The Nervous Guy’s Guide to the Spa Experience

Spa exterior

I’ll let you in on a little secret about myself. Do with it what you will.

I worry a good bit. Maybe I don’t worry as much as my lovely wife does, but then again, I’m not the one married to me.

Still, I get pretty nervous in new situations. I’m better than I used to be, when I was a hot mess. But 15 years of being in media has helped me get past many of the pre-jitters jitters.

I think you need an example. And I’ve got a doozy. Let’s say me, average 36-year-old guy, was given the opportunity to relax – in the middle of a work day, no less – at a luxurious resort spa. And not just any spa. The Spa at Pinehurst — one of the best resort spas in the nation.

For most people, they would’ve jumped at an opportunity like this the moment they were given the green light. Me? I took my foot off the gas kind of hoping the light would turn to yellow.

The Roman Catholic I am, however wishy-washy I may be decades past Confirmation, I knew going in I had enough of a hurdle just to get over the guilt of taking in the Spa while others in my department worked. “Oh, so the new guy gets to the go to the Spa under the guise of gathering a marketing sense of the place. Yeah, surrrre.” That was the line going through my head, over and over in a “Call Me, Maybe” maddening spiral of repetition. (Oh c’mon! This link isn’t nearly as bad as the others! Go

The guilt is no small thing. But I could dumb myself past that. “This is for work.” Say that to yourself enough times, and eventually you’ll become convinced that this is all good.

But there was more. Another lingering feeling.

It wasn’t a “guy thing,” I don’t think.  Or maybe it was. Guys don’t do spas, right? Something like that? We like to think we’re tough, and even if we act like we don’t care who knows it, we want to be considered rugged. A blue collar mentality? We’ll take that, whether we actually have it for real or not. In our heads, tough guys WIN. Larry Bird. Nolan Ryan. Emmitt Smith. TOUGH GUYS.

But that wasn’t it. Sure, I could wax poetic on my pseudo-toughness, but it would’ve been an act. So I’m man enough to say I was looking forward to hanging out in the Spa. I didn’t need a front, some “This isn’t masculine, they’ll take-my-man-card away” kind of thing. No way. I can handle the thought of relaxing in luxury. And I think most men could, too – given the opportunity.

The quiet room. The sauna. The whirlpool. The lap pool. Complimentary smoothies. Bring ’em on. Wait, a robe, too? Sweet. Tough guy or not, these are things that don’t happen very often for guys like me.

But, as I was beginning to see, they could.

Yet I was still worried. Nervous.

Why? Because I’m the kind of guy that needs to relax BEFORE the massage.


I was signed up for the Champions Massage, which you can read more about here. I read that description, too. More than once. And each time I did, the more I got excited about the opportunity. (“This is for work?”)

Until I parked the car.

That’s when the nerves hit me again, and the butterflies decided to break formation. Allow me to break some more news for you: I don’t go to spas often. Like, say, ever. I don’t get massages often. Like, say, ever. I walk into that door, and I won’t know what to do. How to act. Where to go. What to say. That’s my brand of terror.

(“This is for work. This is for work. This is for work. THIS. IS. FOR. WORK.”)

Somehow I managed the courage* to get out of the car, make a walking motion toward the front door – and open it.

*(Yup, this is what “courage” is for me. So that Tough Guy Blue Collar Man Card we were talking about earlier? Well, you get the idea.)

The lobby of The Spa at Pinehurst.

Immediately, everything changed, thanks to Deidra.

Diedra was working the front desk as I walked in. She took my name and eased my pain. She walked me around the lobby, explaining what is where and what to expect. For someone like me, her words were gold. Her smile was infectious.

She spoke slowly, and gave me all the details I needed to know – where to be and when (sit poolside in the common area 5 minutes before your appointment and your massage therapist will meet you there) and what to expect. (I’ll go the locker room first, where Joe will help me with anything I need. I can hang out in the men’s quiet area with the whirlpool and sauna or chill in the common area with a smoothie. “Deliciously delectable,” Deidra said of them. “I recommend one, two, three…or 18. They’re awesome, and they’re for you.”)

The pool at The Spa at Pinehurst.

And finally, Deidra welcomed me to stay as long as I please.

That’s the kicker, right there. This was never meant to be an appointment. This is about an experience. Take your time. Come well before your appointment and stay awhile after.

Deidra angled me toward the locker room. “Your doors to relaxation await,” she said, holding out a hand.

“Oh really, Doctor?” I thought. You don’t know who you’re dealing with here.

I made my way in, more relieved, but not all the way there. Joe showed me to my locker, which was left open and waiting for me, my robe inside. With half an hour before my appointment, I changed and hit the quiet room to check things out. I had time to look around and relax on a chair with a magazine, but I wasn’t comfortable enough to take a moment in the sauna or the whirlpool. And after all, I could do that after. I’d have the time. For me, I had to work up to the massage itself.

Relax like a champion today — at The Spa at Pinehurst.

And so in a few minutes, Abby came out to find me, and led me back to one of the 16 massage rooms at The Spa. There are 28 rooms in all – six more for facials, two for couples, two for body treatments and two with tubs. Abby asked me if I’d ever had a massage before, whether I had any specific ailments that she could target and if I had any questions. She then left for me to get comfortable on the massage bed as she got the materials she needed for the Champions Massage. I put my glasses on the counter and hit the heated bed.*

Beds — never tables — at The Spa at Pinehurst.

*(Yes, bed. Not a table. This was almost the size of a twin bed. Massage tables? Here? Yeah, right. Sure, they may be technically called tables — that’s the term — but this is comfort at its best.)

Of course, because Abby is skilled and masterful at what she does, the massage, which started on my back, was wonderful from the start. Still, my mind was racing minutes into it, because that’s who I am. (“This is for work. This is for work. This is for work. THIS. IS. FOR. WORK.”) I was trying to tell myself to let myself go, to sink into the bed, to ENJOY this, for the love of God.

And then, all of a sudden, I was gone. It just happened. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I did sink. I did let go. I wasn’t trying to determine what song had been converted to the easy listening form it was in then. (It wasn’t “Call Me, Maybe.”) Instead, I was enveloped by senses that don’t make my mind patter incessantly. Butterflies? What butterflies?

It was all gone. Work was far away. Stress from starting a new job was far away. What I had to do tomorrow was far away. Time slowed, and I didn’t feel the need for a clock, let alone my smart phone.

My massage done, Abby stepped out for me to get ready to leave. Satisfied I was ready to go, I opened the door, where she was waiting for me with a glass of water. I thanked her, she said you’re welcome, then asked one last question:

“Did you get your glasses?”

Yeah, I’d say my Spa day worked for me – of all people.

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