I had bruises the day after my first massage in L.A., the result of some heretofore unknown (by me, anyway) brand of stabbing, poking bodywork. At least it lasted only 90 minutes -- my first haircut here took two days.
Physically and emotionally wrenched from our move halfway across the country, I thought the worst was behind me -- the endless packing, triaging 18 years worth of basement clutter, and the ruthless house "stager" who banished my Country French kitchen décor and all of our books to temporary storage while the house was on the market. Nothing could be harder, I thought, than putting down the garage door for the last time and slowly driving away from the home where we'd raised our kids, leaving family, friends and a lifetime of memories 1,600 miles behind. Boy, was I wrong.
Thanks to Hillary Clinton, we all know it takes a village to raise a child. But the mama needs a little pampering, too, lest she wither on the vine. Now, I rarely got facials and manicures. I do love a good pedi, but I had no loyalties there. Groupon, anyone? My allegiance was unwavering, however, when it came to my Fab Five.
A few years back, in the throes of my sandwich generation angst, paddled about daily like a ping-pong ball between my mother and daughter, I affectionately dubbed that little village of mine Team Mary. The Team helped keep me physically and emotionally intact, working the kinks out of my body, mind and spirit, and, of course, my hair.
Over the years I developed close, personal friendships with the members of Team Mary. Except for my therapist Tina, because I'm pretty sure she'd say that wouldn't be appropriate. If it were, though, I'd love to buy her a couple dozen cups of coffee. I'm not looking for a new therapist, by the way, mostly because I refuse to put together another one of those family-of-origin genogram charts.
The others though? Perfect practitioners of massage, chiropractic and hair? It's like trying to find Osama bin Laden. Oh, there are plenty of them -- more of them than Starbucks even -- but it's finding the right one that's problematic.
I should have known the first massage therapist was a no-go when she read my intake forms and asked what a hysterectomy was. And she had no covers on the table so I had to watch my belly jiggle while she jabbed at me with her bony fingers. After that, I went to one of those chain massage joints where they lure you in for 47 bucks. The massage wasn't bad but, like a forgettable blind date, there was just no chemistry.
When it came time for a haircut and highlights, the sheer number of places in our neighborhood overwhelmed me. More than a little intimidated by their high-end appearances and price points -- two to three times what I was used to paying -- I booked an appointment at a hair academy. The adorable student assigned to me was a perfectionist. She put so many foils in my hair that I think I picked up a local radio station. The result was spectacular, but the color took so long I had to come back the next day for the haircut. All told, I spent about seven hours in her chair and never went back. I've had two haircuts since at a salon in my neighborhood. The stylist is okay. Her biggest flaw can't be helped: She's not Michael, with whom I had a psycho-spiritual sort of understanding, the kind that comes from sharing heartache and family drama for years on end. Besides, at those prices, when I walk out of that salon, I want to look like I'm going to the Oscars or at least lunch in Beverly Hills... and, so far, I don't.
I think what I've finally realized is that there's no replacing any member of Team Mary. It wasn't only about the expert massages from Kris and Julia, or Michael's sublime shampoos and blow-dry skills, or even Marty's very specialized chiropractic technique (which I still plan to take advantage of on every visit back). It was about the relationships. Not simply that we had rapport. Rather, we had history. Together we survived health problems, legal battles, car accidents, a fire, and the deaths of parents, pets and relationships. They got me, I got them, and I felt the love every single time. I hope they did, too.
It takes a while to cultivate and nurture such a dream team, so I've decided to take it slow, like an old-fashioned courtship. I'm on my second chiropractor here and I've recently discovered a promising new massage therapist, but finding them has been like pulling teeth... which reminds me, I've got to find a dentist.