All mothers and daughters, having survived the teen years on speaking terms, have things they like to do together. Some mothers teach their daughters to bake, and enjoy an afternoon in each other’s company creating perfect pink icing casings to ensconce their petit fours. Some spin wool to knit lace heirloom shawls to be handed down from generation to generation, while others carve totem poles with chain saws. I don’t personally know any of those sorts of mothers and daughter, but fiction has led me to believe they exist and, since my mother and I have an activity we enjoy together, I have no reason to doubt they’re out here.
My mother and I have spa dates. Not often, mind. Not often enough to be of any use to our relationship or complexions, but there’s something about sweating it out in saunas with the scent of ylang ylang up our nostrils and whale song in our ears that speaks to us on a metaphorical level. We are the family that bury our skeletons under potpourri-scented denial so, imagine my glee when Groupon, purported purveyor of luxury at bargain-basement-multiple-purchasing-power-prices, offered me (and multitudinous others) a half day spa experience for two people at LYF spa in Cavendish.
I’d never actually heard of LYF spa in Cavendish, but it was in Cavendish. Cavendish in Claremont. Where Botox strides the corridors of consumerism in Nicci spike heels. Besides, after years of experience I was certain that places staffed by blackhead extractors with false nails and teased hair were called beauty salons, not spas. Never spas. The word spa conjures an establishment with bamboo floored glass atriums where you can drain your lymph in fluffy cotton gowns while sipping green tea from pretentious Japanese cups. They’re places of escape where, for a few hours and a month’s rent, you can stare out onto the lush gardens and pretend you’re part of an elite class, deserving of the pampering imported in the fingertips of smiling Thai therapists, there to dissolve your muscles and turn your cracked toenails into polished jewels that remind you of sucked raspberry Sparkles.
On the Friday before my mother’s birthday, I decided to redeem my Groupon and dialed the number. Alarm bells clattered in my head at the long engaged signal. I am naturally mistrustful, and believe that if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t. I googled the LYF spa, and discovered that it had closed down. There was a cell number on the website. I dialed that, explained my Groupon situation, and was relieved to discover the LYF’s sister spa, The Knightsbridge in Canal Walk, would honour the voucher. A voucher that promised:
- Pay R499 for a half day spa experience for two people, valued at R2360
- 30-minute full body massage – choose either Swedish, hot stone or aromatherapy massage
- Express facial – choose one of three
- A full body wrap or pedicure
- 45-minute lipo reduction using vibro magnetic energy (Alice and Luna machines)
- A light meal and bubbly
- Use of the sauna
Imagine a scene from SL Grey‘s excellent horror novel, The Mall. Imagine descending stairs into a dimly-lit basement. Imagine being ushered into a filthy changing room decorated in prerequisite spa neutrals and wallpapered in grime. Imagine sticky tiles that have not seen a mop in months. Imagine being told by a therapist to undress and put on one of the dirty gowns hanging forlornly on hooks, help yourself to a pair of the crusty slippers under the bench.
Lying on my stomach with my face pressed into the hole in the massage bed, against a towel that stank of rancid oil, staring at the dirty tiles, counting the dustballs and hairs (praying they weren’t pubic), I fell into a state of shock. Had my mother and I somehow entered one of the nine circles of hell? I wracked my brains: did Dante ever mentioned spa hell in the Divine Comedy? Slathered in seaweed gloop and wrapped in plastic, I was in no state to flee, so I distracted my flight-instinct soaked brain from thoughts of scabies and fungal infections by listing the circles of writhing sinners like a Zen mantra; limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, treachery.
Not much later, after a ten minute massage performed by someone who’d clearly never been trained, followed by a ten minute facial by the same untrained un-professional, we turned down the offer of light meal and bubbly for fear of food poisoning. We were never offered choices, Swedish, Aromatherapy or Hot Stone? One of three facials? The sauna (I shudder to think of the bacterial colonies breeding in it’s warm interior), or the Alice and Luna machines were, to my knowledge, non-existent. Our half day spa experience began at 10am and was over an infinity later at 11.20am, but only because we had to wait 20 minutes for the other “therapist” to finish using the steamer. During that interminable hour and half, I came to this conclusion. Groupon relies on the same concepts as Dante’s first four circles to sell vouchers. Being bored enough to read their offers equates to a kind of limbo, while lust, gluttony and greed inspire the desire to buy group coupons. Upon redemption of said groupon, anger, heresy and violent urges are invoked in the consumer. And fraud and treachery? Well they’re the acts of deception used by 419 scammers and Groupon alike to extract your hard earned cash from you in exchange for…. nothing, I hope.
Groupon is linked to the website for ping back purposes only, and I am in no way endorsing their service – obviously.