The nail-salon Express Back Massage
Yes, I know it’s a bit of a misnomer getting a back massage at the nail salon, but these days the nails salons are all shoving clients in some little shoebox round the back that’s no bigger than the massage bed, and charging next to nothing for a massage, waxing, goodness knows what else.
Me, I’m waiting for the day they offer to register my property at the Land Registry while I have a quick mani-ped. But, actually, knowing the speed that my property developer works, I could probably have a mani-ped-facial-full-body-massage-eyebrows-and-fake-eyelashes job along with highlights, a blow-dry and a weekend in Oman while they do that.
But anyway, back to the back massages in the shoebox rooms.
Personally, I really like them. True, they lack the finesse of a five-star spa. There’s no standing on ceremony when you enter the shoebox: none of that ‘here let me wash your feet’ and ‘sniff the oils to choose which appeals most to your aura today’ or ‘please strike the golden bell with the diamond wand when you’re ready, ma’am’ stuff.
If you’re lucky, the therapist growls, ‘off the top and bra. Loose the pants,’ before holding up a threadbare towel that’s seen more 90˚C washes than I’ve seen bottles of red wine, so you can have some modicum of privacy as you lie face-down on the bed.
But, as I said: only if you’re lucky.
Incidentally, if you’re expecting some sort of orchid or exotic pebble-in-water arrangement to view through the hole in the massage bed, forget it. The best you’ll get is a view of the floor tiles and, if you look closely, the dead skin flakes or even pubes of the last customer.
So there you are, face-down and expectant, waiting for the tiny little Filipina to start when you hear her rub her hands together, crack her joints and then she jumps up onto the bed, straddles you and crushes the breath out of you as she does what feels like a handstand on your back and walks down your spine on her hands.
It’s usually at this point, I find myself back-tracking. Is it possible that little Joy, who’s no more than five foot nothing, left the room and Arnold Schwarzenegger came in? Because the strength of those hands does not match what I saw as I took off my bra.
Anyway, Joy/Arnie then goes on to iron your spine flat, literally squeezing the life out of you as she works out the kinks gained from working at the computer / slouching over the iPad / driving 100 miles on Emirates Road every day. And then she finds these little elastic bands that connect your vertebrae and she pulls them up and let them flick back, like rubber bands. It’s weird, but it’s good. You’re just aah-ing with the sheer joy of it when her able thumbs find that high-tension cable that runs from neck to shoulder and they start to dig. And boy, do they dig. And dig.
At first the pain is welcome. Ah yes, bring it on. But then Joy/Arnie doesn’t stop, that thumb is digging and you’re writhing on the bed and the high-tension rope is clicking under her thumb and she’s saying ‘very tense madame’ and you’re thinking ‘thank god no-one’s under the table to take a picture of my face’ because you’re biting your lip and squishing up your eyes and clinging onto the table in agony but not daring to scream. And you know it’s all good for you. They never inflict this kind of pain in a five-star spa.
Then it’s over and Joy (amazingly, it is Joy, not Arnie) asks you to sit up, boobs to the a/c, and she digs her fingers into the crevasses below your shoulder blade. Who knew how badly you needed that? She yanks back your shoulder, rams her fist into your shoulder blade and makes you feel amazing in a heartbeat. Then out comes a steaming hot towel and she’s massaging your neck with it and you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Finally, she wipes off all the oil with the hot towel – none of that arty-farty ‘leave the oil on your skin for as long as possible, ma’am’ shit the five-stars give you. Have they ever sat on the leather seats of a car that’s been parked in a car park at 40˚C with oil on their skin? (Let’s just say, the nubuck interior of my old Mercedes never recovered).
And there we have it. The best AED 100 (£15) you’ll ever spend on yourself. And a fifth of the price of most of the fancy spas here. I should do it more often.