Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alien Life Form

That's me. It's clear, completely clear. I do not belong on this planet, or maybe just not on this part of this planet. Whatever.

This morning I got an email from someone I vaguely know at NWU (let's call her A). Someone else I know at NWU has announced her engagement (let's call her B). So, A sent me this email announcing that she and C have decided to have a spa day as a shower for B. The cc list included women faculty members from across NWU.

On one level, that's a great idea because B doesn't really need the traditional shower gifts to start up a household.

But, as I read the invitation, I realized that I didn't find the idea of a spa day with 15+ of my not closest friends even slightly tempting. But I'm sure A and C think this is a great idea, and they must have checked it with B, right? So they all think it's a fun idea.

I read on: the spa's in another city, some 90 minutes each way. And the schedule says the day will run from 10-4, and then we'll have dinner at 5. Minimum, six hours at a spa and three hours driving time, plus two hours for dinner? Yes, my math gives me 11 hours.

I read on: we're supposed to rsvp with the spa services we'd like. There's a price list attached. I clicked the price list, because I was curious.

The list starts with massages. Not just massages, these are therapeutic massages.

The descriptions, to be honest, sound painful, and I'm averse to pain. (I like getting a massage, but these sound more painful than the usual.)

The prices start at $40 for 25 minutes.

Now, back to my basic math: say we get there and fart around for an hour, and then fart around for another hour at the end. That leaves four hours. You can see where I'm going. I'm thinking, massage, and then read a book? No, probably not. So I looked further.

The next things sound even more painful: craniosacral? lymphatic drainage? I'm not even sure what these are, but I hope my lymph system's just fine as is, and my skull's managed to stay in one piece for 46 years, so I'm passing on those.

Acupuncture? I don't know from acupuncture, but putting needles in my skin just for kicks doesn't sound like my idea of fun. I give blood because there's a chance it helps someone, not just for the fun of it.

Well, moving on: there's the body polish. I polish my car on occasion, but my body?

Bikini wax? Again with my aversion to pain. And, seriously, if you're going near there, we'd better be intimate or you'd better have a nursing or medical degree.

Then there's the selection of facials, manicures, and pedicures. So, let's not talk about the face. My hands? They're gardening, bike riding, dog-playing hands. My feet? Probably my best physical feature; people admire them on occasion when I wear sandals (which I do as often as possible). And while a foot massage rocks, I don't want polish on my toes. Nor do I want a stranger rubbing them, really.

Okay, so I'm cheap, obviously. I don't think anything of dropping $200 on books. But on a spa day?

And I'd be uncomfortable being in a state of semi-dress with faculty women I don't really know well. Yeah, I have a middle-aged body, average at best, and a pretty average self-image about my body. I don't run screaming when I see myself in the mirror after a shower, but I don't imagine that any young Hollywood types would feel threatened in the least, unless they thought I'd sit on them.

For some reason, facing my discomfort at the thought of the spa day made me feel uncomfortable, alien. I wonder if I'm the only recipient of this email who doesn't look forward to the day with anticipation? Am I the only one who's going to decline?

And am I declining because I'm just that uncomfortable with the whole spa idea, or my body, or the cost, or?

So I took myself out for a bike ride, and saw some ground birds I couldn't quite identify; I was thinking quail, but I'll have to look them up. I saw a small group of Cedar Wax Wings; they always catch me by surprise. The day was strangely perfect for a midday ride, cool and overcast, with almost no one on the trail. I felt really good, relaxed.

I derailed at one point, so I got my hands all chained. A perfect nightmare for a manicurist, no doubt.

But after 25 miles, the "soothing legs" spa treatment seemed more tempting than before!


  1. Good lord. That seems like a *really* excessive day and cost and hassle to demand of people who are just work friends/colleagues...That's why I'd be declining, if I were you. In good conscience.

  2. I don't think there's ANY reason to go, given the distance, time, and expense--and the fact that you're not really close to these people.

    However, I'll say that I did one of these spa days for a friend's bridal shower (her super-rich father was paying for everything, including rooms in the neighboring hotel, so it wasn't a hard decision!), and there was definitely no semi-nudity or states of public undress involved: the massages and facials took place in separate, private rooms, and only the mani-pedis were in a public area. I think that's fairly typical. If you WERE to go, I'd bet a massage (you could call to get the specifics) and a pedicure would be low-intensity and non-embarrassing.

    But that's not to say there's any reason to go. For me, the 90-min each way would be the real deal-breaker.

    (And I'm wondering: doesn't this woman have ACTUAL friends? outside of work?)

  3. I so totally agree with you Bardiac. It's a personality thing for me -- the day just does not sound fun, although I'm sure it would be for many people and I don't want to sound judgmental. But for me -- a whole day? All that money? A spa??? No thanks.

