Behind the Red Door

Yesterday afternoon I joined a glowing friend of mine for a spa afternoon – the perfect Sunday indulgence. She chose Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door in Friendship Heights, to which I’d never been.

Spas are strange places. It seems to me there’s a lot of effort that goes into relaxing, and sometimes, a lot of attitude.

My best spa experiences in DC have been at places that are dedicated to a truly tranquil environment, where they wrap you in cosy robes with slippers and gently usher you from treatment to treatment as if you were both engaged in some sort of quiet temple ritual. That was my experience once at Christiane in Georgetown, where I was wafted from a massage to a vichy shower to manicure/pedicure so seamlessly and with such hushed reverence I began to have delusions that I was being reborn as Aphrodite.

I certainly didn’t feel like a goddess’s avatar as I was chided twice at Red Door, first by the receptionist and then the nail technician, for committing the ghastly sin of being fifteen minutes early for my appointment.

I had expected to wait, of course, I found myself apologizing, stupidly. The receptionist added to this awkwardness by brusquely gesticulating towards the salon to “go wait on the red couch” – that initial impression was the equivalent of a hard landing, and the place was certainly not busy enough to warrant that as an excuse. I had to find the coat rack, the changing rooms, the water, all by myself, and settled down to wait with no magazines in sight.

It was not a good start. Then again, perhaps it’s my own reticience about the spa experience itself that makes me hyper-sensitive when I arrive – apart from my religious interlude at Christiane, I’ve never been able to truly relax while someone sands and clips or waxes and strips (well, I defy anyone to relax then) away at intimate parts of your body while you are suppose to do the proverbial “lie back and think of England.” I suppose I’m just spa frigid.

But once my appointment actually started, some twenty minutes after my scheduled time, I finally began to relax. Once inside the treatment areas the ambiance is more friendly and inviting. The manicure/pedicure room has about ten large cushy recliners you could easily fall asleep in, with soft music and not too harsh lighting, and everything is wheeled around you delicately. The nail technicians are wonderfully nice people with an ease about them that was reflected in how many clients came in to greet them with smiles.

Our departure was markedly more pleasant than our arrival – different receptionists on duty – which made me rather sad. One bad apple had almost ruined the place for me. Would I go again? Probably for the great manicure/pedicure, but I wouldn’t send a spa newbie without a warning of the potential for receptionist frostbite.

1 Comment so far

  1. Don (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

    For what they charge you should expect greatness. Send them a nastygram.



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