Hadley Freeman Nails Her Description of the Awkward Spa Experience

Beauty treatments, and the etiquette thereof.
Michelle Villett
Publish date:
Social count:
Beauty treatments, and the etiquette thereof.

I'm reading the excellent new book The Meaning of Sunglasses: And a Guide to Almost All Things Fashionable by Hadley Freeman, the London-based deputy fashion editor of The Guardian and a contributing editor for British Vogue. If you like your fashion with a heaping scoop of snark, go buy it immediately.

I'm loving her satirical musings on the beauty world:

"Although one is loath to draw the comparison between the transaction one has with a beauty therapist and that between prostitute and client, it is inescapably apt. Not only has the beauty therapist seen far worse bodies than yours but they're not really looking at your body anyway—they see it as simply that of another client from whom they are getting their next $120. So stop being so self-obsessed; nobody cares but you.


Quite why almost all beauty treatment places insist on having this Indothaijapanesechinajungle mélange has never been fully explained. Maybe it's because there are few things that will make you more in need of another massage than being forced to listen to toucans for ninety minutes and then enduring the embarrassment of seeing your masseuse—typically, a twenty-year-old aspiring American Idol from Detroit—bang some bronze cymbal over your half-naked body.

Possibly it's because the suggestion of exoticism will silence any doubts regarding the efficacy of the most dubious-sounding treatments—it's, like, ethnic, right?—and will imbue the client with faith in the noble wisdom of the Long Island therapist. It is a similar pose adopted by the only other sort of beauty treatment centres: the aesthetically medical, in which every surface is metallic and the therapists walk around in white robes, as if you were about to have a lobotomy as opposed to a citrus-oil hand and foot massage."