Being a mother of two children I’ve tried a lot of things in the name of rest and relaxation. I’ve enrolled in Tai Chi classes, listened to hours of meditation tapes, and even learned how to sit in the lotus position and breathe in through one nostril and out through the other.
In fact, the only thing I haven’t tried is massage. That is, until a friend gave me a gift certificate for a full body massage at the local day spa. Now this might not seem to alarming to you, but I’ll just say right now that I’ve always been a big advocate of maintaining personal space. So to a person like me, having a complete stranger touch my entire body while lying naked under a towel is, well, unsettling.
On the other hand, life being what it is these days, I’m not one to pass up a free opportunity to lie down and do nothing for an hour.
I went to the day spa and explained to the 20-something Swedish masseuse I’ll call Hilde, that this was my first massage and to please be gentle because, you see, I am a little nervous.
“No problem,” she said. “Just don’t think about anything. Empty your mind and relax.”
Then she turned on some soothing music and I laid face-down on the table and closed my eyes. Sure enough, a few minutes later I drifted off onto into a kind of peaceful reverie that I thought only came with the aid of certain prescription medication. In fact, I was gently wafting through the air with the sound of a waterfall in the distance and birds chirping in the sky when I heard a disembodied voice with a heavy Swedish accent say, “You have toxins in your thighs.”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Toxins. You have them right here.” Hilde slapped the backs of my legs.
“What do you mean? What toxins?”
“Don’t worry,” she said, “just a little bit. And for having two children, it’s not much, really.”
“What toxins?” I repeated.
“You need a body wrap is all,” she continued.
“I think that will cleanse them,” she concluded.
I lay there with a frozen smile as she called over another masseuse and pointed to my legs. They consulted a moment in hushed tones. Then Hilde made one of those mystifying statements that only make sense to people who work in day spas.
“Do you use a loofah sponge?” she asked.
“Uh, no,” I said.
Both girls gasped and went into the back room together and closed the door.
When Hilde finally came back out, she had bottle of lotion and a chart.
“You must use a loofah sponge,” she said. “And it’s very important to scrub up.” She pointed to the chart and made an upward motion with her arms.
“To make the toxins go away,” she said in an “of course” sort of way.
“What toxins?” I said again weakly.
“Oh, it’s nothing, really. Just relax.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I tend to associate the word “toxin” with all sorts of unrelaxing things like, say, the pesticide malathion, anthrax and heavy metal rock bands.
In fact, a part of me wanted to shake Hilde by her sweatbands and ask her how anyone who has just been told that their legs fall in the same category as a pesticide is supposed to relax.
But after listening in on a few other conversations around me, it became clear what was going on here. “Toxin” is a secret spa-code for “f-a-t.” After all, you can’t go around saying things to paying customers like, “Hey, Lady, your thighs are too fat.”
That said, ‘m not sure exactly how I feel about this revelation. As Hilde massaged me with the firming cream and a loofah sponge, I lay on the table and wistfully recalled the good old days before toxic thighs and body wraps and fancy lotions and all that. Back when I relaxed the old-fashioned way: by going shopping or to a movie.
Life was so much simpler then.