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Fri 5 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Some like it hot: H2O male spa

Damian Reilly takes it like a man at the Emirates Towers hotel.

Damian Reilly takes it like a man at the Emirates Towers hotel.

It's an odd experience for a heterosexual man; being covered in oil in a dimly lit room and rubbed by another man. By all means, be as cool as you like about it, but it is. Sure, you can lie there, as the mood music plays quietly in the background, trying to convince yourself you're as relaxed as a sloth. But forgive me when I tell you that you, sir, are lying.

Because beneath that ersatz facial expression, the one you have contrived to denote deep inner calm and higher Zen awareness, the one you are pulling to demonstrate to your masseur that you are not only very much enjoying what he is doing, but are completely at ease with it, there lies a brain hair-trigger keen to anything that might constitute ‘improper touching.'

And what is improper touching, in there, with the warm hands? In fact, what is proper touching? Man alive, the boundaries become blurred on the massage table.

And this isn't the first massage I've undergone. It's perhaps the fifth (an ex-girlfriend had a mania for two-for-one rubs). I've used these sessions wisely, to develop a coping tactic, to normalise the event.

I call this tactic ‘talking.' Make me lie naked on a table, with only a towel for protection, then come at me butchly with the baby oil... you will find I become as chatty as a game show host. There are so many questions.  How long have you been doing this? Isn't it a lonely job? Where have you practised before here?

Have you ever laid hands on anyone famous? The last question is my favourite. Because, invariably so far, the masseurs who have rubbed me have done what they do to someone incredibly well known. The masseur in the Aviation Club in Garhoud, for example, once rubbed Muhammad Ali. That put me at ease immediately; good enough for the Greatest, good enough for me. The one at the Shangri-La has done Al Gore. He seems like a sober man.

The one at the One and Only, a frustrated contemporary artist, had done some of the world's leading tennis players. Jim Courier's physique, apparently, belies preternatural strength. But we talked mainly about his artistic ambitions. He ended up emailing me reproductions of his work.

I didn't arrive at the H2O male spa at the Emirates Towers hotel in the mood to talk. I arrived incandescent with rage, ready to rumble. Girl trouble. A once-in-a-year fury.  Stalking into the dark reception, the trickling of discreet water features, intended to be soothing, was as nothing to me. Nor the piped music. All I could hear was the blood in my ears.

In the changing room I pulled my clothes off with the kind of sulky rage of which the Incredible Hulk would be proud. I flung them into a locker, put on the absurd paper pants, and the heavy brown robe, and went to meet my masseur.

I was signed up for something called a Detoxifying Body Wrap treatment. I had no idea what this really entailed. This is what the note from the kindly PR man had told me it would entail: "A refreshing fusion of rice bran oil, green tea leaves and extract.

reamy coconut and crisp lemongrass forms the basis of this deep cleansing skin treatment. Enjoy a brisk full body exfoliation before being cocooned in the warm clay mask and left to relax as the ingredient gently removes toxins from your system. Finally, let the exotic cream moisturising lotion leave your skin looking and smelling wonderful."

That is PR gobbledy-gook, of course. I am here to tell you now what it did entail. First, I was rubbed briskly with something like grit. All over my back, legs, and front. This was cool with me. Kind of macho. Painful, yes. Certainly painful

 But somehow cathartic. "Not too painful?" my man enquired. No, no, I told him, I didn't realise you had started - do it as hard as you like. He did, for about ten more minutes. When I had no skin left, he told me to hop in the shower. I did. This stung. Again, of course, I was cool with it. Still furious, mind.

Now I lay down again, and he began rubbing hot oil into me. My face was comfortably positioned in a specially made hole in the pillow. This is a design that could work well for actual beds. Owing to my position, and the fact I had my eyes closed to internalise my rage, I could not see how this oil was dispensed, nor heated to the point of lava.

After this, something with the consistency of clay was smeared all over me, both with hands and a spatula. I believe it was, in an actual fact, clay. Pretty hot already, I was now zipped into the sort of bag in which corpses are removed from the scenes of, say, murder or terrible calamity. Then the table upon which I was lying was switched on. For this, it turned out, was no ordinary table. This was a hotplate.

I lay there, for another twenty minutes, sweating like rotten food, while my face was delicately fondled. I, of course, was fine with all of this. The face fondling was actually rather brilliant. Momentarily, I was distracted from my one and only thought: "How could she do this? How could she do this?" I drifted off into a sort of mad reverie.

Then another shower. I've never felt cleaner. Skin is dirty stuff - I didn't have much anymore. And then out. Out to fight new battles; to make advances and losses in the relationship war.

The H2O male spa is a very claming place, even for the near-psychotically deranged. For the balanced, it would be a nirvana. If you go there, and I recommend you do, ensure your matters of the heart are in order first, and then sign yourself up for the wrap treatment. You won't forget it. Just don't pretend to me you are completely cool with it.

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