What Men Really Want

Elizabeth Khuri is the assistant style editor for West.

For women, pedicures and full-body salt rubs are as essential as flossing. Men, however, must be dragged to their first spa treatments. An hour later, they're converts--as long as the right elements are in place. Men need plasma TVs, blue robes instead of white, darker colors all around, same-room massages for couples, GQ and Cigar Aficionado in the magazine rack, whiskey instead of champagne. At the Kara Spa at the Park Hyatt Los Angeles, men are ushered into private rooms where they disrobe and receive treatments in absolute seclusion. The Argyle Salon & Spa in West Hollywood reserves for males the wood-paneled, 1920s-style, carefully named Executive Men's Barber Suite. There a fellow is swathed in hot towels, warm foam and after-shave oil, free to watch sports and sip cordials. Or beer. And, says the Argyle's special projects director, Kavita Rao, "most guys go for the beer."

Truth be told, even the most enlightened men feel the need to suffer so they can enjoy being pampered; they want to channel their inner Sir Edmund Hillary before they will agree to have their eyebrows plucked. In that spirit, we offer a sampling of spas around the state where guys can be guys:

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The Fairmont Sonoma

Mission Inn & Spa

Why go? Weekend athletes need pampering too

Price: $1,200 to $1,600 for two; including two nights at the hotel and one spa treatment per day

David Erlich, director of spa operations at the Fairmont Sonoma, makes his living taking athletes to the edge and back. "I like the intense crazy people," he says. A sports aficionado, Erlich created a special program called the Extreme Weekend that is a favorite with the guys: They alternate between working out and kicking back. "For an athlete to spend the whole weekend idle is a little unnerving," says Paul Osborne, a Menlo Park-based marketing manager and triathlete who frequents the man-friendly spa. "For me, the ideal would be to get a good workout, come back and enjoy a good massage." Extreme Weekend participants get a high-tech fitness assessment with an exercise physiologist, followed by a dietary consultation and a personal strength-training session. "Then they get turned over to me," Erlich says. Ouch: The typical Erlich Saturday workout consists of a one-hour swim, a two-hour bike ride and a massage or facial, followed by dinner (with recommendations from the nutritionist). "Sunday, we'll do a really cool hike that's pretty aggressive, maybe in Glen Ellen, and after that we would do a bike ride in Jack London state park, and then maybe do a bathing ritual and then a sports massage with a deep-tissue upgrade." (877) 289-7354; www.fairmont.com/sonoma

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The Ashram, Calabasas

Why go? For the pain

Price: $4,000 per week

To call The Ashram a spa would be misleading. And cruel to anyone who believed us and signed up. With rustic headquarters in the Santa Monica Mountains, this pricey program is a dawn-to-dusk, no alcohol, no meat, hiking-intensive boot camp with, let's be honest, no frills. Perhaps it follows that about 40% of the clients are male. "Men don't have time for stuff that doesn't work," says Catharina Hedberg, the Ashram's director.

Andy Goldfarb, a venture capitalist from Boston, has endured the program 10 times in the last seven years and likes the spartan attitude: "They give you almonds to eat during the hikes. If you ask for an extra almond, they say 'No.' I think for a type-A man, there are not many environments that I'm in where people will say 'No' to me."

Guests rise at dawn, hike into the mountains, return for a lunch of vegetarian sushi or raw hummus salad, followed by daily massages. (OK, there is one frill.) In the afternoon they are treated to Pilates, weight training, aerobics in the pool, Watsu, yoga meditation and an all-organic dinner. "Then they pass out," Hedberg says. Spiritual benefit is not far behind, "I don't wear a watch when I'm there," says Goldfarb. "And to go eight days without a watch--it's such a refreshing change." (818) 222-6900; www.theashram.com

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The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Why go? The Beachcomber Foot Repair

for tender tootsies

Price: $575, including surfing lesson

and four treatments

Who says women should have the corner on callous removal? Assistant spa director Aaron Adams, who migrated recently from the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Avon, Colo., learned the rules of machismo pampering first-hand from snowboarders and skiers. "They were super spa crazy there," he says. Now atop a mini mountain of sorts--well, it's a bluff above the Salt Creek surf break--Adams works with guys of a different altitude. Many come for world-class surf competitions, others are recreational athletes, but all are in search of pleasant relief. The typical guest takes a 1{dagger}-hour lesson from Ritz-recommended Pacific Surfing Guides, then enjoys a regimen designed for wave-riders, with treatments such as the California Citrus Body Polish, to soothe parched skin, the Beachcomber Foot Repair, with sea salt and citrus oils, and a deep-conditioning treatment for thrashed surfer locks. And the men keep coming. Adams says there has been a "tremendous increase in the amount of male spa-goers. More males are becoming more spa savvy . . . and looking for facial, hand and foot grooming. . . . It's not their first experience--it's their second, third, fourth massage." And they're not the least bit embarrassed. (949) 240-5020; www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/laguna_niguel

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The Montage in Laguna Beach

Why go? Stress relief

Price: Rates start at $400 for a two-hour

consultation and treatment, but the action-packed, four-day extravaganza costs nearly $9,000

Julie Raistrick sees both type-A executives and athletes-in-training at the Montage, where she is director at the 20,000-square-foot spa that is part of the luxury resort. And for them, she says, "Gentleman's Surrender," as the hotel calls it, is the ultimate capitulation. Participants meet with a spa therapist and a wellness coach--that's a fancy name for a physical trainer--who decide on a menu of treatments that can add up to four days of continuous spa-going. For the CEO, that means lots of hydrotherapy; for the distance runner, multiple massages. Other services include oceanfront Chi Gong, an "Inner Golf" swing assessment, surfing and sea kayaking lessons, instruction on achieving the perfect shave, a gentleman's facial (this differs from a gentlewoman's facial in that it includes shaving products) a simulated road race on a stationary bike with a trained cyclist, a manicure and pedicure and--of course--an evening cigar-smoking session. (949) 715-6010; www.montagelagunabeach.com

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