Beauty and the Beast


It’s dark. I am naked, dripping in hot oil. Heavy breathing and panting fills the basement as hands move quickly up my slippery thighs. BANG! Oh my god what was that? No, this is not some exhilarating illicit encounter; on the contrary, my clumsy masseuse has just knocked over a huge metal heater. “I am so sorry to scare you when you were so relaxed,” she screeches. Relaxed!? I wish; she has spent the last hour coughing and spluttering all over me, struggling to breathe through her bunged up nose. Having always suffered an unjustifiably dramatic aversion to other people’s bodily functions: sniffing, coughing, sneezing, you name it, it sends me into an uncontrollable frenzy…This. Is. Torturous.

Public transport is a war zone in winter, dodging the torrent of sneezes and pasty-eating, Coke-slurping vultures, and in summer the dreaded hay fever Harrys, but do I really have to be subjected to this in a spa? I just about managed to block it out as she hovered around my midriff, but then the facial starts. Her breath reeks. The relaxing properties of a facial are somewhat restrained when you’ve spent the entire hour attempting to regulate your breathing in order avoid inhaling second hand morning breath. Even the pungent ‘restorative Moroccan rose face oil’ can’t save me now.

You see, dear reader, the life of a spa reviewer is not all it’s cracked up to be. Over the last year I have found myself in some most peculiar predicaments and all in the name of beauty. It started with that colonic; the second my endearing middle-aged therapist removed her latex glove still haunts me, the frightful realisation of what it was that I had just felt, up there.

Truth be told, I have always been that girl, the girl who attracts the most ridiculous people and situations. You name it, everything from strippers and stalkers to charming psychopaths. My friends are in a mixed state of awe and disbelief as they once again utter, “That could only happen to you”, hence the reason the spas in this exposé shall remain nameless.

I have spent many an hour wondering if they should really be massaging there, do I tell her this face mask is agony and this head massage is more like some incredibly painful S&M act? I am pretty sure having ‘don’t scream’ running through your mind again and again doesn’t aid relaxation.

Earlier this year I travelled across Europe to experience the intriguing art of cupping, only to find that the spa had lost their cups. Eventually they turned up in the hands of a man who I can now say with certainty shouldn’t even be allowed to take charge of a cup of tea. The ancient Chinese treatment relies on the therapist to carefully insert a flame into the glass bowl to remove the oxygen, the cup is then placed incredibly precisely along the body’s energy points, along either side of the spine, allowing the energy to flow freely and to promote balance. After burning me with a rogue cup, and then denying it, he proceeded to smash another cup over the floor, again somewhat less than relaxing. So what do you do when you are in the middle of carefully aligning the body’s delicate balance points and you have an odd number of cups? Oh what the hell, just shove the left over cup in the middle. He’s probably permanently faffed with my chi; no wonder I am such a shambles.

Then there was the controversial fish pedicure, the little suckers were far more attentive to the rogue peanut that had found its way into the water box than they were my preened pieds. The same can’t be said for my therapist who, as part of my deluxe pedicure, offered me a massage. A lovely extra you might think. He neglected to mention he was going to strip me for it!  It is somewhat surreal to pop in for a pedicure only to find yourself in a makeshift treatment room, topless, clinging desperately to a massage chair for modesty whilst staring at your Romanian masseur’s crotch (in shock, of course!). Even more embarrassing was my audience of Groupon-happy ladies having their feet devoured by infamous garra ruff fish whilst wondering why I got all the fun. It’s the first time the fish had shown any interest in me; typical, so shallow.

With my blood alcohol level at around 40% in the run up to Christmas last year, I headed to a top London spa in a bid for pre-party detoxification. After entering the steam room for my ‘15 minute relaxing steam’, I began to wonder if I had found the capital’s very own time warp when I was dragged out after just fifteen seconds. Yes, no sooner had my pre-detox derriere hit the slimy seat, before I was yanked back out into the cold only to be painted head to toe in mud. As my charming therapist prepared to lead me into the next heat chamber, a whitewashed look of panic struck her as she grappled with the door, to no avail. It took two therapists and a knife to get me in there, with my mud cocooned body stiffening by the second. Finally I was in…only to find a serious lack of heat. “Umm excuse me…nice therapist lady?” I shouted out of the door. Nothing, there was nobody there. After five minutes of scrabbling around on the floor in search of a steam vent, feeling (and looking) like a marine in training, I abandoned the steamless steam room in search of help, only to lock myself out in the cold. As my shivering and crispy mud covered body clung to the door, begging it to open, the condensation began pouring down the glass door as the steam bellowed out, dancing around, laughing at me.

In search of warmer climes (minus the steam), I made it all the way to the African desert for a treatment which proved so ridiculous even the therapists burst into fits of giggles as they rubbed me with giant hot water balloons and coconut shells before promptly pulling my legs up around my ears and pinning me to the table. The finale saw them perform a strangely tantric manoeuvre which left me hovering precariously in mid air in my less than attractive, diaper-like paper pants. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them; I burst into hysterical laughter, wishing they would put me down or at least give me a paper bra!

With torturous exfoliations, unexpectedly erotic massages and cringe-worthy colonics in the last year, I can only imagine what embarrassments await me in the next…


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