I liked what I saw when I walked into Abelyne, a salon near the Court House Metro in Arlington.
A hip decor that features invigorating yellow walls and overize mirrors. Then I was led into the massage room. Small and cramped—with no hooks, hangers, or even a chair for your clothes—it was a cold, white room with glaring light. The massage therapist instructed me to take off my clothes and put on a thin cotton robe and, oddly, a throwaway gauze panty—the kind you wear during a bikini wax. For a massage? Yes, she insisted.
I piled my clothes on the floor. Once in the robe, I realized there was no sheet or blanket on the massage bed for me to slip under. So I waited, seated on the edge of the bed. When the therapist reentered the room, she told me to take off the robe and lie face down, naked except for that small piece of gauze. She would cover me with towels. So much for modesty.
Under the towels, I was cold. I asked for a blanket, but she assured me I’d warm up. The lights stayed fully on, so whenever I opened my eyes, I was blinded.
I could hear every voice and hair dryer outside the door, in the salon. The music—it thankfully segued from energetic pop to Norah Jones—didn’t drown out the voices.
The therapist started well, with soothing strokes. But soon she began digging her thumbs into my feet and calves. The thumb work hurt, and not in a good way. As she continued to drill her thumbs into my back and shoulders and scalp, I asked what kind of massage this was. “Mongolian,” she answered.
I told her the pressure hurt and asked her to ease off. She assured me it was normal to hurt. Maybe in a Mongolian massage. Personally, I think the Swedes have it right.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get less relaxing, she had me sit up to do my neck and shoulders.
At the front desk, I was shocked to discover the hour massage cost $100—more than at established spas. They agreed to honor an Internet coupon for 20 percent off, even though I’d read the coupon wrong. Even at $80, it was too much.