn’t really clear. Something with music and youtube and oil and salt. As he was giving away the oil and salt I wasn’t sure how the “I make a living” fit into it but as we weren’t on one of my excellent could-you-possibly-be-my-next-life-partner dates, I didn’t really have to care.  Instead  I got the low down on every person who walked by, on how long he’d been coming there, where he lived, the life and death of the husband of the yoga person who had the body of a buff 20 year old but was obviously 60 and yes I was jealous.  I got the low down on ‘guys only’ days at the spa and who goes to those. (3 types of people – gay men {doh}, Hasidic men who don’t want to be around women {I guess also doh} and Hasidic gay men, who therein combine the best of both worlds. Why the existence of this latter category surprised me I’m not sure. But there you have it, a victim of my own stereotypes.) 

After I’d run out of salt and he’d run out of stories …. Wait…. Let me correct that.  I’m pretty sure this is a guy who had a thousand more stories so I’m going to say he just paused long enough for me to take a reprieve to wash down the Morton Girl.  When I came back he had moved into one of the saunas and I took a place on a different bench.  Different angle, different view point?  Well, a different angle anyway.

Soon enough a guy is walking by and stops to chat.  A big guy with a huge belly.  Not just a little, gee, a few too many Coors, but more like wow, is it triplets and are they due next week? This wasn’t really the disturbing part. What was interesting was his face was covered in a green schmeary mask which was dripping into his face hair under his nose and on his chin.

Once, when I worked for Club Med, I did a skit as Roseanne Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner – google it if you don’t know it) about ski instructors whose noses would run and get caught up in their beards and freeze and they would have frozen snot in their beards. It goes with the character trust me.

Well this was that guy except it wasn’t cold from skiing it was avocado goop from being metro sexual.  I have nothing against metro sexuals. If men want to spend time and money making themselves look better for women I’m all over that. God knows, if they started now and every man on the planet began doing nails and masks and trimming “the hair down there” it’d still be eons before they even begin to catch up with the hours women spend in 1 year doing all that. So that wasn’t the galling part in itself. What was amazing was large belly, unkempt beard and green drippy face mask aside, he just thought it was fine and cool to chat up a woman while looking like a character from a sitcom where you say, ‘that’s ridiculous, no one would answer the door looking like that’. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure, even on all girls day,  no one walked around with an avocado, or other fruit/vegetable, face mask on and felt comfortable enough to chat up ANYONE of any sexual persuasion. No woman. Anywhere.  No way. But men, he was just all, hey baby, why would you not want me? Men, really, you gotta love the hubris.

It was educational. I gave him credit for being that self-confident or pity for being that oblivious or whatever that takes.  Ok not all that much credit, but some still.  After an in depth conversation about face masks I was finally liberated by the massage being over and escaped into the locker room.  

The last shocking locker room experience I had, and I might have mentioned this before because it kind of scarred me a little, was in Seattle.  I had just gone on a Brazilian wax jag, I think I was in the still leaving a ‘runway’ stage, and I went to a public pool in Seattle. Of course we got changed in the locker room and let me tell you, the contrast between my New York decorative hygiene and the never saw a razor blade nevermind a scissors hygiene, well to say the least — it was shocking.  I really had to wonder about the cultural differences on the 2 coasts.  It’s not just about Birkenstocks apparently.  Who knew?

I don’t think I’d find anyone with an avocado mask on in Seattle, but then again I wasn’t in the men’s locker room, so what do I know? I’m not sure what it is about this country that we feel that we can take food and mash it into our skin instead of eating it. I’m pretty sure there are places on this earth that if you took food and put it ON your mouth instead of IN your mouth they would look at you pretty strangely if not actually run you out of town.

For a Christmas present a friend got me a certificate to a day spa. (Are people trying to tell me something? Do I smell?) I’m debating between the carrot and sesame body buff or the elemis exotic lime and ginger salt glow.  I don’t know if I’ll come out looking any better but I’m thinking at least I won’t be hungry.


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