Man’s spa? Massage, hot shower, cold beer | The Latte Guy | March 5

From time to time during our marriage, the woman who is my wife has suggested that she and I go to a spa together. While in theory I love the idea of being pampered and rejuvenated in a relaxing yet stimulating environment, in practice, we’ve never done it.

The closest Wendy and I have actually come to “going spa-ing” together is the time I gave her some scented soap and a loofa for her birthday.

I don’t know why I have such an aversion to spas, so I decided to do some research on spas and their relative appeal to the male and female of the species. I hoped to reach a deeper understanding of the differences between men and women or, failing that, to kill a little time at work before lunch.

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but when I say I’m going to “do a little research” on a topic, what I mean is that I plan to do a quick Google search for an article that supports the particular position I have already decided I want to take. If I can find such an article, and if the article is from a reasonably credible source, then my work is done.

If I cannot find an article that supports my position in the 15 to 20 minutes I have committed to “research,” then I assume that the question is one of life’s unanswerable and imponderable mysteries, and I return to my primary job responsibilities at work, which are pilfering office supplies and looking busy.

You can imagine my excitement then, when I Googled the words “men” and “spas” and came across a recent article in the Times of London by a Mr. Simon Mills entitled, “Why Real Men Don’t Like Spas.” Finding this article on my first search attempt made me feel like John Sutter finding that gold nugget in the stream near his mill.

Mills’s premise is that the whole spa experience takes most men out of their comfort zone in many and varied ways, and makes them feel awkward, adiposal and clumsy. And it’s not just the lavender-scented candles, the ill-fitting spa gowns, the new age whale songs or the Peruvian panpipes playing incessantly in the background. For men unaccustomed to the whole spa gestalt, the experience is fraught with uncertainty and confusion.

For example, if there is to be a massage component to the spa adventure, does one remove all of one’s clothing, or just strip down to one’s skivvies and call it good?

And what’s the deal with the scented oil? Does anyone really enjoy being basted up like a Thanksgiving turkey by a complete stranger? As far as the massage itself, if the masseuse presses too hard, the experience is like being held down and given a half-hour noogie by one’s older brother.

But if the masseuse does not work the muscles hard enough, then, Mills notes, the experience seems pointless and amounts to nothing more than enduring a half-hour of Enya warbling annoyingly about a Celtic moon “while some failed hairdresser rhythmically tickles away at your flabby parts as if petting a consumptive hamster.”

Mills may be guilty of being a bit hard on spa workers, but I think he’s right about spas making men feel awkward and out of place, whereas women seem to take to the spa experience like a loofa to an exposed back.

Mills also suggests that spas cater to a type of narcissism that makes most men squirm. We feel uncomfortable being the object of such personalized attention, and so we resort to acting like cowed saps, doing just what we’re told no matter how embarrassing or personally degrading something would otherwise seem to us:

“Lie back in the steaming mud, Mr. Tyner, and we’ll place random bits of produce over your eyes and a hot rock on your stomach while our staff secretly laughs behind your back and comments on your alarming lack of muscle tone.”

A man with sore muscles, or who feels the need to clean out his system, wants nothing more than a gentle back rub from someone with whom he is comfortable being seen in just a towel, a hot shower, and the close proximity of copious amounts of adult restorative beverages to begin the retoxification process.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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