When the lady handed me the underwear made out of a thin piece of gauze and some stretchy string, I knew I was in trouble. Spa Rule 101: Be comfortable with being as naked as possible.
When I told a friend I was going on a spa adventure, she literally turned pea green with envy. “Are you serious?” she asked with small whine in her voice. “You have the best job ever and I hate you.” I laughed, but inside I was already getting nervous. Believe it or not, I’m not a lady of leisure, and I’m really not into the pampering thing. And this adventure, while it sounds like heaven to most, was going to be challenging: How was I to fit in six different spa treatments at three different spas all in one day?
I was going to have to be a relaxation ninja.
I’m one of those people who has always found it difficult to relax. Even when I was a kid, my mother has told me, I was always multitasking—like working on my homework while painting my toenails as I talked to my bestie on the phone. When we took road trips, my parents would beg me to fall asleep, but there was no way. I was too busy reading a Judy Blume book by flashlight in the backseat while braiding my hair.
At some point in my early 30s, I got a backache after a tough move from one apartment to another, and friends suggested massage. I went to a masseuse, but it was futile. Being nearly naked in front of a stranger made me feel antsy, and the fact that I had to lie down for an hour doing nothing bored me to tears. It was quite the dichotomy and honestly didn’t do a thing for my back. Massages, I decided, were not for me.
But, now that I’m older and so many friends rave about their “me time,” their “gifts” to themselves, their “stress-free” treatments, I decided to give it a whirl—or in my case, a whirlwind.
The day started off at 10 a.m. at Assuage Spa in South Fort Myers. Tehjan Prendiville, a registered nurse with a background in cultural healing, brands her spa as “an exotic escape and feast for the senses.” Indeed, the minute you walk in, a feeling of calm envelops you. There’s a Middle Eastern vibe with pretty, tinkly music in the background and muted jewel tones in the décor. I sipped cucumber-infused water and checked out the spa menu.
Tehjan had suggested the Detoxifying Body Treatment and the Ion Foot Detox, which both sounded good to me, since during party season I tend to toxify my body a lot with spirited beverages and passed hors d’oeuvres. I was led into a changing area and given a soft, fluffy robe and satin slippers before being taken into the treatment room with its soft light, comfy table/bed and sounds of babbling brooks.
Connie Burgess, the lovely young esthetician who was in charge of detoxifying me, explained that she would do so by applying a gentle sea salt scrub from head to toe, then a mud mask, followed by a eucalyptus steam and shower—which all sounded fine until I realized I’d have to take my robe off. That’s when Connie handed me the brand-new panties in a small plastic bag just in case I was modest (plus, one doesn’t want to get mud on one’s actual underwear). I laughed when I saw the disposable garment and thought it would have better use as a hair tie. I took my chances and left my Spanx on. Despite the constrictions, Connie did a fabulous job and I actually chilled out as she exfoliated with the sea salt, applied steamy warm towels and treated me to the smooth, cool mud. Afterward, she left while I basked in being detoxified and nearly fell asleep. Connie told me she doesn’t mind when her clients doze off: “It’s actually a compliment that I can get them to that point of relaxation.”
I made my way into the steam shower and cleared my senses and pores with the eucalyptus steam. Next, Maria Pelaez took me to another treatment room for the Ion Foot Detox, but first she put me on a vibration platform, where I stood so, hopefully, all my muscles would loosen some more toxins. (Some of my toxins are wedged in there pretty tight.) Later, I kicked back and watched the magic of the foot bath, which uses salts and an instrument with an electrical current to remove unhealthy stuff from the body. And as you watch the water go from clear to yellow to brown to (ugh) black, you realize how toxic you really are. Although, Maria promised me my yucky black water was pretty normal for someone who hadn’t had the treatment before.
Leaving Assuage, my skin felt soft, my body was refreshed, and I was ready for a nap, but I running late for my next two treatments, so I pressed on.
Luckily, Spada Salon & Day Spa was only a few minutes away, and when I arrived the place was buzzing with customers. Spada is huge and continuing to expand and offers just about every treatment you can imagine, from Brazilian blowouts to massages to manicures and pedicures. I decided to go out of my comfort zone with a mani/pedi. While I love the way that freshly manicured nails look, it means having to surrender my hands to the nail tech—I can’t check my Facebook on my phone, I can’t thumb through a magazine, I can’t even nervously twirl my hair. But, Spada’s Stephanie Groth made it easy. Not only did she do an awesome job giving me gel nails (gel means that no matter how much I try they’re too tough to chip or mess up); she also distracted my anxious mind with conversation. I enjoyed chatting with her about her beauty background, our kids, her love for what she does, and I honestly didn’t miss my phone. Even during pedicures, I usually get fidgety because of my weirdly ticklish feet, but Stephanie used a peppermint scrub, gave a gentle message and turned my toenails a sparkly burgundy. Afterward, that nap was looking better and better; however, my beauty adventure was far from over.
Next up: cosmetic surgery and medical spa Azul, which has locations in both Fort Myers and Naples and is run by Dr. Patrick Flaherty and his team of nurses, estheticians and massage therapists. In the waiting area it definitely feels more like a doctor’s office than a spa, but when you get back to a treatment room for a hydrafacial with Tammy Cobb, who is the absolute bomb when it comes to facials, the spa treatment is obvious. Out of all my treatments that day, the hydrofacial is the one in which I went into a sort of hypnotic trance. As I laid there, Tammy used a variety of techniques and a very fancy machine to get my face glowing and moisturized. For someone like me who’s not a spa aficionado, facials are the way to go. You can keep your clothes on and you get to be hands-free—also, my skin looked noticeably amazing afterward. Then it was time to report to the doctor for injectables to give me a refreshing temporary lift. Just a few months ago, I experienced injectables for the first time so I was no stranger to the needle, but still, I held the nurse’s hand while Dr. Flaherty performed his magic. Like an artist, he studied my face and decided to go light in some places and give a few more sticks in others. While he was at it, he consulted me regarding the heaviness of my eyelids and whether my vision was obstructed—he even did some measuring and assured me that going under the knife wouldn’t be just cosmetic, but also could improve my vision. Now that would be more than an adventure (gulp).
With my day of beauty over, I felt both gorgeous and accomplished—I hadn’t been late to a single appointment and I felt detoxed, pampered and, dare I say, quite relaxed. I concluded my adventure by taking to my bed with a glass of wine and sweet dreams of sea salt, red nail polish and glowing cheeks.