When I was growing up, the word spa was used primarily in mittel-european novels to indicate small towns in Switzerland or Germany where aging philosophers met tragic, beautiful girls with TB. The whole concept of spa seemed as charmingly dated as the idea of taking the waters. But the spa principle has now become ubiquitous: airplanes have spa cuisine and people go on spa vacations, and I recently got a mail-order catalog for spa clothing. Spa Water is a best-selling brand.
A rather hip youngish person I know told me she just needed "a little bit of spa" to feel okay. And when I said that I was off to Sedona, someone asked whether I was going "for work or just to kind of spa away the weekend." Men with tough corporate jobs who play tennis hard on their rare days off told me about particular spas they've been to, and one mentioned he'd given his son a week at a spa as a high school graduation present. The kids at the elementary school my godson attends recently exchanged spa stories at recess--to the absolute horror of his mother.
I could never quite understand what people did at spas. I was beginning to feel ignorant, constantly excluded from conversations on whether Golden Door was more opulent than Canyon Ranch, and, competitive as I am, increasingly concerned that I might be aging more rapidly than my contemporaries. I decided it was time for me to check out the spa scene.