Oh, that’s right – I did. And I was.
I had had a guided tour of the Caldes de Boi centre and was pondering the extensive menu of health- and beauty-enhancing treatments available. The moment of choice was upon me.
My guide had escorted me along white corridors, my shoes encased in disposable protectors, assuring me, as she discussed each treatment, that it was ‘Very Special’.
An assistant obligingly brought forth a bucket of mud to illustrate the point. I was encouraged to feel the rising warmth and to smell it but not to touch. It was dark and grainy, the consistency of biscuit dough.
The empty corridors were so clean and bare, the doors so thick and the rooms so spartan (except for the occasional large, white bath, bare shower or narrow bed) that I began to feel I had stumbled into some laboratory and was about to be whisked away to be experimented upon. I was saved from a spiral into movie-inspired paranoia by the sight of non-white towels and candles in two of the massage rooms and my guide’s quiet enthusiasm for her centre and its benefits.
My decision about which treatment to choose would need to be weighed carefully.
I could opt for fifteen minutes on a hard bench in what can accurately be described as a tiny, moist, warm, pitch black, smelly cave, the door of which was clearly installed with an expectation that hobbits would make up the bulk of customers. A simple mathematical equation will suffice here to explain the attraction of what, on the surface of it, appears a far from appealing option: smelly = sulphur = beneficial.
There were stinky baths, with or without massage (no idea how one kept one’s head above water whilst being pummelled from above); massage in showers, with or without oil; Thai massage; hot rock massage; Ayurvedic massage; massages to enhance different body systems; reiki; a thermal circuit involving sauna, cold showers and ice; reflexology; mud packs and facials.
My guide had obviously scrutinised my complexion because, when I mentioned the possibility of a facial, she immediately advised one of local caviar, dismissing the chocolate, mud, papaya and algal varieties. ‘Very Special’, it would make my face ‘shine’. Not so much fun for the fish though, so I decided against it and saved myself €83 and a shiny, though tightly-pored, face.
A massage seemed the go. Fifty minutes luxuriating beneath sweeping palms or kneading fingers, as I chose. And then something caught my eye: Envoltura de chocolate + macscarilla facial (envelope/wrapping of chocolate + facial mask). I would have been mad (and later, regretful) not to give it a go. Massages are a dime a dozen but one does not often have the opportunity to be covered in chocolate.
When I fronted up for my appointment I was greeted by a cheerful man who knew no English. However, his command of gesture and the small range of actions required from me, made the entire process quite manageable.
I found I felt a little nervous at the imminent doubling of my people-who-see-me-starkers quotient. Six years at boarding school put paid to any notions of privacy regarding nudity with women but when it comes to men, I am pressed by issues of privacy and marital loyalty.
However, at some point one has to say, “Apart from the fact that it’s mine, what makes my body so special that it’s such a big deal for others to see it?” If, as in my case, the answer is ‘nothing’ one just has to get over oneself and remember that one did sign up for this. And that’s another thing: I was dealing here with a man for whom naked bodies are probably on something of a conveyor belt. (“I’ve got a chocolate at five, followed by a shower massage, then a buttock mud pack.”).
So on with the fun.
The room smelt pleasantly of chocolate. Up on the table (with disposable bikini and shower cap) I was smeared back and front with surprisingly cool chocolate. Just as I was beginning to get cold, my coverer (masseuse? chocolatier?) grabbed the plastic sheets upon which I was lying and wrapped me up. Towels over the top and tucked in the side ensured I couldn’t move at all. Words like mummy, cocoon and trussed chicken came to mind.
Gradually, my body warmed and I had the odd sensation of chocolate plip, plipping off me onto the plastic beneath. Twenty minutes or so later, my man returned, unbound me and gestured for me to follow him. I was about to be cleaned.
Now was the time to taste my covering. I dipped my finger into my stomach, scooped up a luscious amount and placed it in my mouth. Maybe I could just lick myself clean.
Aaghh! It was disgusting; bitter as all get out. And was that the tang of body lotion on the rear-palate? So that was the secret to the chocolate’s viscosity during the lengthy application process – powdered chocolate in lotion. This now becomes something one can try at home without the expense or excruciating waste (who can eat that much in one go?) of real chocolate.
The shower was a narrow room about three metres long. I stood at one end and he, clad now in gumboots, high-pressure hosed me from the other as I revolved on command. I felt like livestock being prepared for a show or a poopy toddler in summer. Whenever I laughed, horrible ‘chocolate’ ran into my mouth.
I was soothed back to normal life with a final massage of (unchocolated) lotion. Now, underneath this calm exterior (still faintly smudged with brown) lies someone who has intrepidly ventured to the very edges of what massage has to offer.
The title of this piece refers to an earlier post, If Only I Felt Like Eating Chocolate