Hot stones override principles. Don't tell anyone.

Mother’s Day was yesterday, and my family gave me a gift certificate for a 75 minute hot stone massage. Hot stone massages are maybe my most favorite thing to do to one’s body — but they’re a lot of time and pricey to boot  so I don’t do one every week (as would be my preference).  So, yay!, a hot stone massage. But.        

Oh, but. The gift certificate is for the spa that is associated with Husband’s gym. He belongs to one of those gyms that’s a super center — something for everyone. You know what I mean: daycare, spinning, Weight Watchers, Pilates, swimming, Zumba, healthy snack bar, and the day spa attached. I have used the day spa a couple of times in the last several years, but I had “an incident” last year that forced me to swear I would never darken the doorstep again. But now I have this hot stone massage. Rats. Principles, or stones?        

Last spring, my father in law was presiding over an annual black-tie “man of the year” event in NYC. My husband and father-in-law work in the banking/financial/Wall Street sector, and because of where they came from and who they know, although they don’t actually work together, they know many of the same people and turn up at the same events. So this man-of-the-year thing is an annual event and for years my in-laws have gone and so has my husband. I was never invited (but I wasn’t ever *not* invited, if you understand what I’m trying to say), but at this last one the FIL was presiding and so I was going to go too, along with my sister-in-law and her husband. A family night out, sort of, if your family nights out include tuxedos, the Waldorf Astoria, and a couple of hundred Brazilians. But I digress.        


As part of the cleanup work to make myself fabulous for the event I booked myself a facial at the dayspa — there’s nothing more terrifying than the prospect of being in an evening gown in a room full of Brazilian women,also in evening gowns.( There’s a reason Leo diCaprio hung out with Gisele (and why Tom Brady married her), and why Matt Damon married Luciana, that’s all I’m saying.)    

I’m getting sidetracked again. Sorry. So I headed to the dayspa for a pre-event facial. And while I was there getting that work done, I asked them to *tint* my eyebrows. For those of you who aren’t aware, I am a natural redhead with blue eyes and freckles, and with blonde eyelashes and eyebrows. Actually, “blonde” is being generous — they’re invisible. Hence, the request to tint the brows. I generally use a light blonde brow pencil to color them in, and use brown mascara to put some color on the lashes. (In my house it’s called “putting on my eyes.” As in, “Mom, why didn’t you put your eyes on today?” or “Where are your eyes? I can’t see them today. Did you put them on?”) I have never colored my hair or done anything like that, so I’m very nervous around hair dyes. Just sayin’.    

I should have known that things weren’t going to work out for me when the esthetician arrived. She was of Eastern European heritage and, having spent some time in Leningrad/now St. Petersburg in the early 1990s, I recognized this immediately by the bleached hair and *black* eyebrows (oh, and the accent). Can’t recall her name now, but let’s use Lara. So Lara comes in and confirms that I am getting a facial and the eyebrow *tint* and sits down to begin. After a bit of small talk she says, “You want I wax eyebrow before tint?” to which I agree — seems reasonable. Then she pauses and runs her hands over my face and says, “Ok I do lip also? You need.” To which I hesitate, but agree. Again, I’m blonde on the face — and a mustache has never really been one of my problems. God knows I have others, but facial hair requiring waxing hasn’t really been one of them.      

She’s quiet for a while, doing the brow shaping. As she finishes up the brow waxing and moves south, she pauses again with her hands on my face and says, “I do nose also, ok. You need wax on side of nose.” Um, WHAT? Did she just say “side of nose”? Now, I’m no frequent flier at the esthetician’s office, but I’m relatively well-read and I have girl friends, but I had NEVER heard of this before. I’ve heard of wax in all kinds of awful or obvious places, but never “side of nose.”      

So I’m trapped in this chair, in a dark room, with a woman who has just told me I “need” wax on “side of nose.” I don’t know what else to do but agree. If someone who’s looking up close at your face tells you that you need hair removed from the “side of nose,” I guess you do it. The way I see it, I had no choice. I will skip over the actual waxing, except to say that it was an odd, odd experience. And left me with a nose that, apparently, was hair free. I’m not sure we were dealing with a jungle before that, but whatever. She’s the expert.        

Lara circles back around to the brows to begin tinting. And again, I have a clue that things would not be okay when she says, “Hmmm. I do not know what color to use. You are so light.” To which I practically sit up in the chair and try to pull off the towel that was hiding my hair. “I want them to be close to this color, ” and I point at my  hair. Oh, and I should mention to you — as I did to her — that I had had this very thing done at this very spa a year earlier by someone named Cheryl, so perhaps there was a client card on me with some color information on it?Of course there wasn’t. So Lara starts talking out loud. “Maybe I use some black mixed with auburn.” Again, alarm bells. I say loudly and clearly, “I know that black was NOT used. She used some kind of auburn or red color.” Lara ignores me and keeps mumbling to herself about black and other colors. Finally she says, “I got it. Good color for you. Ok, ” to which I try to clarify, “NO BLACK, right?” and was ignored again. The application commenced.   

