|By Deborah Kolben
The Brooklyn Papers
While I dutifully spent last week loading up on
duct tape and Evian in preparation for that looming terrorism attack,
I forgot to prepare for a code red of another kind: Valentine's Day.
So upon awaking alone with a hangover on the morning after my least
favorite holiday (at least this year thanks to an ill-timed split-up),
I decided to treat myself to something special: a day at the spa.
After slipping on my sneakers, I headed to Bay Ridge, where a man
named Stuart proceeded to massage my naked body by candlelight with
the sweet scent of lavender and apricot in the air.
Now this was more like it.
Stuart, of course, was a trained professional and wasn't providing
such a service out of the goodness of his heart. He did, however,
approach his task with vim and vigor, and when he was finished I was
left feeling relaxed - sated, even.
Still, the grim reality of getting more action on the day after
Valentine's Day by a man you hardly know and having to pay for it did
leave a certain sense of, how shall I say impending doom.
But I digress.
I arrived at Pilo Arts Day Spa and Salon on Third Avenue and 84th
Street at the ungodly hour of 9:30 am. That way I figured I could have
my blackheads extracted and still make it to Manhattan to check out
the thousands gathering to protest that pesky showdown with Iraq.
When I arrived at Pilo, which has a salon upstairs and spa below, I
was happy to see that my Bay Ridge brethren - war be damned - had also
crammed into the salon to have their roots retouched and armpits
I knew I had come to the right place. Within seconds of descending
into the spa, the manager had taken my coat, seated me on a plush
couch, and gone to work frothing up a hot, cinnamon-topped cappuccino
just for me.
As a newbie to spas, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. And truth
be told, I always thought that by the time a Russian woman was dipping
my hands in hot wax and wrapping my head in tinfoil, it would mean I
had stepped on one too many toes in Bay Ridge.
But these were mere highlights of my facial. After slipping me beneath
a white sheath, Bella, my Russian-born aesthetician, massaged my hands
with a moisturizer before dipping them into a warm paraffin wax
devised to provide much-needed moisture to those wind-chapped
Bella then began to examine my face beneath a bright light and
magnifying glass to determine what sort of facial would suit me best.
I waited for her to "oooh" and "ahh" over my youthful epidermis.
Bella instead looked horrified.
"Your skin is clogged and severely dehydrated," she said.
"I was expecting something more along the lines of 'soft as a baby's
butt,'" I told her.
While I thought I had been doing myself a service by using neither
moisturizing cream nor foundation, Bella explained I had left my skin
exposed to the elements. And as we know, the elements have not been
particularly kind this winter.
We decided to upgrade the Pilo Signature facial ($70) to a Collagen
Rejuvenation facial ($130), which is best for, ahem, mature and
At Pilo, hot and cold stones are also an integral part of facials;
according to Bella, the iron from the stones helps the products
penetrate the skin. So throughout the cleansing, exfoliating and
moisturizing, Bella rubbed a variety of these smooth ebony stones on
my face, the effect of which was surprisingly relaxing.
The grand finale of the facial, however, was the collagen mask. A dry
cloth made from collagen fibers is applied over the face. Then a
concentrated collagen gel is used to hydrate the mask. That in turn is
covered with a piece of Mylar to keep the whole contraption well
insulated. As a final touch, cold stones are applied to the eye area
while a single warm stone is placed on the chest to keep the body
The overall effect was somewhat robotic in appearance. How I was able
to breathe, I cannot say.
But I will tell you that when Bella was done with me, my skin was
finally as soft and clear as that coveted baby's tush.
I was next passed on to the masseuse, Stuart, for an hour-long Swedish
massage ($80). The details of this are somewhat hazy since I slipped
into a blissful coma once the muzak began, and Stuart went to work
loosening the knots in my back using a combination of traditional
techniques, reflexology and acupressure, paying special attention to
my feet - a service I had requested.
Clients are offered a choice between oil and cream (not for scrambled
eggs as I had misunderstood) but to be applied to their body. Since I
opted for the former, I was led to a steam room and shower at the end
of the massage in order to rinse off the residue.
I spent a delightful 15 minutes in the private steam room admiring my
rejuvenated skin and relaxed muscles. (Maybe I ought to have paid a
visit to the spa a day before ol' V-Day).
Finally, before dashing off to join the throng of protesters clogging
the streets of Manhattan, I downed a quick mimosa in the spa lounge
and stuffed the bagful of signature Pilo beauty product samples
supplied to first-time visitors into my backpack.
OK, OK, so it all sounds like a rather self-indulgent run-up to social
activism. But hear me out: I'd venture to say that depriving yourself
of a Swedish massage, hot wax treatments and expensive lotions, means
the terrorists - not to mention the ex-boyfriends - have won.