Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Please, not the spa

Help me out here, readers. I don't get spas. The culture of enforced relaxing is something I've never quite understood, especially because none of the things one does at a spa seems in any way relaxing. Do you actually know anyone who has been to a spa? Have you been to one?

It's a very alien concept to me, my aversion to which probably stems from the terror of the unknown - I've never been to a spa, and I plan to keep that track record. Besides, I don't think they'd let me in - spas seem to be a place that welcome extrovert types. Types that actively enjoy being naked around each other. The thing is, some of these people are my friends.

Consequently a spa trip has threatened to materialise on three occasions now. Two birthdays and a hen do. I've just got to pray no more of them want to get married before my excuses wear too thin. I can't afford it. I'm busy - all month. You can't get public transport there. And, of late, I HATE SPAS!! Of course, the response is always the same - total bemusement. 

"What - you don't like relaxing?!" and the inevitable,

"How do you know if you don't like spas if you've never been to one?" 

A valid point. Obviously, there are some things you don't need to have experienced to know you won't like them - electric shocks, for example. Being lashed with a rope, clearly not enjoyable. But my poor friends don't realise they are in fact pressing for me to endure my own form of social torture.

I can understand how massages are a good thing. Well, as long as you don't mind being touched by a stranger. Or being greased like a goose. And thinking of hot ovens, what's with saunas? Being unpleasantly hot and naked in semi-public? It's clear how such things appealed to the Egyptians with their general love of oils and balms, and I can forgive pleasure-seeking Romans because, you know, where better to be debauched than in a big orgiastic pool? But for the likes of you and I...eurgh God, it makes me cringe just thinking about it. What if I bumped into the neighbours?

We can learn many useful lessons from history, lessons which could save us a great deal of time and expense. The Romans ruined baths, played with them too hard. Then the Italians made them fashionable again in typical swagger, ensuring they were an experience unaffordable to anyone but the posho's. While the rest of Europe was living it up, knocking back wine with their thermal water and no doubt singing and stuff, stuffy Brits stuck to strictly medicinal baths, frowning on indulgence of any kind.

And this leads to my bone of contention with the spa. Being laid back and laid bare are two very un-British things. As a result we've taken the spa concept and ruined it (but in the opposite direction to the Romans...) We pour Health & Safety all over it. We make it slightly awkward. And we make it really quite expensive. Which leaves us and our spas at a sanitised mid-point which is neither opulent nor all that medicinal. An economic indulgence rather than a true physical one.

Our island seems to have been invaded by these spa hotels, offering semi-indulgence at an either astronomical cost or as a bargain-basement-group-voucher - ensuring that your experience descends into a bit of a hustle to get the next cheques-on-legs through the door. Where's the relaxation in that?

I wouldn't mind if the hen parties that flock to these places actually got up to any Romanesque debauchery, but maybe that comes at an added extra top-up price. In my head - and please, feel free to put me straight, actual spa-goers - what you actually get is a brisk rub from a surly masseuse, one glass of fizz in the hot tub, an awkward gossip in the sauna and, more comfortably, a pedicure. Followed by a Michael Buble tribute act in the bar.

Why not just go and have a massage in town after work? Listen to Buble on the drive home? Look, I know I'm missing the point of it all. But when I describe what is relaxing and indulgent for me, perhaps you'll see why.

Gemma's Dream Spa Weekend:

Don't leave the house

Eat cheese. All day. Fully clothed

Have more than one glass of fizz, and have it on the sofa - not in the bath. And don't bother with the strawberries

Enjoy the healing powers of herbs. In my gin.

Don't talk to anyone. Watch film/s in silence.

Absolutely zero interaction with a Michael Buble impersonator.

 And aaaahhh. I am relaxed.


  1. How funny that the first blog post I read of yours happens to be a topic on spas. Recently, I’ve been debating whether or not to go to a Korean spa. I really want to go, but it is the public nudity thing that keeps me from going. Relaxing, eating, sleeping, and all that other stuff people do at the Korean spa all sound heavenly. But public nudity does not. I actually made plans to go tomorrow with my SIL, but it’s been postponed. I wanted to get over my fear and try it once. I’ve also had countless discussions with a friend of mine, asking him a billion questions on every little detail about Korean spas. He’d be like “omg just go and find out!” Well, I guess one of these days….as uncomfortable as I may be, I will.

  2. Oh and you came so close! It sounds like you have resolved to go though - you are much braver than I. I reckon take that leap and make another plan to go - even if you have to go through the place with your eyes shut and screaming inside I know you will conquer this particular fear...and when you do, be sure to blog about it afterwards!
    Thanks for reading,