Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I had a Lost in Translation experience today. (No, it did not involve a scantily clad Scarlett Johansson.)

My wife has felt for some time that the skin of my face needed some serious scrubbing to stomp out the blackheads that marred my ample nose. Not really daring to hope, she offered to pay for a facial treatment at a beauty parlour. To her delight, I took a deep breath, set my jaw manfully and accepted her offer.

After lunch today, I took a short walk from the office to a school for beauty care specialists and spa staff in central Stockholm. The place was full of young women wearing prim white nurse-like uniforms and a lot of make-up. I was expecting to sit for an hour in a hair dresser's chair, listening to podcasts, while someone kneaded my nose. To my surprise, I was instead immediately handed a dressing gown and a pair of plastic slippers, and ordered to strip to my undies. "But I'm just having a face thingy", I spluttered. They knew. They explained that the treatment also involved a backrub. So, soon I was sitting there in the waiting area sofa, wearing only my undies, a short dressing gown and a pair of slippers, feeling like Bill Murray.

The beauty care student who would clean up my face was a rubenesque 20-year-old of Turkish extraction. She introduced herself as Selma and led the way into a large well-lit room with several examination tables on which women of various ages were lying swaddled in sheets while having their faces scrubbed and coated in products. It is a funny feature of beauty care lingo that anything you can buy in bottles or tubes and smear on your face is called a "product".

I too ended up on one of the tables after an uncomfortable moment when I had to get rid of my dressing gown before slipping my winter-pale body under the sheet. Then my caretaker gave me a very nice backrub, had me lie on my back, put cotton swabs on my eyelids, shot steam in my face, slathered it in various products, and, yes, kneaded my nose mercilessly. We had a nice conversation about our lives and careers and loved ones, and I was a bit nervous about my hands. For all intents and purposes, I was at a massage parlour, which was not what I had expected. I felt that if I kept my hands under the sheet, the nose-kneading girl might think I was surreptitiously grabbing myself, and if I kept them on top of the sheet, she might think I was going to grab her. But it passed.

Selma said that she loved the course, that only one of her co-students was a guy and that he was queer, that everybody on duty was required to wear make-up, and she told me what "spa" means. She had been taught that it's an acronym: Salus Per Aquam, "healthy by water". This would go back to the old superstition about healing springs and balneotherapy. Checking this up, I learned that it's an erroneous etymology: "spa" originally simply referred to the Belgian town of Spa whose hot springs were known already to the Romans.

The session ended with Selma massaging my face for ages, which seemed a little pointless, strangely intimate and actually kind of hot, and then she massaged my hands and lower arms, which felt absurd. Then, an hour and a half after I lay down, I was told to get up, flashed everyone in the room yet another glimpse of my claim to hunkiness before getting into the gown again, said goodbye to Selma and went to get my clothes back on.

All in all, an interesting and not unpleasant experience. And my nose? It's very clean. And it's pitted with clean, deep, empty little mine shafts, all clearly visible. You didn't think blackheads actually go away just because you remove their contents, did you?

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Blogger Buttercup said...

Good for you for being a man and going to get a facial. Bravo! I followed you here from Candy Minx's. I too have some responses to her post on time/atheism. Also, I'm Swedish too! Har det sa bra! Hej da.

06 December, 2006 23:53  
Blogger [<( - _ - )>] ® said...

hi from chile
i came here accidentally
i like your style... good blog
that's all.. visit me... greetings from chile... bye

07 December, 2006 00:33  
Blogger Karen said...

Oh Martin you're so funny! Welcome to the wonderful world of what women go through. Instead of feeling uncomfortable and out of place, you should have revelled in the fact that you were the only MAN there. Work the room baby!

Next, you'll have to try waxing.

07 December, 2006 01:08  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks everyone for the props!

I keep getting furrier as the years pass. I ain't going nowhere near any wax. Maybe some sphincter bleaching though? d-;

07 December, 2006 09:56  
Blogger Martin said...

Karen: about working the room -- I'd be happy to flaunt my charms to an audience of women who ask for it. But entering a room full of unsuspecting fully dressed females and being told to drop my kit felt kind of iffy. I've kind of been conditioned to ask before I flash. (-;

07 December, 2006 10:49  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ha ha - fabulous post once again! Did your wife by any chance fax (or RSS might be more appropriate) you any shelve/rack samples?!

07 December, 2006 12:55  
Anonymous Amber said...

Haha! What an experience! I love your text about it!

07 December, 2006 13:50  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks sweeties!

Rack samples? I assume you aren't referring to Selma's, umm, assets. I did get a feeling that they would have liked to sell a lot of products to me, but that they realised that it would be a hard sell.

07 December, 2006 13:59  
Anonymous pablo said...

Yet another astonishing and rollicking post. I've always wondered what went on in a beauty parlor.

07 December, 2006 15:38  
Blogger Karen said...

Well, initially they were probably just as uncomfortable having you invade their inner sanctum as you were being there. Take the initiative man! Walk confidently into the room in nothing but plastic shoes and your y-fronts. Smile at the ladies and put them at ease. You'll be the centre of attention.

07 December, 2006 18:53  
Blogger Martin said...

Yes, one day maybe I'll learn to overcome my naturally shy and retiring ways around women.

07 December, 2006 21:38  
Anonymous paddy said...

Wow, sounds great...where did you go? I live in Stockholm, and I'm looking for a birthday present for my girlfriend. This sounds perfect, and if she doesn't want it (and I kind of hope she doesn't) then I'll just go myself..!

09 December, 2006 00:17  
Blogger Martin said...

Privatskolan för Hudvård och Spa
Lästmakargatan 10, Stockholm
08 - 678 15 55

09 December, 2006 09:29  
Anonymous Ann said...

Hej! I stockholm finns många bra spa. Kika gärna här efter spa i stockholm. Det är så underbart på spa!

Annars gillar jag din blogg, väldigt trevlig!

16 December, 2007 14:54  

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