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COLUMN SIX: About Face

Getting some “me” time is worth the wait

BY JANE BEDARD
Special to the VOICE

As the mother of three boys, I don’t often indulge in luxurious pampering, so when I do, I feel I have to come clean about my absence, like I’ve missed confession: “Forgive me Esthetician, for I have sinned. It has been two years since my last facial.”

Esthetician tries to look patient while I scan the spa menu, focusing first on cost.

Prices range from what I would pay for dinner for five at McDonald’s to a weekend for five at Great Wolf Lodge. Yes, these are my points of reference when budgeting for extra-curricular activities, which may explain why it has been two years since my last facial.

My eyes glaze over as I read the descriptions of each treatment. The number of options is overwhelming: hydrating, purifying, anti-aging, soothing, collagen, detoxing, microdermabrasion, brightening, refreshing, enhancing, not to mention a list of “sides” to accompany my main entrée, like eye treatments and brow waxing. I just want the one that will return my skin to the soft and wrinkle-free state that my neighbour’s eight-month-old daughter has. Which one is that?

I look helplessly at Esthetician, and ask her what she thinks. She pretends to scrutinize my face from many angles and distances, but her reply still comes way too quickly. She delicately recommends the Anti-Aging Facial.

Ugh. Memories of last year, when I found my first grey hair and was given my first prescription for reading glasses on the same day. Yes, I’m aging. I get it. Give me the Anti-Aging Facial.

Then, to add insult to injury, she recommends a side of brow wax. For some reason, she believes I should have two eyebrows. What will these crazy millennials think up next?

The next thing I know, I’m on my back while an onslaught of stuff is smeared on my face— layer upon layer of creams and ointments, intermixed with steam.

At one point Esthetician actually puts a large piece of gauze over my entire face, mummifying me, then tops it with what I can only assume is sweet smelling formaldehyde to preserve what is left of my 40-plus skin.

I can’t really turn my head or see very well, but when I hear Esthetician moving about, I imagine she has left the room to borrow a hand sander from the maintenance room to exfoliate my decrepit cells.

After the embalming, she protects my mouth and eyes with cool pads, then applies a thick layer of what feels like Elmer’s White glue all over my face. Thoughts of how my kids would paint my mask would have made me giggle if I were able to smile without breaking the setting plaster. Would they create an evening (or late afternoon) post-chardonnay, happy mommy or an early morning, pre-coffee, scary mommy?

While the miracle glue tingles and rejuvenates my dehydrated epidermis, my weary body relaxes into the table. My eyelids grow heavy. The room gets darker.

Mmm.

Suddenly, Esthetician interrupts my bliss by asking if she can massage my neck and shoulders. It is shocking to me that she has to ask, however, she explains that some people don’t like to be touched, other than on their face. This baffles me.

Who are these people? Throughout the day I caress, massage, shampoo, and gently clean off the dirt of the day from my children’s bodies. I rub antibiotic ointment onto cuts, tape up injuries, wet down horn-like clumps of hair. I cut finger and toenails, wipe away snot and tears, often without a tissue. I am committed to countless tactile acts throughout the day, and now, someone is asking for permission to massage me?

It doesn’t bother me that she is being paid to do it, I am still almost moved to tears. “Yes.” I answer. “You may massage my neck and shoulders.”

A little later she startles me again by asking if she can massage my feet while a vitamin C mask sets. I am compelled to say, “Listen, without trying to be suggestive of anything inappropriate, not one part of my body would be offended if you tried to rub it, so next time, don’t ask, just surprise me.”

Off I go again to that puffy, cloudy, floaty place filled with harp-playing angels wearing lavender and eucalyptus filled amulets.

That is, until she surprises me and I bolt upright because Esthetician has lit my forehead on fire. She swiftly dabs at the freckles of blood oozing from my freshly waxed eyebrows, plucks at a few stray hairs which have avoided the brushfire, then extinguishes the whole area with an après burn ointment.

She performs the assault as efficiently as a trained assassin and before I know it, I’m lying supine again, wondering if those last few moments were real or just a fleeting nightmare.

And then I close my eyes, try to relax what’s left of my eyebrows, and go on a quick trip to my happy place–on a surfboard in the warm Caribbean Sea, my feet dangling off the board, while underwater scuba spa staff polish them with a ticklish loofah.

I almost have a happy ending right then and there, which, for a busy mom, means that I almost fall asleep.

Mmm.

Jane Bedard is a freelance writer who fled urban Toronto in search of quiet spaces and free parking. She hasn’t looked back.

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