I have lived in Mill Valley over thirty years. When I came here "The Serial," by Cyra McFadden had just come out, and I thought I was moving to a place where the biggest stimulation was peacock feathers. I learned that there are wonderful, caring, involved, loving people here, and yes, it is a mix, and we talk about the new people who come and the McMansions they build, and try to continue to integrate as we were integrated when we came.
That said, I must say I read this article and think of the people in the world who do not have enough to eat, and I know there is a level of indulgence in this area that appalls, at times, and I know it's an article, focused on selling newspapers, and still one wonders what we are teaching our children.
It doesn't sound like it is about health. It sounds like it is about making money and creating future customers. I spoke to a young woman at the Lancome make-up counter one day. She was diligently informing me one must use all their expensive skin products, or just check yourself off the planet for negligence, and, she clearly was an ad for their products, and yet, she informed me she could not afford to buy organic foods for her child or herself. Organic is too expensive and a luxury, but overpriced make-up is a necessity. How does that make sense?
Since this is MV, they are probably using organic foods in their spa treatments. It's nuts. Organic nuts, of course.
Girls learn about health, beauty at spa camp
Sunday, August 24, 2008
There's apparently no limit to how far a girl will go in pursuit of beauty, even if it means licking her own feet.
The cocoa-yogurt foot paste on Chloe Jacobs' toes wasn't meant to be ingested, but the all-natural pedicure treatment at Flying Beauticians spa in Mill Valley was, as owner Nona Daron had promised, made of foodstuffs found in an everyday kitchen and as safe to eat as to put on one's exterior.
It didn't hurt that Chloe, being all of 11, was inclined to be a little silly, especially after Daron had jokingly egged her on.
Oh, the things that happen at summer camp - and what a camp Daron ran for tweens this summer in Marin: a "spa campaign," or beauty school that sought to teach girls about health and beauty from the inside out.
While other children were finishing sessions at tennis camp, science camp or Bible camp, a handful of girls in the affluent Marin County enclave - the daughters of financiers, engineers, consultants and the like - were learning about the benefits of footbaths with warm water, lavender and sea salt; honey, sea salt and ground ginger foot scrub; and foot massages with olive oil and avocado paste. Manicures followed on Tuesday, lessons on sunscreen on Wednesday, yoga and meditation on Thursday, and more massage treatments - for anyone the girls wanted to bring in and practice their new skills on - on Friday.
It was the second session of its kind Daron offered this summer - five days of training from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., for $375 per person (lunch not included).
In addition to the pampering, there were hourlong morning hikes and other activities designed to help girls of an impressionable age learn that presenting a confident, attractive self to the world does not revolve entirely around slathering oneself with the latest expensive creams, lipsticks or perfumes.
Healthy and confident
"This camp is about simple things we can do to make ourselves feel good," Daron told six middle schoolers. "It's not about how you look on the outside, it's about the inside. If you're healthy and confident, your beauty will shine through."
Daron, whose mother was an aesthetician in Russia, owned her own spa in San Francisco for 15 years before setting up a second branch in Mill Valley three years ago. The summer camp, she said, is a way to give back to the community. The pricing offsets the closure of the spa to all other customers during the six-hour period.
To Daron's credit, she used only products found in a typical kitchen cupboard, rather than promoting brands sold in her store - with the exception of fingernail polish, "something I can't make myself." She also enlisted the help of Kim Juarez, owner of fitness center Team Lola, to lead girls on their morning hikes and talk about nutrition, and Michelle Lawton, of Stretch the Imagination, to teach yoga.
This was no group of newbies, but a sophisticated bunch of 10- to 13-year-olds. All had received manicures and pedicures before. When Daron brought up the subject of women subjecting themselves to severe discomfort for the sake of beauty, most had already heard about Chinese foot-binding practices. One even knew the various pressure points on the foot that promoted relief of spinal pain.
"How do you know that?" Daron asked.
"I've had reflexology," said May Congdon, 13, an eighth-grader at Marin Country Day School.
At times, the camp operated more like a daytime slumber party, with girls giggling at the prospect of mashing avocadoes and olive oil in a bowl with their feet to prepare a paste for massage.
"Please, don't tickle me!" squealed Chloe Jacobs, 11, a student at Mill Valley Middle School, as Darcy Groves, 11, rubbed a sea salt paste onto her feet.
"I'm exfoliating!" corrected Darcy, another Marin Country Day School student.
Getting the message
As a group, the girls acknowledged that they already are feeling the pressure to conform, both from cliques who ostracize them for no apparent reason and from the media's body image standards.
"I'm a twig," said Ryann Morris, 13, an eighth-grader at Marin Country Day School. "I've always been a twig. It's annoying. Nothing fits me."
But, they added, their mothers try to combat those negative messages with more positive ones, even if the old refrain "It's not what's on the outside, but what's on the inside" elicits groans.
That's not to say that the camp's messages didn't seep in, at least a little.
In June, Bailey and Jordan Chavez, students at Mill Valley Middle School, attended the first session, and they said they had learned much about nutrition and have changed their eating habits since.
"I eat a lot less junk food since then," Bailey, 11, said. "Our family has a sweet tooth. Of course, when you have a sweet tooth you love eating candy. It was hard for us, but we cut down on a lot of sweets, and on the amount we eat."
"I feel a lot better," Jordan, 13, said, "because I know I'm not having all those calories."
At 2 p.m. Monday, however, it was the second round of campers who were busy at work when spa regular Jayne Greenberg, an event planner in town, walked in to make an appointment for a brow waxing.
"Is this closed for a private party?" she inquired.
"No, it's spa camp," she was told.
"Spa camp? I've never heard of it before," she said. "Only in Mill Valley."