Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
P/sunny
86°
P/sunny
Hi 87° | Lo 65°

Playing Along, a spa day with Bob Dunn: Relax, unwind, indulge ... Just don’t call it ‘manpering’

  • Bob Dunn gets a facial from Andrea Slowick at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a facial from Andrea Slowick at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a facial from Andrea Slowick at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a facial from Andrea Slowick at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a deep tissue massage from Stephanie Shumway at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a deep tissue massage from Stephanie Shumway at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • "And the big screen TV would go there." <br/>Bob Dunn imagines a Sunday special for men while waiting for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    "And the big screen TV would go there."
    Bob Dunn imagines a Sunday special for men while waiting for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn checks out the remote control for the chair he'll sit in for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn checks out the remote control for the chair he'll sit in for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn checks out the remote control for the chair he'll sit in for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn checks out the remote control for the chair he'll sit in for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Dunn gets a facial from Andrea Slowick at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a facial from Andrea Slowick at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a deep tissue massage from Stephanie Shumway at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • "And the big screen TV would go there." <br/>Bob Dunn imagines a Sunday special for men while waiting for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn checks out the remote control for the chair he'll sit in for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn checks out the remote control for the chair he'll sit in for a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Bob Dunn gets a pedicure from Tracy Zaniewski at Cheryl Nina Salon & Day Spa in Amherst on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

I do not know how to relax.

I don’t mean the “taking things too seriously” or “nothing a trip to the beach can’t fix”-type of temporary inability to relax. No, I mean I’m lacking the necessary skill set to do so.

Take, for example, my habit of obsessively picking the fuzz off the stuffed animals in my crib as an infant and toddler, well-documented by my family and brought up at inopportune and embarrassing moments.

Then, of course, there was the alarming habit of sitting in elementary school and habitually scraping the side of my thumb with the nail of my index finger until it bled.

At the time, I don’t think that little stunt was included in primers for new teachers, alerting them to the off-putting and potentially dangerous things students might do while ostensibly learning.

Those habits were eventually overcome and morphed into more socially acceptable manifestations of anxiety like forgetfulness, avoiding social gatherings, and a complete inability to leave the house in the morning with everything I need.

I’ve tried recommended methods to unwind, deep breathing and meditation for example, both with limited success.

Deep breathing just seemed like slow hyperventilating and after 30 minutes of meditation, I’d wind up depressed for the next few days. Apparently being around me and my thoughts for a half-hour is enough to bum out anybody, including myself.

I also recently realized that I’m not good at indulging myself.

Growing up working-class Irish, we rarely took pleasure in anything that was frivolous or impractical, like expensive clothes or haircuts that couldn’t be performed in the kitchen.

Instead, we were encouraged to derive pleasure from things like stacking a pile of wood or clearing a snowed-in driveway down to the asphalt.

With those memories in mind, I took advantage of the dual opportunities to unwind a bit and indulge in a little pampering at the Cheryl Nina Salon and Day Spa in Amherst after a long couple of weeks at work.

Yes, it’s a tough gig, but I figured I was willing to do it for the readers and, in return, I’d refrain from lame attempts to create new buzzwords by “masculinizing” any terms in this piece like “manpering.”

I arrived on a recent Friday morning and was greeted with warm smiles, soothing music, complementary coffee.

Massage therapist Stephanie Shumway probably had the hardest task which was dealing with a near-permanent knot in my shoulder that I’ve taken the liberty of naming Hank.

Hank is a cretinous boor who has overstayed his welcome, I told her when she asked if there were any trouble spots that needed addressing.

When Shumway asked what level of pressure I felt comfortable with, I knew enough not to just answer “medium,” because that level of vagueness is not helpful to the therapist and is something everyone says out of sheer lack of knowledge of a better answer.

“Medium, I guess,” I told her.

The space at Cheryl Nina seems designed for warmth and comfort — it’s all hardwood floors, direct sunlight and quiet music. I was led to the therapy room to try and send Hank on his way, and told to lie down and stretch out face-down on a padded table, under a warm blanket. I was advised that if I should fall asleep, that would be perfectly OK.

Rarely do I get permission to nod off during working hours.

Shumway told me that most muscle stiffness is the result of lactic acid building up in the tissue, requiring stretching, kneading or pressure to break up those pockets of acid and release them back into the bloodstream for expulsion.

That release of toxins is also why it’s recommended to drink extra water after a massage, to help flush them from the body.

Hank is tenacious, but Shumway gave him his due, using pressure from her forearm, elbow and thumbs to try to send him packing.

She got him on the ropes, and a loud crack when I stretched my neck told me he’d seen better days and will think twice before bugging me again anytime soon.

Of course, 20 minutes won’t permanently get rid of him — my girlfriend works her poor hands to exhaustion several times a week trying to do so — but it was a good start.

Next up, Tracy Zaniewski, an aesthetician and nail technician, tackled my feet.

Honestly, aside from chiseling away at the nails a couple of times a month, I really don’t pay much attention to my feet. I figure clipping nails and letting the warm soapy water on the floor of the shower each morning do its thing is all the maintenance they require.

The chair where the pedicure was performed is now my new number-one “want” for the house.

It reclines and massages and has a spot on its side that would be a perfect for a cooler or small refrigerator.

Attached to the base is a metal basin with running warm water to soak your feet in that reminded me of something the Romans would have built if they were into constructing electric massage chairs instead of frivolities like language and government.

I suggested a flat-screen television hung on the wall opposite the chair would make the experience complete and maybe attract more male customers, especially during football season.

Zaniewski told me that having a professional tend to one’s feet is beneficial for those who are prone to ingrown nails or find it awkward or uncomfortable to do their own pedicures.

I was a little nervous when I sat down and saw the tools that were going to be used. Some of them, with their with curved sharp tips designed to get under a nail and scrape out whatever doesn’t belong there, looked like dental instruments, others like woodworking implements designed to scrape off old varnish.

Considering the look of the instruments and the lack of attention I’ve given to my feet, I was surprised to find that Zaniewski’s work was actually very gentle.

Years of neglect were cleaned up without so much as a wince on my part and my toenails were buffed to a polish-free shine that made it a shame to put them back into my socks and ratty sneakers.

But, days after having had all of the detritus removed, I still felt like I was walking around in a brand-new pair of cotton socks, so there’s that.

My last stop was aesthetician Andrea Slowick who took on the collection of pores and blemishes I call a face.

Her workspace seemed a bit like an alchemist’s lab with all manner of concoctions and potions at her disposal.

Some of the applications seemed more like ingredients for at least two courses of a meal than a spa treatment, including grapeseed oil, acai berry and dark cocoa.

Slowick started off using oil and steam to open up the pores so she could get down to the extraction, which she said is her favorite part.

The extraction is exactly what it sounds like, a process of gleefully finding stuff in the newly opened pores that doesn’t belong there and getting it out by any means necessary, usually by exerting pressure around the blemish.

And yes, it stings some, but enduring that earns one the next step which is a mask created from, among other things, no small amount of dark cocoa which feels and smells like having cold chocolate mousse gently applied to your face.

The mask, Slowick said, contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that help the skin recover from the rigors of extraction and cools and moisturizes it as well.

The only problem with having soft feet, clear pores and a greatly demoralized knot in my shoulder is that I’m now a little preoccupied with ruining all the hard work that was done. It’s like worrying about scratching your car after it’s been detailed instead of just enjoying how great it looks, no matter how fleeting.

I know, I should just relax.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.