My Life in Spas

My first experience with a spa occurred just after my first novel sold. I booked myself into a spa in a place called Neversink, NY in the Catskills. You took a bus from Port Authority to where you were picked up in a van and driven to a bucolic spot where they starved you to death. Not really but sort of. The place was full of models deemed chubby by agencies like Ford who were on about 250 calories a day and spent most of their time in the sauna talking about food. In fact, everyone at this place obsessed over food and talked about food probably because there was so little food. The most calories you could have during the day was 900 and you had to insist you'd be hypoglycemic if you ate fewer. My roommate had been in residence for a month. She was a zaftig, miserable looking person of about 30 who barely left her room and when I woke up in the middle of the night I could hear her munching something under her covers like a squirrel. It was unnerving and sad but also made me feel slightly better about myself as I lived in Manhattan, was in a 12-step program and therapy and I was depressed. I felt like a Woody Allen character. But, at least I didn't eat under my covers.

Because I was at a spa I took every class offered and did the 6 mile hike in the morning followed by water aerobics, dance aerobics, jazz aerobics, yoga and weight aerobics and more hiking. After a few days a girl came up to me and asked if she could follow me around. "You do everything," she said. "I'm so inspired by you." Well, I wasn't all that nice. I had just signed up for graduate school and my father had called me a loser. I had a book deal but no one even knew I was writing a novel and I was feeling very confused about the direction my life was taking. I wanted a baby and I didn't have a boyfriend, I wanted a career and I was committing to an MFA program that had little status. "My fiancee won't marry me unless I lose twenty pounds," she told me. That did it. I told her she was crazy if she allowed her future husband to treat her so poorly. She agreed and decided to get a herbal wrap instead of joining me on the hike.

After two days of no coffee I got a headache so terrible I thought I had a brain tumor. The yoga instructor made me a bed in a darkened studio, gave me a massage and turned off the lights. I slept for three hours and woke up believing I had found the meaning of life which was sleep. My average night in Manhattan was 4 hours. I was a nervy, caffeinated New Yorker who felt herself competing with models and famous MFA graduates and who desperately wanted her father's approval. Also, I lived above a Greek diner open 24 hours and all night the ghostly voices of the waiters ordering eggs and cheeseburgers and bagels floated up the air shaft so it felt like I was in a room surrounded by thin men in black pants with order pads stuck in their belts. I began to understand the meaning of life was eschewing sugar and caffeine and working out 6 hours a day. Even the squirrel in the bed next to me no longer disturbed my slumber. I was reborn.

The way out of Neversink was a bus stop outside of a General Store. After 7 days of the spa, I went inside and bought a 10 oz cup of coffee and a giant Hershey Bar. Those models were being paid a lot to stay skinny and unhappy. No one cared whether my hip bones jutted forward or my clavicle was prominent. I had one pair of jeans that had fit me when I embraced an eating disorder plus a clinical depression and the very thought of nourishment was anathema. I was no longer that girl. I was a well-rested graduate student with a book deal. 


  1. This looks like heaven. I am always so busy, and so stressed, I think a day at the spa is exactly what I need. I would love a facial, and a massage, and spend a little while in the stream room. I am sure that my friends would be more than willing to join me. I think we could all use a break.
    Spa in Manhattan

  2. Reminds me of when I gave up caffeine. Nothing is worse than feeling that awful and especially when away from home. I actually went on vacation only to get a horrible migraine headache. It was during an eight hour car trip too. I had to pull over and have my wife take the wheel. A horrible thing to deal with.

    Ronni Casillas @ JNH Life Styles


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