Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gone to the ... spa!

By Julie

Today, I used a gift certificate my amazing, supportive husband gave me for Christmas. It was due to expire today, so I didn't have much choice! Last fall, I hinted that it might be fun to get a certificate for a massage or something as a birthday or Christmas gift. I opened my stocking Christmas morning to discover he'd gone whole hog--a half day visit to an upscale spa. Wow! He listened and he put it into action! You can't have him, he's mine.

The certificate had a six-month expiration date. You may ask why I waited so long to use it. Well, my personal life kind of took a nose dive right around that time. My mother was in a serious car accident and the last six months have been spent helping her heal--in the hospital, a rehab center, and finally at home with home health services that recently ended. I certainly NEEDED the spa visit, but I just didn't have the time or energy to go get pampered. How goofy is that?

Also, I'll let you in on a little secret. I was a little intimidated by the thought of spending half a day in an environment that is SO different for me. I am proud to admit ... well, kind of ... that I am a city bumpkin. I've lived in cities or suburbs pretty much all my life, but I am just a low maintenance kind of girl when it comes to this stuff. For me, "pampering" means a haircut every 3 to 6 months (seriously) and highlights noticeable enough to give my hair a little pick me up, but not so noticeable my hair gets the two-level look while I wait a year to get them redone.

But make the appointment I did, and I enjoyed my day just fine--the pampering part as well as the chance to make a fool of myself at every possible opportunity, because I am talented like that.

I guess I didn't do too badly. I find it possible to put on the appearance of someone far more sophisticated than I am when necessary. For a few hours, anyway.

All day, the thought that my blog post was already overdue ate at me a little. I admit it kept my first stop--massage--from being quite as relaxing as it might have been. Well, that and the fact that I find it difficult to lie on my stomach with my face against a thing that kind of resembles a tiny, padded toilet seat. (Yes, Joan, I did just say that out loud.) I was never a stomach sleeper and still have trouble figuring out how anyone does it. But relax I did, eventually, and the whole experience went fine until the masseuse, who spoke in a perfectly normal voice up to that point (when she spoke at all) asked me at the very end, "How you feel? You feel gooood?" In a voice that weirded me out a little. This may be TMI.

I managed to impress the aesthetician with the amount of dry skin she was able to rub off my face. She was not surprised as I informed her right away I'd never had a facial. I am honest if nothing else. I dutifully nodded when she mentioned I should do this treatment every four weeks. Uh huh.

After my massage, facial, and spa lunch, my veneer was wearing thin.

Thus, I was delighted to spend the last couple of hours with a nail tech who was as down to earth as could be. She laughed when I told her my usual pedicure consists of checking to see which toes need another coat of polish before I go out and whether any of them are so long they're hanging over the edge of my sandal, thus requiring a quick snip with the clippers. Yes, I am that girl. After a while, I do have to remove the gunk my method creates and start over. She was impressed that my fingernails and toenails were in great shape anyway. I attributed it to a little lotion addiction, never going barefoot, and not doing enough housework.

After four hours or so, I left feeling relaxed and ready to return to my everyday life.

I said all that to say something about writing. I spent a few minutes at each spa stop thinking about how I could apply it to writing. It finally occurred to me. I spent my afternoon in a place where I'd normally never go, doing things I'd normally never do, and it stretched me. Not in any life-changing way, but still.

This is what we can do to stretch and grow our characters, too, or bring life to what could otherwise be a dull, everyday scene. I'm guilty of letting too many of my scenes take place in kitchens and living rooms and yards--where my characters are comfortable.

I realized that in my current project, some of my favorite scenes to write--and I believe some of the best or funniest or most emotional ones in the story--were ones in which I placed my characters where they'd normally never be.

~My 36-year-old hairstylist forced to eat lunch at the Pitt Grill in the racist hometown she couldn't leave fast enough as a teenager.

~My 16-year-old sheltered Kentucky girl pretending to be grown up in a swanky Newport nightclub or hiding in the shadows of a revival meeting where all the faces are a different color from her own.

~My 89-year-old weary traveler sitting at a rest area in Arkansas giving a terrified mother unexpected advice.

So. What about you? Can you lift your character from the dollhouse you've created and drop her back down in a setting she can really work with?

Without my spa day, I would have been coming up with my blog post from the couch in my family room--as usual.

Photo credit / Unique Hotels Group's Flickr photostream, by Creative Commons license


  1. Congrats for having a husband who listen. And I printed your post, not for the content but for the style of writing. I like how you start sentences with "But", like ..."But make the appointment I did .. But relax I did .." It gives a beat to the words when reading. I want to try some of it in my book. Best wishes.

  2. Ha, and now I've noticed I did it twice within just a few sentences! As well as using "a little" several times. :) I'm glad you took something from it, and yes, I am very grateful for a husband who listens. It makes all the difference in the world to a marriage, I believe. Thanks for stopping by, Giora! We always enjoy hearing from you.

    By the way, is anyone else having trouble leaving comments using a Google account these days? I can't do it at all--always end up using the name/URL combo instead.

  3. Great piece! We as writers need to get out of our comfort zones, and so do our characters. (Hm, can I somehow use this realization to get my own trip to the spa? Must try!)

    Thanks for sharing this, Julie. Great stuff.

  4. Thanks, Jael! I definitely think you could at least TRY for the visit ... for research, right?! You could call your next novel The Spa Daughter. ;-)

    Appreciate you coming by What Women Write. Hope your writing and the book release stuff is going great!

  5. Hi Jael,

    Your book is near the top of my TBR pile. I look forward to reading it!

  6. Favorite line of this post: "Uh Huh" on the facials, LOL! Nice post--I normally don't take my characters too far out of the storyline so next time I'm stepping out of my own comfort zone, I'll take them too! Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Thank you, P.I.! I better take my characters out of their comfort zone long before I get my next facial, huh? :)

  8. Majority of people that have been to a beauty spa will swear to the relaxing qualities they experienced while they were there.


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