Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 271 - Attending a Wellness Expo

I have never been to a wellness expo. Considering a theme of my “I have never...” year has been finding ways to better my health through exercise and life changes, I thought attending such an event would be a positive new experience that would help me in that pursuit. As a result, attending the annual wellness expo in Madison, appropriately titled the Well Expo, was an easy decision to make when I first became aware of it several months ago. While I didn’t know quite what to expect from an event focused on healthy living, I figured I would, at minimum, walk away with some ideas to continue focusing on my betterment, which I welcomed openly. Of course, that perspective was based on my assumptions on the event, which I would come to find were a little off base given an oversight on my part. The result was a unique and somewhat funny twist on today’s new experience.

"For women", eh? ...That's unexpected.
When Rachael and I arrived at the location hosting the Well Expo, the Monona Terrence Convention Center, we hurriedly found our way out of the cold and followed signs directing us toward the wellness expo entrance. After working our way through a few doors and staircases, we ultimately found ourselves facing a series of signs referencing different elements of the event. As I looked over the spread of information I noticed a consistent theme on the header of each placard. Scrawled across the top of each tag board sign was the title of the expo with a small sub-title written directly underneath it.

“Healthy living for women...” I said reading the sub-title aloud. Rachael began to chuckle as the reality of the discovery set in. “You mean to tell me this is a wellness expo for women?” I asked turning to Rachael. In response, she smiled at me and shrugged her shoulders. I paused briefly as I sifted through my initial discomfort with the finding, pondering what to do. “Well, I’m glad you’re with me!” I said breaking the silence, “This would have been really awkward otherwise...” Rachael nodded her head in agreement before turning to me and offering her thoughts. “I mean, does this really count as a new experience?” she asked still grinning from my obvious embarrassment. I didn’t hesitate in my response, “Trust me, if there is anything I can guarantee I haven’t done before, it’s attending a women’s wellness expo. Let’s do this.”

The exhibition hall
Rachael let out one more laugh as we turned away from the information booth and found our way into the exhibition space. For the better part of the next hour we wandered from booth to booth looking at displays covering dietary, exercise, and health products designed to improve well-being and reduce unnecessary stresses. Although I was one of only a few men among the stirring crowd of people in attendance, I was surprised to find many of the vendors at the expo offered a variety of products and services for both men and women. As a result, Rachael and I were both happily distracted as we moved through the space, taking time to read about products, sample health foods and wines, and pick up a few samples of some product offerings. The event may have been designed to target women, but I was still gaining plenty of insight and finding some ideas for ways I could continue to focus on my wellness. It wasn’t the event I had expected to find, but it was clearly a good experience none the less.

As Rachael and I made our final pass through the exhibition space, we stopped before a series of chiropractic and massage therapy booths offering free sitting massages. With the expo’s closing time drawing near, I made a snap decision to try to sneak in a quick massage before we brought today’s experience to a close. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only person in attendance with that idea, which quickly led to gathering lines of people at each of the massage stations.

In response, Rachael and I made a quick decision to abandon the idea and see if any comparable services were being offered at other booths on the opposite side of the expo. Although our effort was initially unsuccessful, we eventually stumbled upon an essential oils booth offering oil infused scalp massages. As to not look a gift horse in the mouth, I promptly asked the booth attendants if I could sit through one of the massages. Without hesitation, the women welcomed me to take a seat and experience the massage, which proved to be the perfect end to the evening. As one of the attendants gently ran her fingers through my hair and rocked her knuckles across my scalp I slipped into a relaxed trance moments away from sleeping.

For several minutes the woman slowly worked over my head until she had covered every part of my scalp. Eventually, she stepped away and spoke, “Alright, you’re all done.” In a state of relaxation, I opened my eyes and sat for a moment before climbing to my feet. “Now that’s the kind of wellness I can get into!” I announced as I picked up my coat and returned to Rachael’s side. My candid response forced smiles onto the faces of the booth attendants as I moved to thank them. After Rachael declined sitting through the experience herself, the two of us thanked the women for their time and took stock of the happenings around us.

With the space around us quickly emptying of people, Rachael and I somewhat reluctantly acknowledged the expo was drawing to a close. As a result, we found our way to the exit of the exhibition hall and began the short trip home. On our way we chatted about the event and rehashed the awkwardness that came with our first few moments of tonight’s event. Although the twist at the beginning of the evening was unexpected, it was easy to conclude the decision not to let it deter me from tonight’s experience. In the end I walked away with some great ideas for how I can continue my pursuit of my well-being and I got a free scalp massage out of the event. Plus, I can now say I have attended a women’s wellness expo, which should serve as a funny story the next time I find myself in need of such a tale.

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