Tonight we watch the senior students demonstrate a body wrap, then get down to business ourselves — bearing in mind, of course, everything Miss Jenny taught us last week about dealing with our clients’ breasts.
Here’s how it works: Your client strips down to her undies and lies face down on a facial bed, which has been covered by a plastic sheet. You lay a big bath towel over her, and then start “dry exfoliating” her, which means rubbing a rolled-up, dry hand towel in circular motions all over her legs and back, peeling back the bath towel over the part you need to work on and then recovering it as you go.
“I always think this part’s just for show,” says Miss Lisa when I ask what the towel actually does. Improve circulation? Slough off dead skin cells? “It kind of draws the service out a little longer.” Okay then.
Next, you massage your client using a special blend of essential oils. You start at the ankles and work up her legs in long strokes, then move up to her back and shoulders. Once you finish applying the oil blend to your client’s back, she flips over under the bath towel (you can either hold it awkwardly and look away, or leave the room and let her wriggle around by herself) so you can work on the fronts of her legs, her stomach, breasts if requested, shoulders and arms.
When it’s my turn to play client, Meg is too shy to attempt any of that breast business, so Miss Lisa shows her how to lay a hand towel on top of the bath towel that’s covering me from neck to ankle, and then, holding the hand towel firmly in place, slide the bigger towel out from under, so she can access the rest of me.
If you’re thinking “wow, that sound finicky,” you’re not wrong. It takes a few practice runs, and Meg and I are now pretty darn comfortable with each other.
Then she moves on to the stomach massage. To be honest, never having had a body treatment before, I thought this would be the weirdest part of all. We’ll save midriff anxieties for another post, but suffice to say, I’m conscious of having downed half a glazed cruller during our break at Dunkin’ Donuts. And when I watch Leslie work on Sue’s belly, I do think, “Hmm, your stomach skin definitely moves around in ways that aren’t totally flattering.” But it’s surprisingly relaxing to experience, maybe because we don’t often spend much time being nice to that specific part of our bodies.
Blanche wants to know if we can use those wooden back scratchers that look like two ping pong balls attached with a handle. “Wouldn’t that apply more pressure?” she asks.
“I think when someone is paying for a service, they’re kind of paying for your touch,” says Leslie, one of the senior students, as she’s working up Sue’s legs. “Your hands are more soothing.”
“It’s true,” says Miss Lisa. “I felt weirder when I had a body treatment done with a brush, because then it seemed like the esthetician was like, ew, I don’t want to touch you.”
I think Leslie means that when a client pays for a spa service, they want your expertise; they can draft a family member into giving a regular old back rub, or using one of those back-massager deals. But the thing is, we’re not at massage school, so we’re not learning any of the science or theory behind the different kinds of massage. We’re just giving a regular old back rub, then wrapping you up in a heated blanket so the product can penetrate more deeply. Our “expertise” all stems from the product we’re using; a specific anti-cellulite cream or blend of essential oils that claims to solve some problem with the appearance of your skin.
But most consumers know that the effectiveness of those products is highly debatable. So Leslie and Miss Lisa might be even more on the money than they realize.
Because it seems to me that the customer is really paying for us to touch them and act like we’re okay about it — even if they are far from okay with their bodies themselves.