Why don’t we speak up when having a beauty treatment? Why do we reply "that’s fine" even if the massage is bruising or the products are stinging? Why are we rendered compliant and polite - voiceless - even though we’re paying for it?
We’re not the only dumb people: it happens even to the beauty professionals. "A therapist asks if the pressure is OK and we always say yes. I know, because I used to ask and no one ever said 'no, it’s not right, can you please be firmer?'.’’ says Katie Waggott, who now runs a beauty website. "I hear people talk of fear of massage because someone went too hard on them. Why do we lose our voice?’’
I have no good reason to lose voice. Yet a recent treatment at an ambitiously upmarket and expanding spa was so substandard that a pathetic pantomime ensued in which I became a guileless performer. It was a hot stone massage. The stones were lukewarm, they were placed in the wrong places and the therapist spent more time struggling with the towel switching than providing therapy.
I tried to indicate non-verbally that the massage was missing the bits that needed touch and that the bed was uncomfortable. I angled sore parts towards her, wriggled a bit, maybe let a sigh escape and, finally, submitted to the dreadful monotony, composing to-do lists to stop myself leaping up and yelling ’’Enough!’’ But why? Why didn’t I just say the word ’’enough’’ non-dramatically? Or even ''can you try this instead, please?''. Why did I put up with ineffectual, frustrating, time-consuming twaddle? The therapist was useless and I was under no obligation.
I think it's because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She was nice and she was trying. I thought, it might get better. When it didn’t I was so worn down I felt speechless. When it was over, I threw on my clothes and fled, throwing platitudes to the proprietor over my shoulder. They’ve never been in touch.
Katie Waggott was similarly speechless during her hot stone massage, though the outcome was much worse. "At first I thought 'OK, the heat will dissipate in a second… OK, it hasn't… Ow, what do I do? I'll twitch!’ so I proceeded to twitch a little thinking she may spot my uncomfortable body language. No. That didn’t work. 'That feels a little hot…' The therapist removed the stone and then seemed to put it right back in a minute. Am I being silly? Just deal with it. It’s not that hot. So I did. I dealt with it. She scraped over my bony ankles, bashing the stones together as she went. Oh when will the torture end?! It took six hours for the red mark to start to die down.’’
Are you malleable during beauty treatments? Do you put up with it when something’s wrong or even damaging? Has the beauty cat got your tongue too?