Do Something New: Get A Facial

It occurred to me, while I was having my face rubbed with some substance I didn’t bother to look at or question, that I might be the only woman in my family who doesn’t actively, regularly set time aside to relax. When my family was going through financial hard times and we sat down as a family to think of ways to cut back when I was in middle school, I had to point out to my mom that she got weekly manicures, and that could be her way of contributing, and the despair on her face was palpable enough that I felt bad for suggesting it. My eldest sister picked up the habit, too, and does spa weekends with her husband, and has my nephew use a scalp massager on her head sometimes.

And none of that is to mention the naps and chill time my family members take. I asked my middle sister (I’m the baby) if she ever relaxes on purpose, and she said, “Yeah, I’d go crazy if I didn’t chill out at least once a day. I go out hiking or go to the hot tubs or just take a sit and smoke a bowl if I don’t have a ton of time. Meditation helps when my mind’s racing. Sometimes I just take a nap.” This is when I realized that somehow, in the course of our childhoods, I never picked up on something that the whole rest of my family considers completely vital.

Which is why I signed on for doing a facial as a new thing to do. I’ve gotten plenty of spa services in my time, but mostly eyebrow waxing (1. Fuck threading and 2. I have to wax my eyebrows at least occasionally or they start to eat my face). I get mani-pedis for weddings and when my family’s in town, but they don’t seem practical for someone who doesn’t know how to maintain a manicure and picks at her nails as a nervous habit. Oh, and massages, but almost always for injuries.

Facials, on the other hand, are pretty expensive and in no way practical. I can’t justify a facial; I don’t need it, it pretty much just serves the purpose of, well, relaxation, right? Sure, your skin might look a little better, but mostly the attraction is getting to lie back and have someone massage your face, so I can do without it, can’t I?

But really, the core question isn’t whether or not a facial is worth it (“it” being the time and effort and money that it takes to get one), it’s whether or not relaxing is worth it, and whether or not I have earned the right to relax. I wouldn’t know, because it’s not something that I do. I am relaxation-averse.

I relieved myself of some facial-related stress by getting a Groupon, thereby saving money. I opted for Sorelle in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, a combination clothing boutique and full-service salon. The experience was different than I thought it would be, and if I’m going to be totally frank, that’s mostly because I had no idea that in the middle of a facial your aesthetician breaks out a lancet and pops your pimples.

Which I loved, by the way. I mean, the face massage was great; I couldn’t care less what was being applied to my face or why, because I wasn’t in it for the alleged skin-improvement portion of the facial; but the extractions? Just, bomb. Amazing. Loved it. It felt really, really good to be repeatedly poked in the face with a needle and then pinched, and I am completely serious on this point. There was an added layer of cognitive dissonance that I found really amusing resulting from the fact that I was being needle-prodded in the face while soft piano music with birds was playing in the background, and that amusement soothed me.

Which I think goes to show, in the end, that while some of my problem is simply not having learned how to relax and have in result turned into a workaholic mess, another might be that the relaxation methods that have been modeled for me in my life are just not relaxing for me. Mani-pedis make me anxious, a massage for the sake of a massage seems frivolous, I don’t currently and will probably never have the patience for meditation.

But I do like smelling lilac bushes while I’m walking my dog, or taking a walk past bakeries first thing in the morning to smell the pastries baking, or, if I’m having a hard time sleeping, taking a stroll into the bathroom and smelling a bar of soap. I do like doodling flowers and mandalas and labyrinths. I like to go to museums and try to trace every detail of a painting. I go to Lake Michigan very early in the day sometimes and just watch the waves for twenty minutes. I am still finding Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes to be pleasing to listen to, and I listen to it often. I may or may not have a friend who has expertise in recreational asphyxiation, and I may or may not find that to be a tremendous source of stress relief, practiced occasionally (spoiler: I do, on both counts). I like peeling things. I enjoy painful stretching. And apparently, I also like to have my face massaged and then poked with a lancet. To each their own, right?

So was it worth it? Yeah, actually, it really was. It reassured me that maybe I do know how to relax, it’s just that I’ve never called the things that soothe me “relaxing,” and I haven’t set time aside for them because they just seemed like odd little habits of mine that I indulge in for a few minutes here and there, no biggie. And maybe the more I do my odd little relaxations, the more I will think that I deserve to do them, too.


[Image via Shutterstock]

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