Lots of things make me feel weird about my body. Instagram. Bras that don’t fit right. Kale. The war on skinny jeans. Goop. Bikinis. Dropping my phone and making an involuntary “unnhh” when I bend over to pick it up. Still, when I walk into Freeze & Float Spa in River North for the $299 Signature Lymphatic Duo treatment, I had no idea how weird it was about to get.
I’m greeted by Gabby — young, blond, fit, and full of life. She escorts me to the locker room and tells me to take off all my clothes and put on a disposable thong. The last time I wore disposable underwear, I’d just given birth. While I hope the Signature Lymphatic Duo will be a more relaxing experience, as I struggle into what’s basically a tiny modesty square on paper strings that almost snap when I tug them over my hips, I’m surprised to find my current anxiety about the future feels strikingly similar to being handed a newborn.
In the treatment room, Gabby has me disrobe so she can paint me with magnesium spread. Let me be clear: Even though Gabby is a delight, I wasn’t prepared to reveal all my quarantine chub to her in such a well-lit room. But I smile through gritted teeth while she kneels at my crotch and paints my thighs. Once I’m slathered in the housemade compote, Gabby wields a roll of black plastic wrap and makes quick work of mummifying me before inserting me into an infrared sauna, where I tune the Pandora station to Fresh Air and dissolve into a puddle of existential crisis.
Just kidding, I’m still alive when Gabby releases me from the sauna 30 minutes later. She cuts the “charcoal osmotic wrap” off me and, with my sweat still glistening, encourages me to take a naked selfie so I can see what I look like before massage therapist Lana gets her hands on me. I try to beg off but — kids these days — Gabby insists.
Having your ass rolled out with a wooden rolling pin is something to be weathered more than enjoyed. Lana is “sculpting” me with a variety of wooden tools to “dissolve toxins while assisting in the breakdown of cellulite, reduction of swelling, and improving body tone.” As she’s working on my belly, I think that for all the talk of toxins, what this treatment really seems to be about is squeezing every ounce of water from your body so you can look as thin as possible. This might be useful if I were attending a Playboy cover shoot, rather than going home to bed. When it’s all over, I think I’m supposed to be studying my thighs in the after selfie and congratulating myself on how lean they are now or relishing the fact that I woke up three pounds lighter. But instead I feel the weight of a society that tells women we need all this rigmarole to rid our bodies of toxins when perhaps it’s wellness culture itself that’s making us sick.