Dr. Rick and friend John discover the delights of…mani-pedis.
Those who’ve followed my “Shrink Rap” column over the years are very familiar with the theme of good self-care. You’ve read about not only the benefits of taking care of yourself, but the importance of it, as quality self care also improves the lives of those you care about, care for, or simply love. You become a better provider, partner, lover, offspring and parent when your own coffers are full, and your needs—mind, body and spirit—are conscientiously met.
With this in mind, I decided to take this theme into new territory—at least for most men—to explore not just self-care, but self-indulgence, uber-relaxation, rejuvenation, exfoliation. But before we head to the deeper end of this pool, let’s just take a quick moment to explore the word “metrosexual.” Some folks may find it confusing, with narcissistic, oaky, plum-scented undertones and a selfish finish, while others just find it cool.
So here’s a compiled definition, taken mostly from Wiki: the word “metrosexual” was coined in 1994 to describe a man (especially one living in an urban culture) who is meticulous about his grooming and appearance, typically spending time and money on shopping as part of this. The term is popularly thought to describe heterosexual men who adopt fashions and lifestyles stereotypically associated with homosexuals, although, by definition a metrosexual can be gay, straight or bisexual.
In the ’80s, he was found only inside fashion magazines such as GQ. In the ’90s, he was everywhere and he was shopping. In the ’00s, the term became globally popular. Think David Beckham, who has been described on salon.com as “the biggest metrosexual in Britain.” Here I’m using “metrosexual” in its most lighthearted meaning, to refer simply to a man who is interested in, and whose behavior reflects, the growing trend of males who want to look good, feel good and take good care of themselves.
I invited my friend, John Westbrook, to join me for a day of healthy hedonism. I figured this adventure would be great fun with an open-minded pal. He’s my co-facilitator at the healing retreats at my wellness center, and he’s very interested in developing his knowledge and skills of healing, and helping others to be well.
And while both of us care about our appearance, we’ll choose comfort over chic most of the time, veering a bit from the hardcore definition of metrosexual. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a sense of style and want to know we look good. John’s tall and slim with long hair. I’m tall, bearish and bald. But in another show of atypical metrosexuality, we share a belief that while outer appearances may sometimes be important, inner beauty is where it’s at, and we subscribe firmly to the notion that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way. So far, so good.
We didn’t want to just feel physically goodlooking. Or merely mentally well adjusted. Or solely spiritually centered. No, we wanted more.
We wanted to feel awesome. Inside and out.
We needed to discover atypical, metro ways to accomplish this, pushing the boundaries of what guys would usually do, delving into techniques and rituals that some men may be unfamiliar with, and in the process, become living examples of the message: “Hey, it’s OK to want to pamper the body, nourish the soul, feed the belly, uplift the spirit, and just…feel…great.”
It was simply not going to cut it to sit in front of the flat screen and chill out with some decent vino. This day called for diving much deeper into the self-care and relaxation waters.
Our first scheduled stop was lunch for physical nourishment, but John started his self-care day earlier, with coffee at Mean Mug.
John: This is where I can pause and be quiet before my busy day begins.It’s a deliberate reprieve where I can care for my spirit, journal my feelings, and watch the birds scramble for scone scraps.
I caught up with John at an outdoor table at Tupelo Honey. On this day there was a quartet playing in the courtyard; the beautiful music, like the breeze, came washing over us. We ordered big mimosas, ate hearty, healthy sandwiches, and chatted with our friendly waitress, soaking in the ambiance. We were unrushed, and feeling more relaxed by the minute. We were entering the zone.
I suggested that we follow lunch with a little cardio…so we shopped. Actually, we window shopped, casually wandering through Warehouse Row and feeling the vibe of this evolving space, seeing what’s new. Now we’ve worked off lunch.
Next stop: The pampering of the Royal Treatment Day Spa and Salon. The spa offers haircuts, skin care, massages and more. At the risk of sounding sexist, this is the part where some guys are going to raise their eyebrows, while most women will think, “Well, of course!” Ridicule us if you will, but I’m here to tell you—this was freakin’ Nirvana.
