In high school, I used to drive by a particular shopping center in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, all the time. It had a pet store, a tanning salon, a Thai restaurant, and, perhaps most tantalizing of all, a storefront that proclaimed in huge red letters: AMERICAN BODY WRAPS.
I was a 17-year-old with a goal weight, and I wanted a body wrap so badly I could taste it.
For the blissfully unfamiliar, a body wrap is a kind of quick-fix "slimming" treatment that involves sweating out a bunch of water. There was a brief fad for wrapping when I was a teenager -- it was like the Master Cleanse of its day, and women's magazines were full of breathless stories of inches instantly lost.
This was also around the time Martin Lawrence went jogging in a wet suit to drop a couple pounds and almost died. He's always been a hero of mine, so naturally, I wished I had the kind of cash for an expensive spa treatment that magically removed fat and toxins.
You guys have seen "Notting Hill," right? (Of course you have. If you haven't please throw your computer in the garbage and go watch it immediately, because you are doing life wrong.)
I know we are all anti-diet and pro-intuitive eating, but that part where Julia Roberts says she's been on a diet since she was 19 always makes me laugh, because I have been on one since probably puberty. I know, but, there you have it. I have a glacial metabolism and a love of pizza, and if I don't watch what I eat with a stentorian vigilance, I gain weight like a dairy calf.
Even when I'm exercising for an hour a day with a trainer, my weight goes up and down. It's just my cross to bear. Mine, and Oprah's.
(Of course, when I think of how much I weighed in high school, I want to beat myself with a tree branch. I mean, I was never skinny, and I will never be skinny, and I don't want to be skinny. But I was small for me.)
Anyhow, time passed. I was home from college for the summer and I was going to a party where I was going to see a lot of my high school classmates… including the evil skateboarder who broke my heart. I had this perfect red-and-black sundress that screamed "majoring in having sex at No Longer a Virgin University."
But in addition to discovering the wonders of post-secondary education and boning, I had also begun an intense love affair with Coors Banquet Beer. Sure, I could have had Coors Lite, but my theory was that LIFE was a banquet. Plus I think it was cheaper and had more alcohol in it.
My dress was just slightly too-tight in the Coors Banquet area, and I despaired for a full 13 seconds before I remembered: AMERICAN BODY WRAPS.
I got in my Volvo and drove my not-at-all-in-need-of-intense-talk-therapy-fabulous self down to the strip mall to American Body Wraps. The place was miraculously still there despite being completely empty and a little dusty looking. Inside, I was greeted by 38-year-old gymnast. At least, that's what she looked like. Her name was Suzi.
"I need to fit into a dress," I told Suzi.
She nodded sagely. "Bridesmaid?"
"Probably for the rest of my life," I sighed.
Suzi explained the process and my options. First, you are dry brushed with a stiff scrubber to exfoliate and stimulate circulation. Then, you are carefully mummified in ACE bandages that have been soaked in a warm, proprietary solution (spoiler alert: it's epsom salts).
When you resemble an uncircumcised penis with a face, you are spun in Saran wrap like a spider's prey. But he's not your enemy and he's not here for your blood. This spider just wants to rid you of water weight and lingering self doubt. Maybe he will also eat the skater, if you are lucky.
The last step is the most important: You relax. I mean, you relax under a heat lamp for 30 minutes to an hour while sweating out a decent portion of your body weight. Then you are slowly unwrapped like a depressing present, slathered with a firming anti-cellulite cream and sent on your merry way with the instructions to drink as much water as you want.
The sad thing was, it worked. The dress fit pretty great. And while the skater didn't notice me at all, his older brother tried to hook up with me, which was even better.
I don't need to tell you that this is not a reasonable thing for a person to do. It is also not a long-term weight loss solution. In fact, it is just water weight and lotion. But you do feel somehow lighter and lither, and it did last for a few days for me. And I did look good in that dress before my body collapsed like a soufflé blasted with the cool air of poor-self regard.
I'm telling you all of this because I found myself, 10 years later, with another place to wear another just-too-small dress, and the same idiot brain.
I got invited to participate in a debate at Cambridge (the England one) on Valentine's Day, about (what else?) S-E-X, and of course, I needed a dress.
It happens that I have a perfect, never worn, fuck-me-up-against-a-stack-of-library-books dress. It also happens that it is February and I am still just the tiniest bit "Christmas Fat." And before you get on me about Body Shaming, Christmas Fat is a real, transitional condition that affects the children of Eastern European mothers.
Mine made THREE kinds of lasagna over the weeks I was home for the holidays. If you want to know what a mother's love tastes like, try Ina Garten's five cheese pasta. No really, try it. It is bonkers.
Unfortunately, it is also camping out in my midsection and thighs, which winter and lasagna have conspired to make both dry and lumpen. If I had any hope of getting into this dress without Spanx -- and get baby smooth glutes in the process -- I was going to have to body wrap.
Let me first reiterate: Fat is beautiful. Fat is sexy and great and fine and okay.
The healthy thing to do with seasonal weight would be to diet and exercise, which, duh, yes, I'm doing. But! I just wanted to fit in this ONE particular dress, and I had a week to do so. Idiot home spa body wrapping is a personal choice. Again, it's not a body shame issue, it's a quick fix for a lazy person like me, like putting concealer on my eye bags instead of sleeping more like a normal human being might. And it is my choice, as a private citizen and moron.
I am not suggesting anybody try this. In fact, do not. Remember when I chemical burned my face? Oh, the times we've had, me and my stupid brain and the body it so desperately wants to see destroyed.
