MOST TIMES you don't, or at least you probably shouldn't, but . . . Sometimes you feel like a glut. And sometimes -- particularly in these grey, glum, endless months of midwinter, when we humans are prone to toil fruitlessly, frustrate easily, slouch, grumble, shiver and sleep too much -- you just need to do something solely, specifically to make yourself feel better.
Now, get your eyes off that double Oreo sundae for a moment. This "something" doesn't have to be bad for you.
You may have difficulty with this concept, and that's entirely understandable; we are, after all, only halfway through the Binge-Purge Decade. Even the available terminology won't soothe any already sore consciences: Indulge in some guilty pleasures. Spoil yourself. Do something selfish. Give in to your most sinful desires.
Sounds like somebody's going to get arrested, or at least excommunicated.
Indulgence rule number one, then: If you can't afford it, skip it. Go back to work. And by "affording it," I don't mean just money (and not everything in the following digest of doldrum- fighters is outrageously costly, by the way). We're also talking soul: your personal balance sheet.
In other words, if you've been shirkin' and jivin' lately -- and if you feel you've been shirkin' and jivin' -- then you're skimming the wrong feature story. You go near any hot baths or hedonistic massage now and you're just going to disintegrate into self-disgust. You may join a cult or something.
Of course, there will always be some people to whom the word "qualm" is meaningless -- or possibly the proper name for a group of mallards, if they have to guess. This is the pampered-for-the-sake-of-being-pampered population. Do not be seen pricing Jaguars with them.
These are th folks responsible for the rest of us so often finding the word "guilty" in front of "pleasure." They give indulging oneself a bad name.
There should be no bad name for something as basic as coping. BASIC TRAINING
Some of us -- being self-indulgent fitfully, and even then without grace -- need more practice than others. We ask ourselves: How do I pamper myself? Or, more important: Why should I pamper myself? The answers to these urgent questions should become more obvious after you get through the following four-step warmup exercise:
Step 1: Get yourself into hot water. This is the easy part; you can do it at the office, at home, even in the car on the way from one to the other. For instance, write an embarrassing, regrettably petty memo, and accidentally leave it on the office printer for all to enjoy. Or flash a well-deserved but obscene gesture to a woman in a Toyota who turns out to be a long- haired male weightlifter in a snit. Be creative: Put your spouse's new Reebok commuter-shoes in the dryer! Throw away all your 1985 receipts before you've done your taxes!
Nice work. Proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Make amends. Apologize, quit, pay the damages, cry, change your will, move to Indianapolis, whatever it takes. Realize, eventually, that you learn from your mistakes. Wonder, idly, whether you can hire someone to do this for you. Laugh heartily at the latter notion. Proceed to Step 3.
Step 3: Get yourself into hot water. Literally, this time. Your body needs to know you're sorry, too. And the hot bath, which is at least as old as hot water itself, is a cheap, simple salve for a variety of equally ancient pains. These include back problems; other muscular and joint pains; headaches, particularly sinus-related; colds and other congestions; hemorrhoids, of all things; and generic all-purpose anxiety.
Turn on some music -- or the TV, if it's in sight. Despite what you may have seen in various women's magazines, it is impossible to read in the bathtub without making a soggy mess of returnable library materials.
Also, there are a variety of oils and salts available in better stores everywhere (I. Magnin, Bloomingdales, Dart Drug) to make your bath more fragrant and picturesque. It's your body; you decide what to dip it in. (Also, there are some baths -- steam, sauna, Jacuzzi -- you may want to take outside the home. More on those later.) When you finally rise up out of the tub, healed and raisin-like, proceed to Step 4.
Step 4: Proceed back to Step 1. You know, life is oddly similar to what it says on the back of those shampoo bottles, which is:
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It never says when to stop. Use your judgment. FACE FACTS
The facial, the manicure, the pedicure: All accepted ways of pampering oneself -- but oneself no longer need be female.
This is progress.
This is nonetheless still somewhat embarrassing. I would not want to be the guy in the dark suit sitting in the big window at Connecticut and L NW while his cuticles are tamed by a girl barely over her Madonna phase.
Elliott Barksdale, owner of a year-old Capitol Hill hair salon called Profiles Inc., has found one way to ease the reluctance of male customers who'd like their digits tended, their hair permed or colored, or their faces scrubbed, steamed and vacuumed clean -- but don't want the world to know about it.
"The men who come in are serviced in a totally separate area from the women," says Barksdale, who also runs separate newspaper advertisements for his salon -- one aimed at men, one at women. "They can come in, have their hair done, nails, facials, whatever, and leave without being seen."
