Touch is a timeless truth of spa that has turned into a time bomb. Thanks to the pandemic, we have a heightened consciousness of our hands—where they are and where they have been. We worry about touching ourselves, let alone the touch of others.
And yet the almost magical healing power of touch was instilled in me at a young age, thanks to my mother Anne. At 18 months old, she was struck with polio, and my grandmother massaged her legs every single day with warm olive oil for the next six years. Every single day! She also had swimming lessons to make her legs stronger, and she was brought to the ocean for the healing benefits of salt water. My mother, now 87, still vividly remembers the tall young orthopedic specialist who could not understand why she didn’t suffer the muscle loss characteristic of polio victims. As it turns out, my mother was the only child to walk out of her hospital ward without a brace on her leg.
That’s the power of touch—a power I’m not willing to give up.
So I keep speaking with my spa colleagues who are looking for new ways to safely touch their guests and restore consumer confidence: friends like Jeremy McCarthy, Group Director of Spa & Wellness for Mandarin Oriental, who recognizes our crisis as an opportunity to re-establish our industry “as a place where people are drawn to experience touch, to experience closeness in the hands of a nurturing healer.”
Here are more thoughts from our contributing writers.
To fit the cost of a massage into my monthly budget, I took funds from Peter to pay Paul and accepted the fact that I was fully able to be my own house cleaner, colorist, and hair stylist—but not my own masseuse. Now, while I’m keeping a social distance from everyone, I’ve very much missed my masseuse. So, it’s with a bit of guilt that I divulge how touch-starved I feel without my monthly massage.
In dealing with stress in the pre-Covid-19 world, one might simply run to a massage therapist for relief. However, the knots that people want relieved at a spa can often tighten, as clients weigh concerns of safe-enough touch in the age of Covid-19. Nowadays, a fragrant steam and a 120-minute deep tissue massage might feel downright dangerous—even when social distancing, glove and mask-wearing protocols are observed.
If you’re not taking a little bit of time each day to apply a nourishing body product—be that balm, butter or oil—you’re definitely missing out on one of life’s simplest pleasures. Spend some extra time with your favorite potion, paying attention to how and where you apply it.