She worked on the coating the brows and then continued to clean up my face: lotions, potions, etc. About 2 minutes into the tinting session, she checks and says, “Your brows no holding the dye. Maybe I go darker,” and starts messing around again. Another application, another couple of minutes and she says, “This is very hard. Your brows not liking this color. I leave on longer.”  By now I’m trying to figure out how to get out with the least amount of offense but, more importantly, with my eyebrows intact and invisible — if that’s even possible any more.Finally she cleans up the dye and stands back to look at me and says, “Finished. Very nice,” and sends me on my way. Again, alarm bells — why no hand mirror to check for myself? (Now, this whole day so far has been an exercise in self-confidence and “asking for what you want.” I have to wonder why I am not more assertive in these kinds of situations, but that’s a post for another day.)      

I head to the dressing room.Oh My Heaven. I closed the door to the changing room and a full length mirror faced me. The person in the mirror, however, was some sick cross between Joan Crawford and Lucille Ball (or pick the redhead of your choice. The Joan Crawford reference stands.) I was HORRIFIED. Stunned. Speechless. HORRIFIED. So I started rubbing them with the cushy robe. No change. I pulled my bangs down over my face, got dressed, and went to check out.        

“How was everything today?” chirped the chippy at the counter. “Um, actually, not good,” I said — which of course caused her to stop in her tracks. I guess she doesn’t hear that too often. I showed her my brows and said, “These are WAY too dark for my face. I asked for them to be tinted to match my hair and she gave me black eyebrows,” I was practically in tears.”Oh no,” she said. “It will look fine. The first day is always a bit different — the color will settle down in a day or so. Besides, you think that they are so dark, but really it’s not noticeable. It’s fine.” I just looked at her. On what planet is this fine?   

So I went out to the car, in the daylight, and looked at myself in the rearview mirror. If anything, the sight was more horrifying as it was just my eye and hair — no full face. YIKES. I dug around for my makeup bag, thinking that if I put a full face of makeup on, maybe things would even out. Uh, no. So I decided to go back and fight a bit (yay me).I went back into the spa and said to the girl at the counter that I wanted to see a manager, that I was deeply unhappy with the color job and I wanted someone to fix it. She was all wide-eyed and upset for me, and she scurried off to find some people. Of course, the manager wasn’t there, so she came back with two other estheticians — not Lara — and they all gathered around me for a look.        

Please, notice the BLACK.


“They’re WAY TOO DARK,” I said, and waited for a response. One of the three girls says, “Well, they’re dark but it’s just been done…they’ll be better tomorrow. Besides, look at Denise — she has red hair and dark eyebrows,” and points to one of the girls in the circle around me. UM, Denise is a DYED redhead — olive skin, dark eyes — and her eyebrows are dark BECAUSE SHE LEFT THEM THE HELL ALONE!I turned around and left. Lesson learned.  

(And file this away…the following “treatments” do not work to lighten hair dye: nail polish remover, Sea Breeze antiseptic, and Nutragena Clarifying Shampoo. I was strongly advised by friends, after they stopped laughing, to stay away from home dye removal treatments available over the counter.)  The end of the story is that I went to my “curly girl hairdresser” in the City the day of the event, and after *literally* 12 applications of dye remover, he was able to lighten them out of “black” and into “dirty.” But he was funny — he said, “Oh girl, I saw you coming from yards away. You’re not supposed to notice eyebrows before you see anything else. I’m Puerto Rican and I’m telling you, that’s BAD.”      

(Maybe the saddest part of this story is, to me, that it followed some months after a bizarre massage experience I had in Mexico when celebrating my 40th with a bunch of girls friends. Why am I subjected to the bizarre and incompetent when I go for these “high end” beauty experiences? Again, it’s a post for another time but let’s just say this: I may have a second husband in Riviera Maya who awaits my return. It’s not clear.)      

So I vowed I would never go back to the dayspa again. But  now I have hot stones calling my name. What a quandary — but the upside is that I think there’s not going to be hair dye or waxing involved. Maybe I’ll save my principled stand for a couple of week’s hence.

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2 Responses to “Hot stones override principles. Don't tell anyone.”

  1. Heather Says:

    This was so much fun, Alyson. Loved your children’s comments about putting your eyes on–still has me chuckling. I have to admit, though, that brow looks pretty good to me. I just started having my brows done recently, when I have my hair done–and even with the same colour, it’s a huge thing to get used to. Looking forward to finding out about the Mexico adventure. :)

  2. Will Says:

    As long as they don’t put any stones on your eyebrow’s, go for it. Let’s hope the husband knows better next time to get your massage from the right place…

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