By women, that is. Or, presumably, committee chairpersons, this being Capitol Hill. In any case, Profiles also has a Jacuzzi and sauna ($8 a half hour each, $15 for both; by appointment). Manicures are $10 and up. Facials, which take about a half hor, are $25 and up; the price includes a 15-minute makeup consultation/demonstration. (For oneself -- which, again, includes both her-
Speaking of facials: Get a recommendation, preferably from a trusted friend who is fond of having her (or his) pores forcibly pried open and hosed out on a regular basis. Around Washington, prices -- and procedures -- vary widely. At Georgetown's Le Chic (338-9584), for example, a facial goes for $40. At the Professional Hair Care school (942-2260) in Wheaton, it's $4 for a steam, cream and towel job -- done, as you should know, by students (who also do $2.50 scalp treatments, which you may well find more relaxing than a facial). FACE THE MUSIC
It's always possible to indulge your ears, cleverly if temporarily, by visiting one of those "high-end" stereo emporiums -- to hear, from your comfortably plush listening-room seat, music the way God meant it to be heard: from, say, a $2,000 Revox compact-disc player through a $5,000 Krell power amp into a $2,000 pair of five-foot-high Polk SDA-SRS speakers. (Substitute your own dream machines.)
Now, this can be a pretty glorious feel-good safari. Particularly if you bring your own favorite CD, thus impressing the salesman.
But be very, very careful.
If you do not enter with the proper attitude -- that of the curious, cheerful but realistic audiophile -- it will only end badly. Most likely as follows: After you thank the salesman profusely for his profuse attention and return home, you turn on your $49.95 Sears Combination Hi-Fi/End Table, and then -- to the sound of tinhorn bass and distorted highs -- take your own life.
The other potentially tragic ending is that you break down and actually buy $20,000 worth of state-of-the-art stereo gear with your Visa card. Then you return home, set it up, turn it on, realize what you've done, and -- to the full, rich sound of lifelike bass, searing midranges and crisp highs -- take your own life. CLEAN HOUSE THERAPY
You can call somebody today and by the time you get home tomorrow, in many cases, your place can be vacuumed, dusted and -- well, clean.
There is a charge for this.
"We have a $40 minimum," says Vashti Sherrod, spokeswoman for Maid for a Day (543-0087), citing a fairly standard daily rate. "It could be more -- like if the bathroom hadn't been cleaned in a year or something, where you want to just blow it up. That could run up to $75. What we do is have a marketing specialist go out and look at what you want done."
Maid for a Day -- which, like most cleaning services you'll find in the Yellow Pages or on the supermarket bulletin board, has never actually blasted a bathroom -- is fully insured and bonded just in case. CLEAN GETAWAY THERAPY
Limousines! Here, there, everywhere, everybody has one in Washington. The president. The first lady. Visiting dignitaries. Your accountant. (Hmmm.) Even you can have one -- minus the Secret Service armada, or the write-off your accountant surely gets away with -- for less than it cost to get your '81 VW out of the shop last month.
We're talking in the neighborhood of $120 to $150 for three hours of mobile luxury, so make it worthwhile. Plan a day or night on the town -- a swing by your favorite restaurants and/or clubs, or your favorite shopping centers, tourist attractions or just a long, romantic drive with a favorite passenger -- and then check the Yellow Pages.
You might find a package deal like the one offered by Arrive In Style of Rockville (770-LIMO), which charges $40 an hour (three-hour minimum) for: a Lincoln stretch limo, a dozen sweetheart roses, a bottle each of Inglenook chablis and Jacques Bonet domestic champagne, a fully stocked bar (gin, vodka, scotch, mixers) and a coupon book good for $200 in savings at a White Flint jewelry store. No salesman will call.
Or you might find that a chauffeur (or chauffeuse) in period dress from D.C.-based Classy Chassis (829-7050) will drive you around in either a 1935 burgundy-and-black Rolls-Royce Landaulette ($90/hour), a 1946 pearl-white Cadillac Sixty Special ($75/hour) or a 1967 Rolls Silver Shadow ($75/hour; all with three-hour minimum).
You never know what you might find, actually. Just don't stick your hand down between the seat cushions.
The driver generally gets 10 to 15 percent as a tip. You get to keep the roses. SWEET DREAMS
There will be no mention herein of any indulgences involving sex. We will skip beyond that, to chocolate.
