My first massage, courtesy of the Mandarin Oriental in Boston, was beyond anything I could have imagined. Save your happy ending jokes, this was better than orgasmic. The only thing to which I can liken it is the last ten minutes of a really great yoga session, where all you have to do is to lay there and feel the peace and relaxation – only this goes on for as long as the massage lasts, and you don’t need to do any sort of strenuous exertion beforehand.
In fact, the only thing I had to do before the session was to enjoy the thermal experience that the Mandarin offers – in the form of a crystal steam room, vitality pool, and a rain shower that washed away any and all worries. But before that, there was the welcoming ceremony of herbal tea and a scented hot towel. Beside a peaceful waterfall, I removed my shoes and slipped on a pair of Mandarin slippers. An attendant brought me back to the spa area and set me up with a locker and a tour of the facilities.
With its soothing lighting (tranquil and soft), sumptuous bathrobes (they knew the way to my heart), and insanely sensual offerings (the showers alone, with their intoxicating selection of body wash, shampoo and conditioner, were a revelation) the Spa at the Mandarin is an expert study in the art of rejuvenation and relaxation. Advised to arrive 45 minutes before my scheduled massage time, I immediately realized the benefits of this as I took a quick shower than immersed myself in the vitality pool. Warm water swirled amid a pulsating stream of hot bubbles, and for this alone the experience was worth it. After a glorious period of decompression, I headed into the crystal steam room for a spell before one final dip in the pool, and another shower (the body wash was just that good). For the last fifteen minutes before the massage, I stretched out in the relaxation room – and a more aptly-named space must not exist.
When my masseuse appeared – a soft-spoken smiling gentleman named Kenny who would prove to be my portal to nirvana – I was already in a state of calm, but I had no idea how much calmer things could get. He went over the process, offered me another cup of tea, and then it was time.
Now, I’m not one who enjoys the touch of strangers. I don’t like the accidental brush in the elevator, and I am adamantly opposed to social touching unless I’m three sheets to the wind (in which case I’m slightly more at ease with hugs and the like). But during the daytime hours, I recoil at contact, and even have a problem with people being remotely within my “personal space”. However, for a massage at the Mandarin, I was willing to suspend my issues, let go of my inhibitions, and simply enjoy the experience for what it was. Well, apparently the wrong people have been touching me all my life because this was the single more enjoyable thing I’ve done in a long time (and I’m selfish enough to partake in a lot of enjoyable things – hello Tom Ford Private Blend).
Between the invigorating essence of the Quintessence oil that was used, the expert maneuvering of the masseuse’s hands, and the over-riding calm of the whole atmosphere, I felt the closest to heaven that humans could hope to reach. I was an instant massage convert, and when it was over it felt like I had done the most addictive and pleasurable drug in the world. Floating back to the showers and vitality pool for one final round, I didn’t want it to end.