Picture this: naked women of all shapes and sizes unabashedly bathing, gossiping and lounging with each other. I was about 6 years old when I first went to a hammam. These are public bathhouses in Morocco, in which I briefly lived with my family. In Marrakech, bathing at a hammam is a social ritual to which we do not have an exact comparison in America. It most resembles a spa, but not as luxurious as its western counterparts nor as private. Women in Morocco frequent the hammam about once a week and are not as modest as American women at spas. It might be difficult to comprehend a room full of naked women massaging each other's breasts as innocent and devoid of sexuality, but this is atypical scene at a Moroccan spa.
The hammam's main room is tiled and steamy. You can hire a professional bather, but many women scrub, massage and cleanse each other. Amber colored goo is applied generously to the body, followed by a rigorous exfoliation with loofah mitts. Everyone has her own bucket of hot or cold water to douse herself with. Most women and girls are naked, except for some panties. It is quite an intimate activity to share devoid of awkwardness. The women are more accepting of and open about their bodies than many American women. Imagine if you can, a group of naked women not obsessed with cellulite, saddle bags or stretch marks.
The hammams were my first experience at pampering and it left a lasting impression. As a little girl, I mostly remembered the amber goo and how soft my skin felt afterwards. I would often think about the clean feeling I had immediately following a visit to the Moroccan bath. I was dirty most of the time in Morocco from the dust, wind and communal living. Even through the mind of a child, I knew a visit to the Moroccan spa felt more than just about getting clean; it felt like a fresh start.
As an adult, I decided to further my education in the arduous (wink) and highly competitive field of becoming a spa aficionado. I have delved enthusiastically into this area of study, dedicating many hours of research to visiting day spas, traveling to destination spas and reading many complex treatment menus. I have submitted myself to be the subject of dozens of grueling experimental spa treatments. I have been wrapped in chocolate in Mexico, had a gin martini facial in Paris, a rose-petal massage in Thailand and Lomi Lomi in Hawaii. With just a few credits shy of getting my degree, I have my thesis: Pampering is about feeling taken care of.
The stresses of life can be exhausting and we are all guilty at time of biting off more than we can chew, doing too much and subsequently running on empty. In this drained state, we have little to give and often take for granted the blessings in our lives. The act of being pampered is rejuvenating. It is like refueling. Going to the spa is taking care of yourself and allowing someone to pamper you. Spas are sacred temples to renew a sore body, weary soul, a broken heart and a tired mind.
Pampering does not need to be luxurious or expensive to be effective. A natural mineral spring bath can be just as effective as a pricey treatment in Beverly Hills. Even a short pampering session like a pedicure can go a long way to remove the grime of life that prevents you from seeing the beauty that surrounds you. Take delight in discovering new pampering activities and remember, as a goddess, we must always be working on a Phd in pampering!
Mon, April 28, 2008
by Ms. Dolphina