There are many spas in Chattanooga but I chose this one because the owner, Rodney, assured me that it’s a place where men would feel comfortable. In fact, he’d noticed that more and more men are discovering the feel-good health benefits of a trip to the spa. Comfort was important to me, because if we felt anxious or unwelcome, how could we relax into a massage? Rodney told no lies. Upon our arrival, a glass of wine got the ball rolling.
John: Speaking from a straight perspective, when men hear the word “spa,” or the phrase, “a day at the spa,” images of women in weird cucumber facial masks, hair wrapped in foil like an alien invasion, and long rows of gossip-ridden seats fill our minds. Here we have our false expectations limiting us. However, on this day, going with a friend, I was totally excited to try some pamperings I was always curious about, but felt awkward doing alone. For the newbie, I suggest getting a friend to go with to ease those social inhibitions the first time.
Dr. Rick: After the first time you bravely make your way into the unknown, i.e., a spa, the unfamiliar becomes the familiar.
John: With those concerns out of the way, I was free to just enjoy. I felt like royalty, like a celebrity. Just the sense of letting someone take care of you is very relaxing and liberating. My favorite parts were the facial and pedicure. Closing your eyes and having your face pampered, receiving the shoulder, arm and hand massage…heaven!
Dr. Rick: Mmm, the facial, surrounded by soothing music, candles and the very subtle scents of the facial “goodies”: melon, lemongrass, mint, chamomile and eucalyptus. These aromas are particularly great to open the airways and relax the body and mind. Then came the shoulder massage. I sort of melted. Then, my favorite, the pedicure…
John: My feet were soaked, softened, scraped, prodded and massaged. Why do we give so little attention to our feet? Mine take a daily beating. The pedicure was amazing.
Those of us who work in the field of “energy healing,” such as reiki, qigong, acupuncture, massage, t’ai chi and other therapies, understand that the head, hands and feet contain countless pressure points that, when activated through touch or certain movements, stimulate the healing process in all systems of the body. This is turn boosts the body’s “electrical grid,” if you will, promoting feel-good sensations and initiating the natural propensity for self-healing. In hypnotherapy and breath-work, we call this calming physiological reaction “the relaxation response.” It’s the opposite of the tense “fight-or-flight” response— and it does feel amazing.
I found it encouraging that our skin care therapist, Jessica, was very knowledgeable not only about procedures for the skin to look good, but several for health, longevity and wellness. Her family benefits from her expertise, including one member who is a skin cancer survivor. And her tattooed, military, tough-guy husband regularly receives hair-waxing, facials and massages from her. If his buddies tease him, his response is, “Hey, my wife takes good care of me!”
It was time to bookend our day with more sustenance. After such a harrowing day, it was now time to re-fuel.
We headed back to the Southside for dinner and drinks on the roof of The Terminal.
John: Ending our day at The Terminal was perfect: good beer, food, conversation, and I enjoyed learning more about craft beer from our very knowledgeable waitress For me, this was the exclamation point on the day’s theme of “You Deserve This.”
I think the most important aspect of a self-care day is awareness of what exactly that means to you, in the moment. Sometimes it may mean a hike or hitting the gym. Sometimes it may mean pampering. Either way, if you truly listen to what you need, then you’re able to care for all of yourself—mind, body and spirit.
John: Taking a day off, stepping back and saying to myself, “you matter,” was just what I most needed. I learned that I need to give this to myself regularly, without fear and without placing silly societal rules or expectations on how that’s done. All I have to do is listen, and respect what I need. I’m a better man when doing that.
So the take-away for us is this: self-care, without worry of judgment, giving ourselves a regular dose of what feeds us—these are good things. Yes, we had to suffer through food, drink, shopping, massages, facials, mani-pedis, more food, all to make sure it’s safe out there for the men of Chattanooga to indulge. But you know, we’re here for you. We want you to live the very best life you can.
To keep this upfront in your consciousness, from Albert Camus: “Life is the sum of all your choices.”
I hope you choose a good life.