Monday, July 11, 2011

Burke Williams, or Why A Day At The Spa Is Lost On Me

"A" took me and her other bridesmaid to Burke Williams on the day of the rehearsal dinner. Burke Williams is a very posh, exclusive salon (A has a membership there) that people are always talking about reverently, as though it’s the ultimate ultimate. So, I was excited about going. I didn’t really like a pedicure since I don’t really like people touching my feet, so I opted for a full body massage (I don’t mind people touching my body. I’m weird in case you hadn’t noticed).

The first thing you notice when you walk into Burke Williams is the silence. It’s just so quiet. There are huge Spanish-style doors to one side of the check-in counter, and the women behind the counter are pretty much just normal, average folk. I don’t know, I guess I was expecting super model trainees or something. They were very polite, and helped us sign in, and then gave us all keys to lockers.

Behind the enormous wood-and-iron doors is another world entirely. The lighting is muted. The hallways are silent. There’s a common room with a gigantic fire and sofas and squishy chairs everywhere. Fruit and water with cucumbers and lemons lay on buffets and sideboards with marble tops. Everywhere you look are people wearing large, white fluffy robes and black sandals.

I mean, change the water for kool-aid, and you have a cult.

See? This is what I mean. All I could think about was putting on that robe and giving up my independence for some sort of collective consciousness. A very quiet, muted collective consciousness.

The locker room is cavernous. In a back, dark area there is a room with bathtubs. It’s pretty much the only room that closes. Apparently, they put you in a bathtub and rub mud all over you, then wrap you up and let you steep, then wash you off. In the middle is a huge Jacuzzi surrounded by water carafes, fruit, and rolled hand towels soaking in ice buckets. Every corner has a wicker basket full of fluffy white towels, dry and warm. There’s a bank of vanities with every amenity you will need to make yourself beautiful after your treatment. Hair dryers, straightening irons, even makeup. The only thing it’s really lacking is a stylist to help you apply all of the lotions and mousses and foundation.
There’s a bank with toilet cubicles; great austere marble things with those dark wood and iron doors, and a marble bank of sinks with lotions, makeup remover, toner, sunscreen and moisturizer. Little glass blocks hold hairbands for if you need a ponytail, and at the showers directly opposite there are also shower caps. The showers are also marble. Huge rectangles of the stuff with molded glass doors. Razors, shaving lotion, body lotion, body wash, shampoo and conditioner are available. There’s a shelving unit with those huge fluffy towels.

Our lockers were just beyond all of this, and of course it’s the only part of the godforsaken place with decent lighting of any kind. We opened our lockers, and I hung up my hooded robe on the little hook inside and mused that the lockers weren’t nearly as grand as the rest of the place. I was expecting personal changing rooms or something, not glorified gym lockers.

Now, I have to say that I really enjoy clothes. I do. I love them. I think they’re great, and I think that people look better in them. I believe that bras are a must, no matter how tiny your cups may be, and if the occasion is right, a corset or Spanx may be in order. I wear bloomers under my skirts, and I don’t agree with bare legs, arms or bellies. At least not for me. I’m just not an exhibitionist, so getting undressed, even down to my cutest black panties with the white lace, in front of so many people, made me uncomfortable. I could not put that robe on fast enough.

And that was how they got me.

We all went into the common room to wait for our masseuses. I commandeered a sofa in front of the fire that was so fluffy and warm, I just had to curl into my robe and watch the flames. When my massage was done, this was the same sofa that I was brought to. My robe had been put into a warmer for over an hour, and I was groggy and relaxed and happy. A cup of water was shoved into my hand and a cup of chilled oranges was put on the table in front of me. When my friends came back, they wanted to jump in the Jacuzzi. This is probably a normal reaction for most people. I am not most people. I hate being wet. I like being dry and warm. I was dry and warm on the sofa. I could have sat there, staring at the fire for days. Bring me a book, and you pretty much have my favorite sport. But this was for my friend who was getting married, so I went back into the “locker room” and put on my bathing suit, and tried to be comfortable at the Jacuzzi.

I wasn’t. The water was scorching hot and the tiles were freezing cold, and the only way to work for any kind of balance was to drape one of those chilled cloths over your shoulders and hope for the best. So, my upper body was freezing, and my lower body was boiling. And of course, all I could do was notice that no one else seemed to have these issues. All of the other women were sinking into the water and acting like it was the best thing ever. Finally, I noticed a girl sitting on the tiles with a towel under her, so I grabbed a few dry towels and wrapped up in one, and put the other one under me. It was at this time that my friends decided we should sit in the cool steam room.

I like being cold and wet about as much as I like being warm and wet.

Ten seconds in the cool steam room (which is a misnomer, because it’s a lukewarm steam room) and I was soaked through, having trouble breathing, and decided I was going back to the fire.

“Yeah,” my friends agreed. “Let’s go to the sauna.”

Dry heat. Oh joy.

I really am proud of myself. I lasted two minutes.

“I’m going to find out what the quiet room is all about,” I told them. “Sorry, I just can’t take this.

Back at my locker, I changed from my wet things back into my underwear, my bra, and that robe. Yes, it made me look like a bleached druid, but I could wrap that thing around me three times, and it still held the lingering scent of the heater and the fire. I looked longingly back at the common room, where women who have no jobs were now being served lunch. One of them was sitting on my sofa, so I sighed and went into the “quiet room.”

The quiet room was odd, because the entire place was quiet. But there’s no talking, no cell phones, and no music in the quiet room. It’s almost a void. There are little cubicles with lounge sofas in them. The cubicles are only wide and long enough to fit the sofas, and they really aren’t that comfortable. You can’t lay down properly, and I’m so tall that my head and shoulders were well above the recline of the lounger, so the only choice I had was to slide down and slump, which didn’t feel that great on my spine.

“This place sucks,” I thought to myself. If I had just gone to the massage place down the street, I’d be home by now, taking a shower, or maybe sitting on my own sofa with my own fire, reading a really good book. Instead, I was stuck there, at this communal watering hole, forced to partake in rituals that I didn’t believe in.

Well, okay, except for the robe. I was cool with the robe.

As I was thinking about this, my friends came in to find me. Apparently, they were both on board with how much the place sucked, too, because they pantomimed us taking showers and then getting something to eat. We stole as much fruit and tea bags as we could on our way out. We also used the heck out of the free stuff they had at the showers and the vanities. In fact, I don’t think my hair has ever had quite that much product in it before or since.

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