  4. I'll chime in. We did a spa day for my sister last summer before her wedding. We sat in a waiting room, fully dressed, and different spa ladies came and took us to private rooms for the massages. As with Flavia's experience, the manicures and pedicures were the only "public" spa treatments.

    That said, I wouldn't do a spa day again. It's really not my thing (I'd rather go backpacking), and I really would rather have spent that chunk of my hard-earned money on something I enjoyed (or at least on a nice gift for the bride).

    My guess is that you probably won't be the only one to decline.

  5. I agree with the comments thusfar - I think that you would just rather spend your money on something else - and that's a LOT of money and time they're asking you to invest. Perhaps the REASON why you'd rather spend your $ elsewhere is because the services offered there don't float your boat. I must say that acupuncture is truly great - I can't afford it regularly, but it doesn't hurt and no bleeding! But, it's not for everyone. Massages skeev me out - if it's the Dutchman offering, then I'm all for it. But even if it's a 300 pound woman named Helga and I'm swathed in a towel - I'm still not up for stranger touching.

    One thing that I noticed about this story is the fact that callers A and B assumed that 15+ women would all be dying to go out of their way to do this - drive forever, stay forever, and be paying for it forever. Is it because all women automatically like spas? I've been thinking about getting the Dutchman a massage and foot thingy and he's all for it! Men go to these places, too.

    Someone once told me that spas are all about pampering - and maybe it's true. But in this case, pampering just seems to be so gendered as fluffy female. I know you're supposed to leave there perhaps feeling more relaxed - but you're face is glowing, etc. - you're prettier. Spas just always seemed to me to be Expensive Pretty Day Camp. I can make myself pretty for a fraction of the price!

    Sorry I ramble! No offense to Elizabeth Arden and I'm sure that most nice spas today aren't poodle pink...

  6. See? Not alien at all! (or at least we're all aliens from the same place.) I wouldn't find that particularly appealing either. Maybe for a small group of women who are close friends, but for a larger group who don't know each other that well? Nah.

  7. I'm from your planet.

    couldn't they get someone to come in and you all be in the home city?

  8. I'm from your planet, too. That's just plain ridiculous: expecting people who aren't even especially close to you to give up an entire day and spend hundreds of dollars essentially to hang out you borders on megalomaniacal. It's certainly very rude and self-indulgent. I don't think Emily Post would've approved at all.

    P.S. Nearly every tradition there is surrounding weddings and baby arrivals makes me feel like an alien.

  9. Let's not look at this as a shower, let's look at it as a work related event, sort of like a business golf outing if you were a male who hated golf. Who are the other invitees? Anyone with whom spending some time outside of the capmus would be fruitful to your career? Is your boss going and you could use the face time? Anyone you have been interested in getting to know as a collaborator, fellow academic or advisor? Women faculty who you admire and might learn something from?

    If the answer to any of the above is yes, then you might consider it time and money well spent. Sign up for the soothing legs massage, get a manicure and pedicure (even those bikers' hands could use a cuticle trim, and there's nothing like the feeling of slipping newly pedicured feet into sandals), bring a good book for the down time and get to know these women.

    If the answer is no, and you see this only as a social event, then I agree with all above - bag it.

  10. I probably wouldn't do the spa day even with a close friend and certainly not for a colleagues. Wouldn't a lunch be more appropriate?

    Then again, I'm from an alien planet as well.

  11. Thanks for the responses, folks!

    I don't think this was B's idea, but the idea of someone who's a member of the spa and a couple other people who like spas, probably.

    And the spa's web site does look appealing, very relaxing looking.

    There's no one on the list who I'd go with to schmooze professionally, so that's not really an issue. (Which says something about the state of gender and power at NWU, perhaps.)

    As far as friends outside of work: faculty folk here tend to come from far outside the area, and we work a lot, so we tend to make friends at work. I socialize almost exclusively with other faculty members and their partners, or people I've met through them.

    While the midwest may seem friendly, there's something called Minnesota Friendly, which means people are overtly friendly, smile in passing and such, but it takes a long time for most people to feel like they fit in, and I think it's probably the same throughout the midwest.

    Anyways, I rsvp'd that I wouldn't be going, and felt good about that.

    Thanks again for your repsonses!

  12. also known as Minnesota Nice... similar version of shallow for a long, long time, though it does seem to pass. some non-natives actually don't have friends who grew up in MN.

    then there's "interesting" in Minnesotan: that would be "ewww, weird" in Israeli, but folks are more likely to smile and seem to be less judgemental.

    what a tangent that started... glad you've made a decision.