The Mud Bath (Adventures at the Spa: Part 1)

The 4th day of this past April was my mom’s 50th birthday. The end of her 5th decade. She has officially been blessing this earth for half a century.

“You’re welcome, world” –God

In celebration of this marvelous day, we decided to go a little crazy.

Crazy, defined: Going to a pricey day spa.

So, my mom, sister and I all played hookie from work and hopped on the 210 freeway. An hour and a half later, we pulled into the parking lot of what would hopefully prove to be a sanctuary from the stress and chaos of our everyday lives. Quick note: I had no prior experience in spa like activities.

Wait, do pedicures count? I’ve had a handful of those, but I’ve been skimping as of late, I’d rather just do it myself.

Do I get massages, you ask? No. I hate massages. I’m not able to reach the “it hurts but I’m also relaxing” state, it just hurts and I want you to stop. Also, unless you at least know how to spell and pronounce my first and last name—it should probably take more than that, right?—I don’t plan on de-robing and lying face down on a table for you.   I don’t care if people have compared your hands to Jesus. I don’t care if your music makes the tension in my shoulders melt into pudding. It’s going to be a no, every time.

This spa day was going to be sans-massage, like life should be.

On our walk up to the entrance we nearly became collateral damage amidst an apparent duel two hummingbirds were having between two trees.  My sister, who is terrified of birds, screamed, and we hastened our pace to the two gentlemen waiting to greet us. While I’m almost positive they saw us flee from the birds, they didn’t laugh or make any comments as we returned their greeting—while panting from the run—and entered the lobby. (Thank you, kind gentlemen.)

Aside from mascara, the three of us were makeup free when we entered the lobby, so I’m sure the addition of sweat to our faces produced a kind of beauty rarely seen in the daylight hours. The woman that helped us however, seemed unphased. She handed us a map, pointed us in the direction of the changing rooms, and told us to have a wonderful and relaxed day.

Now I don’t know if all spas are the same, so it’s possible that what I saw is unique to this haven, but upon exiting the lobby, I stepped into an entirely different world. On our way to the changing rooms, people passed in fluctuating amounts of clothing. Some accessorized with towels or robes, some let it all hang out in merely swimsuits. Shoes were like mustaches. Those who wore them, wore them with pride, not conforming to the average—shoeless—style. They loved their shoes and they would continue to wear their shoes no matter where they went. Those without shoes wore a, “I don’t even remember what shoes are, I can’t even imagine trying to wear shoes right now” attitude.  (We wore shoes.)

Unlike the gym—**rumors I hear about the gym, a place I’ve never been—there was not a hefty supply of naked people wandering around with no shame. Much to my relief, the only pair of boobs I saw were my own, and the only but I saw belonged to a plastic replica of a roman statue.

After we grabbed some towels—Stop. Side note about the towels, if there is ever a towel apocalypse, go to a spa. I was continually amazed by the amount of towels at my disposal. I must have used 25 different towels, just because I could. Resume discussion of towels.

After we grabbed some towels, we headed to the “Mineral Baths”, step one of our descent into ULTIMATE MOISTURIZATION. Or relaxation. Or Zen-ness. Or whatever.

The Mineral Baths were a set of 7 small pools set at 102° that we were told to sit in for 20 minutes. This would open our pores big enough that they could shoot moisture into our skin with those T-shirt guns you see at sporting events.  Aside from the initial shock of the temperature, it was actually a very enjoyable experience. We sat in a pool alongside a cute Asian woman who I spoke to in length about how cute her hand sewn water bottle holder was. (How much she understood, remains unclear) I found myself drawn to a wide variety of people. I wanted to talk to all of them, ask them how they liked the water, what brought them to the spa today, and how life was treating them in general. This was when I realized I’d been in the water too long, so I escaped before proceeding with my pool wide meet and greet.

Step 2 was a Mud Bath. The directions—nothing is more relaxing to me than a clear set of directions—said to wade into the pool—which reminded me of a dirty lake from childhood summer days—and completely wet our skin. We were then supposed to congregate to the center of the pool, where we would find a mound of clay (mud) to rub all over our bodies. Totally normal. I rubbed the mud over my arms and legs and neck and stomach, my mom did my back, and I finished off the coat with a nice face mask. After 15 minutes of lying in the sun, the clay had almost completely dried on my skin. What once made me look like one of the 50 something, over-tanned, divorcés, now made me look like I hibernated in a box of coco powder. Plus, I now came with wrinkles.

If you ever want to get a glimpse into your future saggy, wrinkly skin, cover your body in wet spa clay, let it dry, and bend your extremities.

Following much procrastination, I made a move to rinse off. I was sure that once I left the sun and entered the cave like shower, it was sure to release water laced with icicles upon my muddy being. I was right.  The first few minutes, were hell. My heart raced and my skin shivered as I begged the mud to get off my skin and for my 5th towel to be hand delivered to me. Also, there was a spider eyeing me on its ascent up the rocky walls. When I turned my back on it to rinse my hair, I was sure it was the last thing I would ever do. Once I was mud free, I walk/ran to the woman guarding the towels. I thought about taking 7, one for each arm, each leg, the front and back of my torso, and my face, but at the last second I settled for 1.

Step 3 had three steps all its own. It started with the signing of a waiver which probably said “don’t sue us if you have a bad reaction to our lotions, don’t run through the halls of our facility yelling “Fire”, don’t punch any of the other patrons, blah blah blah, no fun had by anyone. We then took an elevator down to a cave-like room which was reminiscent of the line for Indiana Jones at Disneyland. Less skulls, more fake orchids. (The entire building was like this. Dimly lit, distant music playing, mild smells that you couldn’t quite identify.) In the second room, a woman painted me—yes painted, with an actual paint brush—with some moisturization concoction comprised of fairy tears (of joy and relaxation) and flower guts. It was warm and looked like Nickelodeon slime but I believed them when they said it was good for my skin. We sat in room 3 for the allotted 20 minutes, rubbing the slime into our skin and listening to a group of wealthy spa goers discuss some their serious issues—a quick summary: they were too rich. I will dream about room 4 for the rest of my days. It was a simple room, comprised solely of showers and towels. The showers had 3 nozzles. One for each side of your body, and one that hung above my head. It was marvelous. It made me regret every comment I’ve ever made—both aloud and mentally—about the pretentious showers of the 1%.  That being said, my exit from the shower was a dark time. For a few minutes I thought I’d never again experience happiness…but then I found the towels. This time I didn’t just take one. I took 3. I deserved them, I was in mourning. Room 4 was cold, but there were apples, so I had no complaints. And that was that. We rode the elevator back up and before we knew it, we were back on dry, sunny land.

Before retreating back to the changing rooms, we decided to do a final lap around the premises to see if there was anything else we wanted to experience. We found the sauna, where we lay on hot wood until my lips threatened to peel off my face. We found the deck, which was only available to special, pretentious shower owning, guests whom I was no desperate to befriend. And we found the Saline pool which was filled with salts and junk that we thought sounded like a blasty blast. After that, we called it a day. We grabbed our change of clothes, 3 more towels, and we took another shower.  Why? BECAUSE WE COULD.

In conclusion, go to a spa, if only for the showers and towels. It will make your life better, I promise.


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