Spa time may rub Dad the right way

June 18, 1998|By Kevin Cowherd

AS A CERTIFIED dad for a number of years now, I thought I knew what guys want for Father's Day.

Oh, emotionally they're prepared to settle for another pair of navy blue socks or a "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mug or a Greek fisherman's cap (although, let's face it, no man should ever wear this unless he is actually hauling in a netful of sturgeon from the Aegean Sea).

But what guys really want are titanium drivers and Orvis 4-weight bamboo fly rods and power washers powerful enough to strip the paint from a '69 Pontiac Le Mans, never mind a puny 24-by-12 deck.

Oh, yeah. And a day at a spa.

OK, that stuns you. It stunned me, too, when Regina Ford first called and uttered it a few minutes into our conversation.

Ford is the energetic Director of Marketing at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City, and she was calling to suggest an afternoon of, um, pampering at the newly opened Spa at Turf Valley.

"A massage, a facial, maybe a full-body polish -- men love it!" she chirped.

"Men love it?" I said.

"Absolutely! It's the perfect Father's Day gift!"

I told Ford I'd get back to her. Clearly, this was not a mission I could handle on my own. So I called my buddy Alan Prell, the King of Talk Radio over at WBAL-AM, to see if he'd come along.

The idea intrigued him. Women are always gushing about how rejuvenating a day at a spa is; this was our chance to go behind the lines, so to speak, and find out what all the fuss was about.

After much soul-searching, we told Ford we'd visit the spa on two conditions.

"No guys touching us," I said. "I don't want some guy named Sven kneading my back."

Not a problem, Ford said. You'll have women therapists.

"And no nakedness," Prell said, adding that while the nakedness of others did not necessarily concern him, his own did.

Fine, said Ford. You'll be draped at all times.

So on a fine, sunny afternoon, we presented ourselves to the Spa at Turf Valley staff, which was kind enough not to recoil in horror.

The first order of business was deciding which Signature Service we wanted to experience.

The $70 Smooth as Silk Body Polish ("The luxury of exfoliated skin from head to toe ... high pressure hose treatment ... a seven water-jet aqua massage") seemed a bit much.

The $70 Floral Essence Whirlpool and Detoxifying Wrap sounded like something you'd have at the Betty Ford Clinic, and we both felt the $60 Customized Self-Renewal Facial was doomed to failure, given the states of our respective mugs.

We decided on the $60 Customized Full Body Massage -- after Prell received additional assurances on the nakedness issue.

To prepare for our massage, we were led to the men's locker room, where we changed into thick, fluffy terry-cloth robes embroidered with the spa's logo.

I could see Prell eyeing the robe and thinking: "How can I get this baby out to my car without being spotted?" Fortunately, he vTC dropped the idea when I mentioned the place was probably crawling with security.

From there we were led to the Serenity Room, an elegant dining area decorated in muted pastel tones, with soft, New Agey, Yanni-type music emanating from the speakers.

Lunch was part of the package, so we scanned the menu. There were crab dishes and chicken dishes and vegetarian dishes listed. But we both ordered the Black Angus Burger, operating on the theory that a man entering the foreign territory of a spa should at least fortify himself with a slab of USDA choice beef.

Both burgers were ordered well-done, because if you don't cook meat thoroughly these days, after three bites you'll keel over into the french fries.

Soon Jerry Tiney, a pleasant guest services agent, announced it was time for aromatherapy and our Sensory Journey.

This involved both of us carefully sniffing seven different scents. The ones we found most appealing would be our "personalized scent" and would be mixed with the oil for our massages.

Prell guessed I would be out of luck here, as there was no scent marked Brut or Aqua Velva. But somehow I did manage to select a scent called, uh, ylang-ylang.

"That was the name of that panda that croaked in the Washington Zoo," Prell said helpfully.

But Tiney explained that ylang-ylang was actually a flower in Southeast Asia, while I pointed out that the panda that croaked was named Ling-Ling or something like that.

When it was his turn, Prell chose a combination of rose, frankincense, bergemot and lavender fleur as his personalized scent.

Though this struck me as overkill, I kept my mouth shut. He's a grown man, I thought. If he wants to screw up his personalized scent, that's his business.

Finally, it was time for the Main Event, our Customized Full Body Massage.

We were ushered into a darkened room with burning candles and two separate massage tables, and told to slip out of our robes and under the sheets.

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