Natural Body Spa & Shoppe

Some kinks in the system, but no kinks left in me.

Natural Body Spa & Shoppe touts a large male clientele, which is why I went. I briefly spied another man when I arrived on a weekday afternoon; otherwise it was all women. By the time I left around six, several men were waiting. Presumably most come after work.

Natural Body is a franchise; the Potomac branch is the first one in this area. (An Arlington location is slated to open in late March.) You enter through the store, wall-to-wall with body-care products—the company specializes in natural treatments.

The spa in back looked like an office suite outfitted in a day by Anthropologie. I was scheduled for a “gentleman’s facial” and deep-tissue massage. The facialist told me to take my “top” off and left.

Should I remove my shirt and leave my T-shirt or strip down to my waist? Was I supposed to get under the sheets and blanket of the massage table?

I removed my shoes and shirt, kept the T-shirt, and stood waiting, annoyed that I wasn’t given specific instructions. On the facialist’s return, she nervously corrected me that I was to take the T-shirt off. Now I was annoyed and embarrassed.

The facial ($80) was wonderful, though—soothing, fragrant, and imparting a ruddy glow.

As I sat in the small waiting area with a female client before my massage, wearing a robe over my pants and socks, two men struggled awkwardly to move a massage table past where I was sitting. Add “self-conscious” to my list of feelings.

This was my first deep-tissue massage ($90 for an hour), a more rigorous form than Swedish. I’m not used to wincing during a massage, but the release after each intense kneading was worth the pain.

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Senior Managing Editor

Bill O’Sullivan is senior managing editor; from 1999 to 2007, he was a features editor. In another lifetime, he was assistant managing editor. Somewhere in the middle, he was managing editor of Common Boundary magazine and senior editor at the Center for Public Integrity. His personal essays have been cited three times among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays. He teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.