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SPA-AARRRGGHHH!
                                   
            Now, call me a prude, but stripping off in front of other women makes me break out in a rash. I have tried joining gyms, swimming at the local pool, and taking a sauna at a resort, but I can’t get over the discomfiture of trying to appear nonchalant about being nude while moving my hands fast enough to cover all my body parts at once.
            I huddle inside locker rooms and try to discreetly remove my clothing without anyone noticing. I have no idea why I think they’d be looking; half of them are probably as freaked out as I am. Sitting on a bench, I can usually manage to slip off my scivvies and get a miniature towel wrapped around my privates before I have to stand up. (Don’t you just know that’s when some naked Goddess will sashay past me with her glorious butt at my eye level?) It is a horror that I must deal with, but one that usually keeps me away from such public (or should I say ‘pubic’) venues.
            For a birthday gift, my best friend gave me a gift certificate to a spa for a day of pampering, a whole seven hours to immerse myself in total self-indulgence, to release the stress that makes most of my limbs go rigid from time to time. It is not something I have ever done before (see above under ‘horror’), so as I register at the front desk, I am a little nervous. And what is the first thing they do? Send me to a huge pink locker room and tell me to take my clothes off. Hel-lo! I am feeling a little stressed here! Anyway, I get as far as the undies – my best high-cuts – and decide they will have to work around my phobia. So I don the mandatory fluffy white robe and head off for my first treatment.
            It starts well enough with the manicure, but as the esthetician prepares for my pedicure, I start to feel wary. I have never seen such an assortment of shiny metal tools of torture outside of a dentist’s office.
            Let me say here that I have always taken great pride in the toughness of my feet. Early in spring my shoes come off and they rarely go back on until after Labour Day. I gloat when I can walk the length of my gravel driveway with nary a flinch. Indeed, I’d put my soles up against Nike’s any day.
            None of this impresses the pedicurist. She grimaces at the sight of thick skin on my heels and callouses on the balls of my size nines. A wonderful soak in hot, soapy water does little to prepare them for what was to come. The small rasp had no effect, so the white-smocked sculptor tries the heavy duty model. When that doesn’t work, she tosses it in favour of a power-operated disc sander. Bits of my feet fly around the room as I watch, bewildered, doubting this is actually good for me. It renders my tootsies tender - and about half a size smaller.           
            Next, the bikini wax. I have been using pretty pink disposable razors to clean up ‘down there’ since I was seventeen, but I have given up shaving for a couple of weeks so there is something to work with.  I hate how the stray hairs are ruffling around the edge of my panties like lace trim, and feel I must apologize to my groomer. However, the warm wax is soothing, and I am just starting to relax while the ‘magic’ paper is applied.
            SHE COULD HAVE WARNED ME!
            Pain rips through my groin. “Don’t even think about doing the other side!” I scream, digging my nails deep into her arm.
            So it’s on to the facial which is, well, gross, and I lament the fact that at this age I still have stuff in pores that needs to be extracted. When I was a teenager, I used to lock myself in the bathroom to perform that little operation. I am left with red welts on my nose and greasy hair that is plastered to my face and neck. Very attractive.
            Half an hour later I pad down the hall with pink paper slippers protecting my raw feet. I am led to a new torture chamber where I am forced to strip naked and lie face down on a high padded bed. “I cannot do the gluteus muscles while you wear nylon underpants,” says the masseuse. “Remove them and slip under the sheet.” She turns before she leaves the room. “I’ll be back.” She sounds eerily like Arnold Swarzenegger and I shudder. Minutes later she is digging her well-muscled fingers into my knotted shoulders and exclaims “my, aren’t we tense!”
            “Why, did you have the bikini wax too?” I snarl as she places steaming hot pads on my back. I raise my hands in surrender. “Okay, I’ll be nice.” Apparently she does not believe me, as she proceeds to pound on me until I am bruised, or my forty-five minutes is up, whichever comes first.
            “Okay, time for your ear candling treatment,” says the cheerful sadist when the abuse finally comes to an end. “Miss Gordon? Where are you going? You forgot to change out of your robe. Don’t you want to get dressed?” she implores as I retreat from the room, still wrapped in a white sheet.
            “Get away from me,” I shriek. “Why do you want my ear wax? Can’t you just buy candles like everyone else?”
            I snatch up a metal tined hairbrush from a tray and wave it at the ghouls who gather to keep me imprisoned.
            “Don’t move,” I growl, holding them at bay as I back out of the salon, my well-oiled feet slipping inside my shoes. “Just stay where you are and no one else will get hurt.”
            I can picture it now. Bruce Willis held by the bad guys, tied to a chair, hot wax at the ready. “Talk,” they say, “or it’s spa time for you, bucko!”