Washington is nowadays more or less dripping with chocolate shops -- from the familiar Fannie Mae and Russell Stover outlets to such expensive imported-fare emporia as Kron Chocolatier (966-4946) and Godiva (342-2232). But if you want to taste what is currently (and, no doubt, temporarily) the most expensive and fatally rich chocolate in town, stop at Chocolate Chocolate, in the fatally rich Washington Square complex at Connecticut and L (there's another one in Georgetown). And pick out a Manon.
Manon chocolates are handmade in Brussels, heavy on creme fraiche (fresh cream whipped with sugar) and 90 cents apiece at Chocolate Chocolate. For eight pieces in a silver box with a red bow, it's $8.50. A two-pound assortment, $54. You can't get them anywhere else in Washington, and fine. You probably wouldn't want them to be much handier than they already are.
Particularly the Manon Bouchon, named for its cork-like shape and filled with creme fraiche on the bottom and a milk chocolate-cognac blend on top. Two of these and you will feel guilty for a month. Three and you will vote to invade Belgium. MASSAGE THERAPY, ANYONE?
Lacking a massage referral, you might check the Yellow Pages. But do not look under "Massage" unless you are in the market for, ah, 24-hour service. Look just beyond it, under "Massage Therapists."
No, not there -- over a little, and to the right.
That's it. Ahh.
Massage is definitely a luxury, a certifiable indulgence, but even a $35 to $50 hour spent with a properly trained therapist who knows what he or she is doing (and why) will make you think twice about the $75 hour you may have spent with the other kind of therapist -- the one who works mostly on your head.
"I have people who come in once a week, and who make really visible progress -- both in the tension in their bodies, and the way they live their lives," says Bhagwant Khalsa, a masseuse, massage instructor and Sikh who works at Georgetown Body Works on Connecticut Avenue (333-2435), and who can tell after one good look at your prone, largely naked body just how much red meat, sugar and stress you've been fueling it with.
"Deep muscle therapy" (which differs from the more well- known Swedish massage mostly in that it works across muscle fibers) is the specialty of this particular house, founded three years ago by Miraa Joanne Neill, who now also teaches and administers Rolfing -- a more lengthy (and painful) process meant to "re-sculpt your posture."
"In California, where I'm from," says Neill, "the balance between body, mind and spirit is an important issue to most people." In workaholic Washington, she says, people don't always think this way.
If they do think at all about their bodies, she says, they increasingly wind up on the table at Body Works -- or at any number of other legitimate massage centers and therapists around town (most of which can be found through the American Massage Therapy Association at 723-9097).
In any case, after an effective, hour-long massage you will be loose, renewed and (at Georgetown Body Works, anyway) out $40. You may also feel slightly oily, but this, too, shall pass. TRIP I: SOUTH OF THE BORDER
If you're truly serious about indulging yourself, you can always head someplace truly warm this weekend. But expect to postpone the personal-computer purchase for another year as a result.
"Sometimes you can crack a charter in the last two weeks," says D.C. travel agent Larry Frommer, "but it's difficult." Commercial flights (say, Eastern, which flies direct routes from the Washington area to San Juan and Jamaica) are easier to come by, Frommer says, but not the discounted seats thereon. The cheapest seat (the "Q-class" ticket) to San Juan, for instance, goes for a relatively thrifty $310 round-trip, Frommer says -- but most of those seats are long gone. The full-price fares that are left are almost twice as high.
You could always spend much less visiting one of this country's most scenic cities. Maybe you've heard of it. TRIP II: NORTH OF DUPONT CIRCLE
Almost every hotel around D.C. offers either a discounted weekend rate or an actual "package." They are bargains all -- particularly if you'd very much like to trade the chores, the children and the checkbook-balancing this weekend for the comfort and whim-chasing freedom of your very own hotel room in Downtown Capital City. Birthplace of the marble curb, the Ethiopian restaurant, the seven-lane traffic circle, etc.
Consider, for example, what the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue is offering these days as its "Rainbow Weekend," wherein $64 for two people per night (based on availability) gets you: a room in one of the best walking locations around (Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and Rock Creek Park all within a few blocks); a basket of wine and fruit; two Gray Line tour passes; and use of the hotel's Racquet Club (sauna, Jacuzzi, weight room, bike rentals and, in season, an outdoor pool and tennis courts).
The Washington Hotel Association (833-3350) maintains a list of other member-hotel weekend packages in the city, as well as in such magical, far-off spots as Northern Virginia, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Where an added benefit to indulging oneself, as you know, is plenty of free parking.