You all know how much I love wacky spa/beauty treatments. Nothing against a nice aromatherapy facial or Swedish massage, those are lovely, but my taste runs a little more toward the outré. The experience is really what draws me, more than the potential effects. Once, I read in a magazine about a “Past Life Regression Massage” treatment available in NYC, and I actually flew there just to do it. (Well, I also got to visit my bestie, James, while I was at it.) Basically, a massage therapist massages your feet while a hypnotherapist sits by your head and tries to get you to recall your past life. It was a hoot and half, and I don’t even believe in past lives. And then, there was the “Mayan Experience” treatment in Playa del Carmen, where you lay in a hammock and a girl in a traditional dress lays on the ground underneath and kicks you in the back. All I could think the whole time was how that girl was going to go home laughing that night, saying to her family “Guess what this crazy Gringa paid me two hundred bucks to do to her!” So far, I’ve only found one weird spa treatment that is just too out there for me, and that is the snake massage in Israel, where you get naked and they drop a big tangled cluster of about a dozen snakes on your back and let them unwind themselves and crawl all over you. No thanks. I would never stop screaming. But, flotation tanks, flesh-eating fish pedicures, bird poop facials, Korean herbal hoo-ha steam treatments…bring it.
Well, imagine my excitement when I found out that, right here in San Francisco, we have the only genuine, certified Thai “face slapper” in the U.S.! Oh yes, you read that right. Face slapper. Her name is “Rassameesaitarn New Series World,” but she goes by “Tata.” She and her husband, Mawin, run Face Slapping Natural, where Tata will use her extensive training, and the back of her hand, to slap the years right off your face.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Several of my friends offered to slap me for free when I told them I was doing this. Fernando even offered to pay me to let him take a shot. But, none of them are certified by the master in Bangkok, so I had to make an appointment with the real thing. And I am so glad I did! From the moment you walk through the door at Face Slapping Natural, you know you’ve entered another world. It’s a festival of bright colors and mirrors, with giant images of Thai elephants in yoga poses. Tata herself is a work of art. Petite and soft-spoken, she wears lamé MC Hammer pants with t-shirts, and each time I saw her, she had on a different headdress, each one rivaling a Rose Bowl Parade float. The first one had about five full-size stargazer lilies on it, and a gossamer butterfly that was as big as an open volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The one pictured here, with the parrot, was the fourth and final one, and I wasn’t even sure for a minute if it was a real parrot or not. (It’s not.) Oh, and she wears a surgical mask all the time, because she has allergies.
You have to pay five dollars for the initial consultation, and they mean it, they collect that fiver up front. But once you hand it over, the two of them take it to a big box in the center of the room that has holes cut in it like swiss cheese, and say a Thai prayer over it, drop the five dollar bill into the box, and bow. Then you can begin.
The actual treatment takes place in a special, mirrored salon equipped with TVs, on which Mawin plays whatever music video Tata is feeling that day. My first time there, it was Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and something by Justin Bieber. So, you sit on a tree stump stool, Tata stands behind you with her hands on your shoulders and fixes your gaze in the mirror. When she’s ready, she gives Mawin the signal, he turns on the music, and she starts to bounce…and then dance around you…and then bitch slap you to the beat of the music. I swear, I will never hear “Single Ladies” again without flinching. But once you get used to it, it isn’t bad. She has a definite technique, and it doesn’t hurt as much as it’s just kind of jarring. She uses the back of her hand, not the open palm, so it doesn’t sting, and she is very careful to use the fleshy side of her hand over any boney areas, like your brow bones.
For me, Tata said I needed “contouring” more than wrinkle reduction, so she concentrated most on my chipmunk cheeks. By the fourth session, she was really letting me have it. And you know what? After I finished my four session slapping series, a number of people asked me, without prompting, if I had lost weight, saying my face looked thinner. Tscha. Just sayin’. And Tata says, if you rinse your face with cold water every day, the effects should last a year. Not bad, considering Botox is only good for a few months, and costs way more! Ahem…or, so I’ve heard.
Anyway, at the end of my last session, Tata asked my permission to draw my eyebrows in better, because she said their sparseness had been bothering her. So, she drew me some honest to goodness Thai-brows to match hers, but that kind of made me look like a maniacal ventriloquist’s dummy. But, I thanked her for them anyway. As I was leaving, Mawin told me to check back with them soon, because Tata is going back to Thailand to get certified in “Butt Punching,” to firm and shape the derriere, and to prevent what Mawin called “Cellu-butt.” If that’s not a real word, it should be, because it’s about as disturbingly graphic as someone promoting butt punching services could hope for. So…you know I’ll be back.