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First, Intern, Do No Harm

One woman, four semi-invasive amateur treatments.

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Illustration by Peter Arkle  

Procedure No. 1: Acupuncture
New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
13 E. 37th St., nr. Fifth Ave., fourth fl.; 212-685-0888
Two stoic, lab-coated acupuncturists-in-training sat around a table during my entry consultation ($35), listening intently as their duo of jovial instructors asked me about ailments and bodily functions and laughed (a bit too skittishly, I thought) at my admission of nicotine-gum-induced jaw pain. After adjourning behind closed doors to discuss my course of treatment, the crew returned and announced jubilantly that the needles would be placed “in the limbs!” An instructor applied the needles on the right side of my body while an intern tackled the left only slightly more painfully. The outcome: My jaw soreness subsided somewhat, but I am still chewing nicotine gum like an animal (they said it would take at least five sessions to stop).

Procedure No. 2: Massage Therapy
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine
915 Broadway, nr. 21st St., third fl.; 212-982-4600
After signing a “no sexual advances” agreement, I was ushered to a stark, fluorescent-lit room by a soft-spoken, too-timid intern in her early twenties, who questioned me about problem areas and pressure preferences before deciding on the Swedish technique. Blessedly, a less-offensive light was used during the 50-minute treatment ($53), which, aside from one minor table-bump, passed without incident. Though I’ve felt like a weakling during some previous aggressive rubdowns, there were moments during this session when I wished for a little more oomph.

Procedure No. 3: Bikini Wax
Aveda Institute
233 Spring St., nr. Varick St.; 212-807-1492
The idea of a novice taking hot wax to my nether regions naturally caused me some trepidation. Fortunately, the fear was unwarranted: Personable twentysomething aesthetics student April Jade was competent, confident, and appropriately chatty, and the private room was soothing and spalike. Unlike my last waxer, who tried to pressure me to go beyond Brazilian, Jade happily went with my requested bikini-line procedure ($25) and handled the ecofriendly Aveda wax like a pro, eliciting minimal pain in the process and zero skin irritation after the fact.

Procedure No. 4: Teeth Cleaning
New York City College of Technology
Pearl Building, 300 Jay St., nr. Tillary St., second fl., 718-260-5074
I was not pleased to learn that cleaning appointments here are offered only at 1 p.m. or 8 a.m. on certain weekdays—and that all the 1 p.m. slots were booked. But I made my way through the throngs of City Tech students to the college’s second floor (take the stairs), where a hygienist-to-be retrieved me and led the way to an office filled with about 50 dental-chair-occupied cubicles. I had been forewarned that cleanings ($20) take up to four hours, but I was not prepared to sit open-mouthed for that long while my sweet but overly solicitous trainee fielded criticism from her instructor as she worked (“Did you write that down?!” “You need to read your e-mails!”). Around 11:30 a.m., starving, I opted out of the fluoride treatment and made my escape. Would I go back? Only if economic desperation were upon me.

Estimated savings for four services: $460


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