I feel obliged to share this extremely traumatising event, that I have partially blocked out of my mind but unfortunately don’t think I’ll ever really be able to forget. The root of the experience lies in a seemingly economical Groupon deal. “$25 for spa day”? A paltry fee for access to a spa with unlimited use of the solarium, saunas, a salon and more – it had to be too good to be true. Well yes, yes it was.
Ushered into the lobby by a man with no english who gave me a ripped piece of paper that bore the number 13, I can’t say I was beginning to feel relaxed. I joined the line waiting to be seen by one of three receptionists. This small area was populated by impatient patrons, keen to get into the zen areas we were promised, tapping their feet as the receptionists shouted instructions with broken english. I managed to obtain a locker key and stumbled confused into the changing room whereby a random woman yelled “TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF” pointing at my offending Adidas runners. I could barely fathom a response, I was too flabbergasted as I had just walked into a room with hundreds of women all wearing the same uniform: a candyfloss pink, oversized cotton t-shirt and matching knee length shorts – what kind of cult was this!
I secured my own pink suit and proceeded to put it on, it also came with a small pink and white checkered towel that some women had fashioned into makeshift headdresses and sweatbands. That is to say, the women who were dressed – because a large quantity of those in the changing room were walking around starkers naked, letting it all hang out for the world to see. I saw more parts of the female anatomy than I was ever willing to be exposed to; every shape, size and color on the planet was on display for the taking. I shuffled in line with the pink brigade, no idea what my plan of action was to be. At every corner I was greeted with more nudity. Jacuzzis and hot tubs full of women in the nip, just chatting away to each other – to say I didn’t know where to look is in an understatement.
I decided the best option was to follow people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Ascending a staircase, traipsing after a pack of retirement-aged ladies, I somehow found myself in a restaurant. People were screaming over the noise in a myriad of languages, giving me such a fright I retreated to the staircase and headed in a different direction. Next up was the relaxation area, where everyone lay on the ground playing on their phones waiting for one of the three massage chairs to become available. I spotted a small chamber that resembled a sauna (akin to the hobbits homes in Lord of the Rings.) I was unsure that my 5’9” body would fit in the miniscule door way but I crouched down and attempted to gain access only for an elderly man who resembled Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid to stop me in my tracks with a look so discerning, I immediately knew I wasn’t welcome. With one last attempt at the relaxation day I had been promised, I scurried along to the next room, feeling hopeless and helpless, not anticipating my eardrums to be greeted with the sound of a blender – a juice bar and more scenes of chaos from the women in pink shoving each other to get ahead in the queue.
I wouldn’t consider myself an emotional person, having cried approximately three times since 2011, but a crushing sense of overwhelment enveloped me and I felt that at this time and place, right here in the most unflattering outfit I have ever been forced to wear, tears may start to prick my eyes. I don’t know if it was the signs and directions all being printed in Asian, the man making juice shouting out, “TUMERIC SHOTS ARE EXTRA,” or the lack of personal space as the pink ladies rushed around me to snatch the last place in the ice room, but I thought now is one of those times where you must swallow your pride and forgo the relaxation you were promised and go far, far away from this horrific place. From memory, I traced my way back to the locker room, trying to turn a blind eye to the sagging flesh that lined up for the showers and a deaf ear to the carnage that was unfolding in the salt room, never so happy to put on my own clothes and throw my cotton scrubs in the laundry pile all the while promising myself I would never return to New Jersey. You can take my $25, but you can’t take my spirit.
Scenes from a cathartic walk I took to cleanse my soul after the aforementioned “spa day” (!)