Mother and Daughter-in-Law Day at the Spa: A Tale of Two Opposites

Freelance writer Samantha Jonas-Hain decided to take her mother-in-law to the spa for an early Mother's Day gift. While Samantha loves to be fussed over, her mother-in-law was hesitant to participate in such frivolous indulgence.

Here is an account of both of their experiences, and proof that a day at the spa is a good gift for most moms — especially if you're there to share it with her.

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Samantha's Take

I am a spa person through and through. I love the pampering. I love indulgence. I even love the Enya CDs that are unceasingly pumped through every massage room in the Western Hemisphere.

And while I might sound haughty and spoiled, I do note that my job as a fashion and lifestyles writer has helped to facilitate my love of the finer things. After all, driving around in Bentleys, becoming the human bon-bon at the Hotel Hershey's famous chocolate spa and wearing millions of dollars worth of Jacob and Co. jewels can certainly skew a gal’s perception of fun.

My mother-in-law, however, is at the opposite end of the extravagance spectrum. Modest and low-maintenance, she is the kind of selfless woman who truly would rather give a present than receive one.

So she was less than thrilled when I suggested we do a mother-daughter spa day at Long Island’s Rodolfo Valentin, a beauty oasis that typically caters to the affluent and self-important.

It took three phone calls and some serious finagling, but somehow I managed to get her to the point where she wasn’t terrified of doing something so uncharacteristically decadent.

In an attempt to ward off any brooding on her part that might lead to a cancellation, I booked the appointment for the following day. I knew she was uncomfortable about being fawned over, but I really wanted to give her a few hours that were solely for her own pleasure as well as a glimpse into a part of my world.

When we arrived at the spa, her fear was immediately diffused by the marble columns and lush floral arrangements. We were soon escorted to our respective changing quarters, where she was still in awe of the European opulence of the balcony and artwork, making the hard part of getting naked underneath a bathrobe less daunting.

We were taken upstairs to the quiet area, a circular room covered in canopied draperies and home to leather loungers. Our masseuses Barbara and Lilliana came out to greet us, giving us ice-cold wine goblets of water.

Reluctant to take a glass that she hadn’t poured for herself, I was surprised my mother-in-law didn’t run in the other direction. But she looked over at me with a shy smile and followed Barbara into her massage room, as if she knew how much this meant to me and didn’t want to let me down.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to enjoy my treatments, knowing that my mother-in-law felt out of place, but then I remembered how she hesitantly allowed me to take her for a manicure once and seemed utterly blissful.

As soon as Lilliana started my salt scrub, my worries faded. Her gentleness was unparalleled. She made rough exfoliant feel like body oil and weaved my massage into the treatment so I needn’t get up and go into another room.

The only downside was that it was only an hour long, as opposed to the usual two hours, but I specifically asked for it to be shortened so that if my mother-in-law didn’t enjoy her massage, she wouldn’t be waiting around for me.

To my surprise, the opposite was true. I sat alone sipping my water as she took an optional steam shower after her massage. She came back into the room looking so uninhibited and relaxed that I had to do a double take. Was this the same woman who had said “No” 10 times before she squeamishly acquiesced to a day at the spa? How was it that she was now agreeing to steam showers and a manicure when yesterday she made me promise that we wouldn’t spend more than an hour inside the spa?

I sat next to her as she soaked her hands in a glass bowl filled with marbles, looking as if she were 16 years old getting ready for the prom.

Even though my services were over, I had the most wonderful time talking with her and laughing about how nobody who knows her would believe what she had just done.

And though I’ve been to dozens of spas and had countless massages, manicures, pedicures and scrubs, I can honestly say I never felt as relaxed as I did while watching someone far more stressed than myself receive her due pampering.

Mom's Side

“That’s so not me," I told my pretty, young, exuberant daughter-in-law when she suggested we go to a totally high-end spa for some decadent self-indulgence.

I AM NOT A SPA LADY. I don’t go for manicures. I often color my own hair — even chop off recalcitrant strands when they don’t seem to lay right, much to the dismay of every professional haircutter I have ever known.

If I own any designer items, you can be sure they are knock-offs, and if I wear bright sparkly jewels, you can be certain they are “fabulous fakes." The whole idea of getting naked and being worked on by someone’s “magic hands” terrifies me. I am sure the massage lady is secretly measuring my butt so she can describe it to an incredulous audience of other masseuses as soon as I am out of earshot.

My daughter-in-law, however, can be pretty persuasive. She shot down every one of my objections, and pooh-poohed all of my excuses. She came to pick me up, and continued to tell me why I have to learn to indulge myself, why I need to be kneaded, why a massage, a steam shower and a manicure would be a life-altering experience, or at the very least a time out from my busy schedule.

I had my doubts. I had my trepidations. I had my anxieties. I was sure I would be unmasked as a reject from "The Beverly Hillbillies" as soon as I walked in the door.

But once I fell through the proverbial looking glass, I was sure that, like Alice, I would never be the same. As I was ushered into the dressing room, in a setting replete with flowers in Grecian urns, Roman statuary and beautiful furnishings that seemed to be courtesy of Louis XIV, I felt like I had stepped into a fantasy world.

I was told to remove all of my clothes and to come out swathed in a luscious robe. If it were not for the sensuous robe, I would have had a hard time believing that this wasn’t my gynecology appointment — women like me don’t take off their clothes unless it is for a yearly checkup.

Well, it was totally awesome. Once I got past my initial self-consciousness and preconceived avoidances, I had only one regret — I was sorry I could not grow another extremity for Barbara to massage. I gave myself over to the process and emerged to recline luxuriously in a sinfully comfortable lounge chair while I sipped ice water from a crystal goblet. No champagne I have sampled ever tasted this good.

The steam shower, the fluffy towels, the nozzles pointing in all directions, the dispensers featuring shampoo, conditioner, soap and other lotions and potions were all sinfully marvelous.

Finally, my surprised and shell-shocked fingernails bathed and soaked in warm delicious suds as Maria, my manicurist, made my hands look like they belonged to an heiress.

My consciousness had been raised, my expectations exceeded, my fears quieted. It will be hard to associate getting naked with a gynecology appointment ever again. I can see myself lying in the stirrups saying “What, no sparkling water in a crystal glass, no luxurious robe, no lounge chairs?" Give me an hour at the spa anytime.