I had a massage this week and it really stressed me out.

I’m not a big fan of massages. Probably because I’m too much of a control freak and I find it hard to relax enough to derive proper benefits. But I
carry all my stress in my neck and I thought a massage might chill me out. So I booked into one of those fancy-shmancy day spas – you know, the ones that are invariably described in their literature as an “oasis of restoring healing, energy and wellness.”

I arrived at the oasis to be greeted by one of its disciples in the reception area which boasted an impressive water feature. Apart from
the sound of running water (which immediately made me want to go to the toilet), the only other audible sound was the obligatory Enya CD. Can
someone tell me who decided back in 1988 that the soundtrack to all beauty treatments until the end of time had to be bloody Enya? And not
a recent album. Oh no. It simply has to be that original, irritating “sail away sail away sail away” one.

After I’d returned from the bathroom, the reception disciple – who was wearing the spa uniform of airy white linen shirt, mint coloured sarong skirt and matching mint thongs – introduced herself as Zara, “your treatment co-ordinator” and handed me an elaborate form to fill out. I usually enjoy filling out forms. There’s a perverse pleasure that stems from pretending it’s a test where I know all the answers (“Name? I know that one! Date of birth? Easy!”).

But by the time I got to the second page, the questions had moved from factual information about my medical history to downright rude and nosy. OK, I guess they needed to ask if I was pregnant or had epilepsy but what relevance did my marital status, income bracket, food cravings or career aspirations possibly have? I thought I was paying for a massage not a life coach.

I put angry crosses through all the questions I thought were inappropriate and thrust my form back at Zara with a scowl. Are we feeling calm and relaxed yet, people? Zara then upped the aggravation factor by talking to me in that slow, soft, sing-songy voice that is compulsory in beauty salons and mental institutions.

Grumpy but in full salon submission mode (ask no questions, do as you’re told), I meekly trotted behind her to the lounge area. This was meant to be a relaxing holding pen where I left all my troubles behind and prepared for the lovely experience ahead. My fellow loungers were middle-aged women in white fluffy robes who were in between treatments from their Bliss packages that entitled them to hours and hours of pampering. Call me weird but that’s my idea of hell.
Sitting there amongst the slippered women sipping herbal teas and leafing earnestly through self-help books with titles like “Chocolate for a woman’s courage”, I was seized by the uncontrollable urge to run away and check my emails.


Zara, who continued to talk to me as though I was a small, stupid poodle, brought me a herbal tea helpfully called “Soothing Calm” which tasted like lawnmower clippings. She must have sensed my rising tension because she also started using my name a lot and lightly touching my arm, the way people do when talking to someone in shock.

An eternity later, my new best friend Zara returned to escort me to the treatment room where she sing-songily introduced me to “Zoe, who will be performing your treatment this afternoon”.  “Hel-lo M-ia,” sing-songed Zoe softly, touching my arm. “I’m going to just leave you for a moment to get undressed and then I’ll return to begin your massage, OK?”
This is always the most awkward part for me because I can never remember whether you’re meant to take your knickers off. Do I remove them and risk looking like an accidental pervert? Or stay knickered and risk looking like a nerdy prude? I chose the nerdy prude option this time and lay anxiously under the small towel until Zoe returned.

The next hour was certainly pleasant but I couldn’t relax enough to properly enjoy it. It’s always like that. The minute I try to quieten my mind, it decides it’s going to run amok and manically sprint from thought to thought like a hyperactive child who doesn’t want to go to bed. I don’t enjoy that sleepy, sluggish state that you’re meant to achieve with facials and massages. I get all worried that I might fall asleep (although why that would be such a tragedy is unclear).

Or maybe I’m just scarred from being talked into buying one too many Ylang Ylang  foot creams post-treatment when I’m too out-of-it to know better. You know that trick? Where they try to make you associate your deeply relaxed state with the dozen expensive creams they’ve used – all helpfully available to buy at reception! By the time Zoe gently touched me on the arm and thanked me “for letting me treat you today”, I practically sprinted out the door and dashed home to check my emails. Ah, now that’s relaxing.