There are actually places where you can get this done by professionals, but it is still medieval and so very bad for you. You can get body-wrapped in New York's East Village or Chinatown for relatively cheap (I found one for $75 or so), but the high end wraps as places like Bliss are around $200. I'm not made of money, Bliss. (I'm made of lasagna.)
So I decided I would turn to my old friend, The Internet, and try a home wrap before my trip.
Now, here's where I bring out my favorite old image macro. I haven't used it since, what, the Master Cleanse? I keep this on hand, because I'm a human black hole of despair. Ready?
OK, now that we've got the disclaimer out of the way, wrap with me.
At first, I wasn't going to put a "before and after" underpants picture in here. Because that seems kind of like, weirdly exhibitionist and attention-seeking (HELLO, WELCOME TO XOJANE DOT COM). Also, that means that then there's a picture of me in my underpants on the Internet.
But then I reasoned that if I were you guys, and I'd gotten this far in this batshit post, I'd be like, "Bitch, all of this talk and no before and after underpants picture?" Plus, it was really only a matter of time before pictures of me in the semi-nude turned up online, so why not be in control of it?
So, I compromised, and took some snaps in this orange cashmere vintage-cut Burberry bikini. Let's not talk about why I have an orange cashmere vintage-cut Burberry bikini. Just please assume I make a lot of poor decisions and enjoy my glorious orange camel gunt.
It looks like you can see my pubes in this picture, but it's just shadow. I'm doing a kind of Hitler moustache with them these days and I'm not sure if I like it. Anyhow, here's my floury pooch from the side.
Please ignore my messy room, which was photographed mid-packing-panic. (Although it's fun if you pretend like I recently had wild sex with Waldo.) Note that the lighting makes it look like I have bruised-up heroin legs and that I in fact, do not. Please note also, my adorable noodle gut. Can we call it something cute? Does anybody know the names of any notable Italian soccer players?
I had less success taking a picture of my ass. Have you ever seen a cat chase its tail in a bathtub? Picture something like that, but with a very curvaceous person in a sweater hot pants. God, my poor parents.
Here's what we're going to need.
1) Wrap Materials.
I hit ye Rite Aid and bought my materials on the cheap. Here we have a scrub brush, several feet of ACE bandages, (the non-self-adhering kind works best), and plastic wrap. Seriously, here's how you know this is stupid -- plastic wrap is for preserving food and surprising your husband with a sexy dress that he doesn't notice. We'll be soaking the bandages in this stuff I found called "Batherapy," which has epsom salts and "cleansing minerals." (Read: epsom salts.) Then we have Rite Aid brand firming and anti cellulite cream.
Okay, as tempting as it would be to get hosed and go on some kind of alcohol-and-dehydration induced hallucinatory body image walkabout, it's best just to stick with water and decaf tea. As an idiot, I find the taste of plain ol 'water "boring," so I will be enjoying some Chai. I also have this amazing French orange blossom water and Al Wadi rose water, which you do not chug but mix a teensy amount in to water or tea. It is refreshing and great. I do a dash of each with a squirt of liquid stevia and it's like a fancy artisanal mocktail.
What's a spa without a soothing scent? The scent most soothing to me is pie. I put a little bit of apple pie spice in a pan of water and turn it on low, and my whole house smells like dessert.
I'm afraid of whales, so I like to listen to spa music that goes for the same, mournful effect without making me think of something the size of a school bus touching my leg when I'm just trying to swim in the ocean. Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights," 10 CCs "I'm Not in Love," and pretty much anything by Chicago. Maybe a sad book of poems read by Julia Child, if such a thing exists.
You need to be kept very very warm for this to work at all. I have a space heater that really gets cranking, but I also have a bathroom outlet that blows through fuses pretty easily. Since I have to be in the bathroom for this if I don't want to dribble bath salts all over my house, I'm just going to line my bathroom with tea candles so I can run the space heater with the lights off. I know. I KNOW.
6) A timer.
We all have these on our phones now, right? I decided to try for an hour.
OK, an hour may have been a little ambitious. And by ambitious I mean, stupid as fuck. Here's the thing about draining yourself of water: DON'T DO IT. YOU ARE MADE OF WATER.
At first, I was cold, so I actually put on a wool cardigan and a sports bra OVER the bandages and saran wrap. This is when I began to become extremely Not Cold. Then I started to get woozy. If the murder hotel from "Devil in the White City" had a spa, it would be my house. After about 20 minutes, my vision started to blur.
"This is maybe a bad idea," I thought, getting uneasily to my feet.
All of this, despite sipping on water the entire time. Clearly I did not have enough water, but also, I was making myself sweat in double time. This is so bad to do. People are not dim sum!
Finally, I hallucinated I was Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love" and unwrapped myself from my cloth fetters, throwing in a few extra spins for good measure*.
Here's the sort of good news. The dress fit.
Here's the less good news: Like a day after I did the wrap, I got an email with the dress code for the dinner before the debate, which is black tie. My life is very silly sometimes.
I went to Bloomingdales and bought an occasion-appropriate dress that is much less sexy but actually fits me. I have gained back ALL of the liquid weight in the time between my wrap and today, because, of course. My only consolation is that I have large, distracting boobs, which will probably look great in my casket when I inevitably kill myself trying to give myself a home hot stone massage.
Anyhow, I'm in England right now going over my speech, even though I'm probably irreversibly brain damaged from poaching myself like a damn piece of salmon and will just get up there and stammer about Kafka's motorbike. It should be fun though; one of the other guys speaking is a sex worker who is like a famous naked butler here (I guess that's a thing? ENGLAND!). I'll let you know how it goes.
Happy Valentine's Day. I love you guys so much. Don't ever be like me.
*any spinning was accidental, was very dizzy.