There's no getting around it. Health spa resorts have this, well, image . But wouldn't it be nice to find out who really goes to them?
Welcome to a dinner table at The Oaks.
* Natalie, who easily could be pegged for being in her 60s, is actually a 74-year-old semi-retired communications specialist from Northern California:
"My sister lives in Sierra Madre, so we meet at Burbank Airport and drive up to the spa four times a year. We usually stay for a week. It just refreshes us both, because we both do a lot of traveling on cruises. Why, I think my sister has probably been everywhere in the world."
* Cindy, a divorced teacher from Agoura in her late 30s, who has two children:
"This is my first time here. It kind of got to the point where I had to do something. When you're not at your job, everything is for your kids. I love them, but you get to the point where you wonder, 'Where am I ? What do I need? Who takes care of me ?' Once I figured out I could afford it, I never once had a bit of guilt. I never thought of it as a luxury."
* Sandy, an athletic-looking woman in her early 30s, who has come from Alaska:
"Actually, my mother lives in Oxnard, and so I came to visit her. But as soon as I got there, I thought going to a spa for a few days would probably be a good idea."
* Margaret, a pretty 34-year-old newlywed from Santa Cruz:
"I have my mother-in-law to thank for being here. Everything was fine until we were married. Then she just started running our lives! I'd get so mad that I'd eat everything in sight. In six months, I gained 30 pounds. I came here a few years ago and lost six pounds in a week, so I'm hoping it will kind of jump-start me back into a fitness routine."
* Bernis, a heavily jeweled Miami divorcee in her late 40s, who wears a pungent perfume she identifies as "Je-van-SHAY":
"I travel to spas all over the country and usually stay at least a month. Sometimes more. Actually, one day I'd like to become a spa writer, maybe for a magazine or a travel agency. Not because I need the money, you understand, but because I know so much about them. As far as The Oaks is concerned, well, it's just not posh enough for my taste. It's a lot cheaper than all the others--not that that matters--and there's a much greater emphasis on fitness here instead of all pampering. But I need, well, how should I say it? I'm leaving on Sunday to go to La Costa."
Uh, could someone please pass the Evian?