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Man, this is why spas rule

A nonmetrosexual goes in for a tuneup and emerges a cleaner, less hirsute believer.

By RICK GERSHMAN
Published April 28, 2006


SOHO

When I arrived for my Monday morning appointment, one of the first things the aesthetician did was offer me a beer.

This, I realized, was my kind of assignment.

Actually, it wasn't exactly assigned. A co-worker had suggested I write about enjoying a couple of services at what I like to call a "manspa" - a business with salon and spa services for men only, from hairstyling and skin care to massages and pedicures.

Visions of algae wraps danced in my head. This was alien territory. I've never been the "metrosexual" type. I like my hair messy, my face unshaven. My gym regimen is often more off than on, and I'm okay with my love handles - more room for the beer.

But I do look young for my age. My skin looks pretty good. And just as experts suggest, I try to drink at least one glass of water for every beer. By my estimate, that means I must drink close to 50 gallons of water a week.

Only once before had I set foot in anything like a "manspa." It was the Grooming Lounge in Washington, D.C., where I and several other members of a wedding party went in for a straight-razor shave.

Here in Tampa, the Capelli Salon on S Howard Avenue offers similar services. It markets itself as an upscale barbershop with some spalike services like facials, hair removal, nail care and massages.

Capelli would be my first stop. The second would be the Difference on Henderson Boulevard, which unabashedly markets itself as a full-service day spa for men. Owner Tait Kmentt is the only man you'll find working here: His all-female staff does all the grooming essentials and more, like wrap you in mud or algae or massage you with hot rocks.

To avoid eating up the Times' entire expense budget - our policy is to pay for all services - I chose to try just two treatments, one at each venue.

At the Difference, I planned to get the 55-minute facial, which also includes some massage elements.

But first, at Capelli, I would get my back waxed.

Heidi Hapanowicz was the Capelli aesthetician who, I presume, drew the short straw. She offered me a beer - part of the package, she explained.

"For a waxing, most people like a beer or wine first, to take the edge off," she said, "especially because people tend to be a little nervous the first time."

I figured if Heidi's going to be dealing with me with my shirt off, she's the one who needs the beer. But hey, if it's part of the package, right? I called my editor to ask if I should accept it.

"Rick, it's 11 a.m.,'' she said. "I don't think so.''

Ah, well. It was worth a shot.

Heidi, photographer Joseph Garnett and I went into a room and I took off my shirt.

"Normally you'd lie down on your belly, but you don't have a lot of hair, so just sit up," Heidi said.

True, though I'm a little furry in front, my back typically just has some soft hairs near my neck and shoulders and between my shoulder blades.

Heidi trimmed some of the hair with a razor, applied the wax to a spot, pressed paper onto it and without much warning - it's better that way, she said - RIP!

Actually, it wasn't too bad.

Heidi just kept zipping and ripping along, and overall it was entirely tolerable. A little uncomfortable, sure, not unlike when I got small tattoos.

Granted, had I let Heidi make a run at my chest hair, I might have been cursing up a storm just like Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But luckily I'm nowhere near as plushly carpeted as the comedian.

Heidi said she doesn't mind a man with some chest hair as long as it's not too heavy, "but hair does not belong on a back."

She broke out the tweezers and plucked a few assorted hairs. Again, it really wasn't too bad. She cleaned my back, put on a little lotion and suggested that I later buy a loofah sponge.

Scrubbing my back with the loofah would help to ensure I don't get ingrown hairs, she said. On the other hand, adding a loofah to my shower caddy might officially make me a girl. So I'm still wrestling with that one.

My first "manscaping" experience over, I paid Heidi $50 for the waxing, then headed to the Difference for a facial.

Monday generally is a light business day at most salons and spas, but a few guys were getting treatments. Certainly it was hard to miss Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles getting a pedicure.

But I tried not to stare. This guy had 99 tackles in 2005. I didn't want to be his first in 2006.

Tait, the owner of the Difference, gave Joseph and me a quick tour of the place, and then we met my aesthetician for the facial, Jill Trevithick. So I was 2-for-2 on attractive women with hard-to-spell last names. As if "aesthetician" wasn't hard enough.

Jill had me take off my shirt, shoes and socks - turns out I'd be getting a little hot-towel action on the tootsies - and lie on my back.

From that point forward things get a little hazy. You can't exactly take notes when your eyes are closed and someone's rubbing various cleansers and lotions into your face. Plus, when Jill got around to massaging the knots in my shoulders and in my arms and feet, my already-iffy concentration skills took a nosedive.

Speaking of noses, that was one area where Jill noted I was "congested." I thought I was breathing fine. Turns out "congested" means your pores are full of crud that needs to come out. So Jill - and at this point I'm thinking Heidi didn't have it so bad - started doing "extractions," squeezing out blackheads and the like.

Not long after that, I kind of lost track. But it was really nice. I generally recall that Jill put various lotions on my face, swathed my head and my feet in a nice warm towel, massaged my temples, popped my knuckles and just generally made me feel heavenly.

Total charge for the facial: $70, plus I tossed in a $10 tip. At which point I realized I had forgotten to tip Heidi back at Capelli, an oversight I need to rectify before putting my follicles in her hands again.

And yes, I said again. After my two treatments at Capelli and the Difference, I'm sold.

My skin looks and feels much healthier days after the facial. To me, it would be worth the money to do that every few months or so.

My back looks better with the hair cleared away, and so far I've had no itching, no soreness, nothing but nice, smooth skin.

So now I understand what women dig about the day spa experience. I know that a little grooming and pampering can't hurt.

Maybe next time I'll go for a pedicure. If a guy with a Super Bowl ring likes it, how bad can it be?

But I might have to draw the line at the loofah.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 813 226-3431. Or discuss his manspa experience on his blog, The Ill Literate, at www.sptimes.com/blogs/tampaarts.

[Last modified April 27, 2006, 12:25:47]


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