Thursday I played hooky and felt like I was being bad. But maybe being good to mommy actually makes me a better mom.

My friend Andrea is the kids’ editor for Daily Candy in LA. Last week she wrote a piece about the Tikkun Spa in Santa Monica. It’s similar to the Olympic Spa in Koreatown, which I love and where I’ve been going for girl spa days for years, but it’s fancier and ten minutes from my house. The prices are fancier, too, but Andrea gave me a coupon for $50 off. Fifty dollars off! I looked at the menu and figured out that with the coupon, a Swedish massage would cost the same as the cheap Thai massage place I go to on Abbot Kinney, but I’d also get to soak in their green tea bath, sweat in the delicious, detoxifying jade, salt and clay rooms, nibble on trail mix and sliced watermelon—and feel fancy.

Andrea booked another treatment—she wanted to try the hydrofacial—at the same time so we could play mommies of leisure together. She wrote me an email that said, “See you there at noon. I’ll be the naked one.” Like Olympic Spa, it’s a place where you hang out naked, except the hot rooms are coed so you wear these boxy khaki short and T-shirt combos that Andrea said made us look like we were in the Chinese army. In the pool, sauna and steam room, you get to don the cute little outfit God gave you the day you were born.

So we two mommies used our babysitting time to indulge ourselves and, like I said, I felt guilty. It wasn’t just that Aidan was home with a babysitter and I was having a Korean woman rub hot oil into my back. It was more that I was soaking naked in green tea when I should have been putting the finishing touches on Audrey Rose, which is so close to being done I can almost taste the bittersweet flavor of relief plus terror that strikes every time something I’ve been working on for two years is finally cleared off my plate. That’s why I pay a babysitter for God’s sake! But instead of muscling my way through my remaining dialogue issues and plot snafus, I thanked Tikkun COO Niki Han Schwarz for upgrading my massage to a traditional Korean one (“You’re friends with Andrea, right?”) and groaned as my therapist muscled through the granite-like knots in my left shoulder.

Just in case I wasn’t feeling naughty enough, as I was paying for my play date, Harlan called to tell me he’d almost finished reading the draft of Audrey I’d sent him. He said he was diggin’ it and wanted to give me his notes. I told him I was in a basement—the spa is underground—and had to call him back. I couldn’t bring myself to ‘fess up to the massage, probably because only two days earlier I’d used my babysitting time to work through the stiffness in my neck. With my mom only able to stay a couple of hours, I’d blown off the gym to go to the bank and buy cat food and then I realized I was right near my chiropractor’s office so I swung by to lie on the awesome electric massage table she said I could use any time I was in the ‘hood. The person who set me up was Yvonne, the self-proclaimed “neck work expert!” who proceeded to rub the hell (and the knots) out of my neck for half an hour. Then my chiropractor, the talented Pam Dergin, cracked me for good measure.

Two massages in one week felt way too self indulgent. But you know what? I left there feeling refreshed and energized. There was a moment when I was lying on my back and my massage therapist was running her fingers along my face, from my jaw to my cheekbone, in fluttering motions, when I felt my stress and tension melt away like a spoon of honey into hot tea. I actually felt like I was melting. I bet when I got home I was a happier, more relaxed, better mommy than I would have been if I hadn’t dealt with the granite in my shoulders.

And you know what else? My husband is in New York for a month and a half and I’m taking care of my baby by myself. I’m waking up two or three times a night to nurse him and sleepwalking through my days. At the end of the summer I’m leaving Venice, the California sunshine and my family to move to a town where I know no one. I’ve recently rented an apartment there without even seeing it and signed a lease here with a nice couple in my neighborhood who get to move into my house, which I adore and have no desire to leave. And I have this supernatural thriller I’ve been working on for over two years that I just have to fucking turn in already! So, you know what? Mama deserves two massages this week. Mama deserves two massages every week, but she can’t afford it—and God knows she doesn’t have the time.

PS. It looks like I’ll be going back to Tikkun. See, Niki told me she wants to focus more on post-partem treatments. For example, in Korea after having a baby, women sit on this stool with a hole in it over a steaming bowl of mugworts tea. The tea rushes up inside them, toning and tightening the uterus and, um, private parts. And in Vietnam, women put sea salt on denim that they wrap tightly around their waist to shrink the baby belly. She said she has to do more research about that particular treatment, but I told her I’d be her guinea pig any day. Mama wants more spa treatments! Mama wants to feel normal again! Mama’s all over that shit!

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