As soon as the last leaf falls, I book my monthly visits to my primary stress reducers: spas. Out comes the calendar and my favorite little brochures and I spend the very early morning looking at spa websites and sighing, already feeling much more relaxed. Spring bulb catalogues used to help, but spas are a miracle drug.

If I can't spend the winter in Paris, I've decided to indulge myself, and so I booked an entire morning with the skin care gal and hopefully a masseuse who has hands that could relax the muscles on Hercules.

This place has a two-page form that asks so many questions I almost got discouraged filling it out. Prior to getting a massage they ask: "posture assumed most of the day" (stooped), "exercise habits" (none), "areas of tension" (relationships with my family and ex), "areas you would like extra time spent" (in bed), "what do you expect from your massage today?" (miracles).

The desk manager read my answers with a puzzled expression. "Ms. Faiola, areas of tension has to do with your body," she explained politely.

"Oh, okay, just fill in all areas," I said mournfully.

She continued, "And the areas of extra time spent refers to what areas would you would like the masseuse to spend extra time on."

"Oh, okay, same as above, just fill in all," I said, sighing.

She smiled gently and dialed an extension and a very tall woman came out and looked me over.


The giant said, "Come with me, I know exactly what you need."

One hour later I felt like an overcooked noodle and as though I was in another world, and someone had to help me find my coat. I've booked Helga once a month for the rest of this decade.

Closer to home I've discovered The Spa at Groton Wellness, my newest favorite thing! The gigantic soaking tub is large enough for the backstroke and, oh my, what they can do with hot stones and two soothing hands!

Next stop, the hairdresser. Most women over 50 have a noticeable little bird's nest with a hollow center, smack dab on the top of their head. This nest delineates the place where they rest their heads. As you get older, you seem to lie down a bit more, so naturally, that spot gets a little deeper and more obvious. It's also the Bermuda triangle that shows every strand of gray taking over your scalp.

The first thing I do every morning when I brush my teeth and review my crow's feet is to wet down this area and comb over that nest. I don't want anybody to think I'm getting older. As long as I can pretend everything's the same, I can make it through the day. Now, where the heck's my comb?