Abigail Burdess is all up for pampering, but does it have to come with a calorie count?
“Me-time”. There’s a sign outside a hairdressers on my road that offers me it. Time, woman, just for you, away from serving the needs of others: your children, your husband, your parents. Time for YOU, to do what YOU want! Relax! Put your feet up! And make your body socially acceptable!
You have some time for yourself! Use it to fulfil other people’s beauty ideal! Pull out your hair! Slough off your skin! Electrocute off your fat! You must be smooth, shiny, bald! Just take a little time out from serving others to critically examine your physical self and attempt to remedy your failings!
Men’s ‘me-time’ involves drinking beer and shouting at the television with their mates; women’s involves pampering themselves with a bit of self-hate. Ooh I’m so pampered – all that self-hate I’ve been trying not to roll around in during my working day, I can just dive into that hate now and rub my moustache in it.
At the far end of me-time lies the temple of me-time, the spa. It’s not that a spa can’t be fun but I haven’t been often. My husband gave me a fancy spa weekend for my 40th so I went dutifully, alone, for three days of extreme washing. I have to say I was ungrateful for this gift. It felt like someone had given me deodorant for a Secret Santa – here, you’re a soap-dodger, go and get clean. But there were some good bits.
“It must work as a business model, this combination of strokes and insults. It’s like we women can’t pay for some pleasure without also paying someone to tell us what’s wrong with us at the same time.”
I am, for example, a big fan of recreational sweating. I love to perspire in almost any context but in a tiny pine box you’re positively encouraged to do it. Mostly, I like being warm, and if sitting on a slatted bench next to a naked middle-manager is the price I pay to be cosy, so be it.
The trouble is, at a spa the sweating is sold with a dollop of self-hate on the side. Signs informed me about weight loss. Then after the sweating they offered me some ‘nutritional advice’. I declined. But I couldn’t help overhearing what snake-oil some of the other poor bastards on their holidays were sold.
I also got rubbed. I like being rubbed. Who doesn’t like being rubbed? But then the rubber informed me the rubbing would improve the appearance of my cellulite (I didn’t know I had cellulite).
Then he told me I was “holding a lot of tension in my body”. Jokes were bad for me. Not only was I uglier than I’d realised, I’d chosen the wrong career. Me-time, guys! I had to spend quite a lot of my own version of ‘me-time’ pausing Ryan Gosling movies to get over it.
But this must work for them, as a business model, this combination of strokes and insults. It’s like we women can’t pay for some pleasure without also paying someone to tell us what’s wrong with us at the same time.
I have had one amazing experience of a spa. On my hen night some mates took me to a place run by the council. I’ve tried to find it and it doesn’t exist now. Like some sort of magical shop, I’m hoping it’ll reappear when I need it most. It was a beautiful Art Deco building with a series of sweat pods filled with naked lesbians. It was brilliant. You could order a fry-up for £3. This was just before smoking in a public building was banned. So I sat with my best mates eating sausages and smoking fags in the nude. It was how I imagine a sauna in Roman times was.
It was all about pleasure, with no mention of calories or treatments, and there was no one to remind us that we’re ugly, or tense, or too hairy or too bumpy or too damn female. Now I see that written down it’s possible this place only ever existed in a dream. That’s what I call me-time.4986 Views
Abigail writes comedy for the telly, radio and stage. She is also sometimes allowed on them. But not so’s you’d notice. @AbigailBurdess