Updated: Mar 8, 2020
Photo by Shazmyn Ali for Unsplash
The older I get, the less I want to get wet. I hate to take showers or swim in the pool or the ocean. I find washing the dishes odious, but who doesn’t.
Don’t worry, I’m hygienic. It’s simply that once I get wet, I have to get dry, and that’s a production. I have a lot of surface area. I towel it off and then I’ve got to slather on copious amounts of lotion to hydrate my skin. I use body lotion, sun damage ointment, eyelid cream, under-eye balm, anti-wrinkle liniment, and face moisturizer with sun protection so I can eventually discontinue the sun damage ointment. I should use hand cream and foot cream, but I can’t face it.
My morning regimen is to shower, dry off, moisturize (see above), get dressed, dry my hair, and apply some make up. I’m exhausted before I’ve started my day. Incidentally, my husband’s routine? Shower, dry off, comb hair, and exit the bathroom. Don’t men have dry skin? Is this further proof of the patriarchy?
Aversion to wetness is reason alone for me to not go to Hamptons Float, the flotation therapy spa in Water Mill. At Hamptons Float you float in a salt water solution in the dark to reduce sensory experiences, allowing your mind and body to completely relax. Relaxation sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, I’d have to get wet to do it.
I’d also have to get naked. Another activity I don’t like. The television show Arrested Development has a “never-nude” character. He won’t remove his clothes, ever. He showers in jean shorts. I’m not a never-nude. I’m a rather-not-be-nude-outside-my-house. There’s always a woman in the gym locker room who applies her make up and blow dries her hair in her birthday suit. That’s not me. I keep myself pretty buttoned up.
I realize this column is more personal than you’d like. I apologize for dragging you into one of my stress nightmares.
When I arrived at my Hamptons Float appointment, Victor showed me and the other floaters the facilities. Each floater gets their own room that includes a place to change, a shower and then in a separate section, the tank. It’s not the tank from the movie Altered States. It’s a nicely lit pool, eight feet long and four-and-a-half feet wide, filled with ten inches of water saturated with 850 pounds of Epsom salt. The salt water solution is, according to the Hamptons Float website, more buoyant than the Dead Sea.
Because I’d prefer not to be naked (see above), I brought a bathing suit. I didn’t need to. Each room has two doors that lock. It’s a spa, not a doctor’s examining room. No one is going to barge in.
Victor gave us instructions. They ask their guests to shower before entering the tank but to not use conditioner because the oils get into the water. They provide soap, shampoo and conditioner (for après floating). There’s a handle to hold onto as you step into the pool. There’s a light switch. There’s a foam halo to rest your head on so it doesn’t sink into the water. And there’s a spritzer bottle and wash cloth in case you get salt water in your eyes.
That’s it. You get in, turn off the light and float for ninety minutes.
The other floaters and I must have had concerned looks on our faces when Victor told us the float lasts ninety minutes. When was the last time you did a singular activity for ninety minutes?
There are benefits. The lack of gravity on the body reduces pressure, increasing blood flow and allowing muscles, bones and joints to relax. The magnesium in the salt is good for your skin. About forty minutes into the float, “the brain stops producing its normal Alpha and Beta waves and starts going deeper into a Theta and even Delta state,” according to the website. Victor suggested we facilitate the shifting of brain waves by counting our out-breaths.
Another reason I’m not a good candidate for floating is that as a writer, my brain is permanently Beta waving. I’m always thinking. I entered my floating experience knowing damn well I was going to write about my floating experience. And as Nora Ephron’s mother used to say, “everything is copy.” Including my naked, wet, floating body.
I got in, rested my head on the halo and turned off the light. In my mind, I started counting my out-breaths.
“One, two, three… Can I propel myself through the water by twirling my feet? Twenty-five, twenty-six… Beyoncé’s Homecomingdocumentary was A-Ma-Zing. Fifty-nine, sixty… I wonder what it would feel like to roll over on my stomach like a crocodile?”
That’s pretty much how it went.
Of course, I had to go to the bathroom halfway through. There’s a bathroom across the hall and they provide robes and slippers. Of course, I dropped my wash cloth into the pool. I got out and rinsed my eyes.
I never achieved the Delta state but floating felt like being gently held in the palm of a giant caressing hand.
Suddenly, the lights went on automatically. Ninety minutes had flown by.
Afterwards my joints and muscles were revived, and my skin was soft.
Even though I had to get naked and wet, which I hate (see above), I was relaxed. It was worth the reapplication of all my moisturizers.
East Hampton Press, May 15,2019