Here at MEL, we regularly put our bodies and minds through experiences that range from the slightly uncomfortable to the downright unpleasant, all to see if there’s any benefit to things like taint acupuncture, or visiting a masturbation coach. Think of us as your friendly neighborhood Goop busters, the kind that are willing to try almost anything once — because what doesn’t kill you only makes you more entertaining at parties. A few of the most memorable things we tried on for size…
Staff writer C. Brian Smith, a self-proclaimed “not a cleanse person,” attempted a weeklong soup cleanse. The result: Nightmares.
“I dreamed I was in a plane crash, and unlike the previous nightmares, I remember this one because it lasted all night. The plane kept falling in altitude, but there was nothing I could do about it. I kept checking my phone to see if I had service so I could call my mother to say goodbye, but the flight attendant informed me that we’d only have cell reception once the plane fell below 500 feet. She did, however, promise there would be enough time to send one text before we hit the ground, which I took some comfort in. She also asked me if I’d like anything to eat beforehand; I politely declined: ‘No thanks, I’m on a soup cleanse.’ A flash of concrete entered into frame before I shot up in bed, drenched in sweat. My fever had broken.”
Senior editor Nick Leftley volunteered for what few Western men have ever experienced: Having an acupuncturist stick needles in his taint to see if his perineum really had the potential to unlock some serious health benefits.
“She lingers over my face, looking at me with motherly concern. ‘You’re so anxious. I just want to do something to help calm you down, something to really soothe and settle your mind.’ THWACK: She hammers a three-inch metal needle into the middle of my forehead, right between the eyes. ‘I don’t think that helped very much,’ I confess, and then thwack, another needle goes into the top of my skull. So far, none have been especially painful, but now comes the coup de gooch, and Wiesner tells me to get ready.
“I squirm as it enters: It hurts considerably more than the others. Once it’s in, though, the pain quickly subsides — weirdly, the only two that continue to throb throughout the whole experience are the one in my right ankle and the one in my forehead.”
Brady gets paid millions of dollars to throw touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski, after which he goes home and makes love to his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen. But the price for Brady’s level of success is living in a world devoid of flavor: Just ask staff writer John McDermott, who ate Brady’s Diet for a week.
“The lentil risotto was the best meal, and it was largely flavorless. The crispy turnip cakes were the hardest to make, and due to some errors, ended up as more of a mushy turnip hash than the perfectly formed cakes shown in the recipe. And the ramen was fine considering it used tahini and coconut broth instead of typical ramen ingredients. But none of them were worth the time they required.”
Luckily for McDermott, Brady’s regimen also includes wearing performance-enhancing pajamas, which gave McDermott some of the most restful, re-energizing sleep he’s ever had.
“The rest of my nights in Brady jammies were much the same. I spent my nights drifting in a state of blissful, REM-filled wonder. The most remarkable part was that I never woke up with sore muscles or joints despite all the CrossFit I did over that span.”
Not one to back down from any potentially life-altering (or stupid) experience, Leftley continued his brief masochistic stint as a human guinea pig by attending an urban sweat lodge. There, he finds nothing short of a living hell — or at least hell-like heat.
“At what I imagine to be the halfway point, I despair at the thought that I don’t know if I can make it through the whole thing. Every inch of me is baking, drenched with sweat. My clothes are stuck to me, and I just want to climb right out of my body. You’re just lying down and watching TV in a bag. Get a grip! I tell myself. But I can’t: I’ve never, in my life, been so uncomfortable.”
Contributing writer Miles Klee traveled from his home near San Francisco to the MEL offices in L.A. aboard a startup company’s sleeper bus. In true startup fashion, the nine-hour trip would prove to be very disruptive… to sleep.
“Who takes a sleeper bus for ‘disruption’-era millennials and doesn’t chug the complimentary mystery drink? Plus, I knew I needed something to take the edge off in the pod. At 6-foot-2, I struggled to make myself at home in the 6-foot-5 curtained-off box, and after hitting my head a few times, I had to admit that sitting up wasn’t a possibility. A guy taller than me told the Ashleys he had no complaints about the accommodations, so again, you can take me with a grain of salt, but I am unwavering in my opinion that Cabin is more of a hostel than a ritzy hotel.”
Sometimes, you just need to break shit, which is why Smith — who’s more of “a lazy golden retriever” than a rageful buster-up-of-stuff — took a trip to Atlanta to smash things at one of only two rage rooms in the country.
“I’m gutting an early-edition Xbox with a crowbar on the second floor of a corporate office park just north of Atlanta. Its metallic innards crunch beneath my feet as I reach for a Pellegrino bottle — one of those giant ones — and launch it like an emerald javelin across the room, shattering it against a giant bull’s-eye on the opposite wall.”
Assistant editors Andrew Fiouzi and Ian Lecklitner aren’t exactly Taco Bell’s biggest fans, but when they traveled to Orange County to get drunk and eat shitty tacos, they entered a pseudo purple-hued reality that changed their minds about said shitty tacos (if only for a few minutes).
“Nizar [our driver] tells the woman working the drive-thru that we’re Taco Mode users, and she responds with a loud ‘Wooooooo!’ The other employees quickly follow with even louder ‘Wooooooos!’ Throughout the drive-thru experience, ‘Wooooooos!’ abound — from the speaker where we order to the window where we pay to the window where we pick up our order.”
Continuing their enviable escapades, Fiouzi and Lecklitner turned their attention to the sparkling world of men’s nail polish. That’s right: Men’s nail polish is a thing, and based on their experience getting pampered at a nail salon, the boys will surely be back again.
“Olive and June is everything you’d expect to find in a place designed to foster indulgence. The walls are the color of bone. Steam emanates from individual cups of tea. And a Jack Johnson-esque soundtrack wafts down from the ceiling. Apart from the two young hostesses who greet us with smiles, the rest of the salon’s patrons — all women — look at us as though we’ve just walked into the wrong bathroom.”
According to Leo M. Tonkin, founder and chief executive of Salt Chamber — a supplier of dry salt therapy equipment based in Boca Raton — the primary benefits of halotherapy (salt baths) are threefold: Detoxification, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. We sent Smith to a different sort of salt mine to find out if there’s any merit to Tonkin’s claim.
“I’m lying in a 104-degree red brick sauna littered with 1,000-year-old salt minerals at Wi Spa in the Koreatown neighborhood of L.A. Every so often, a middle-aged Asian man next to me grabs a fistful of sodium-drenched stones and holds them close to his chest while inhaling deeply, basking in the alleged therapeutic properties. I attempt to follow suit, but sneeze twice instead.”
Smith struggles not just with salt, but also to ask for things that he wants. Such gutless deportment, he says, makes him an easy mark and a lousy manager, the latter of which he feared was becoming increasingly relevant to his professional career. Which is why we sent him to the Santa Monica Mountains to attend one of psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Val Coleman’s equine therapy programs.
“After a few deep breaths, I look the horse dead in the eye and point. ‘Move. NOW!’ I clap, taking a step toward him. And he’s off. After a few trips around the ring Dr. Val says, ‘Now, what if you need that transcription in an hour to meet a deadline?’ ‘Faster, damn it!’ I yell. ‘You don’t need to be mean,’ Terry corrects. But the horse has already shifted into a gallop, which I watch in amazement.”
These days, everything has its own coach — lifestyle coach, executive coach, gym coach. It’s only fair then that jerking off has a coach, too. Smith took a trip to the desert to meet him for a one-on-one tutorial on how to spank his monkey.
“To Ed [the masturbation coach], it’s all about masturbating mindfully, as I’m attempting to do on his massage table. Ed explains mindful masturbation is simply being present in your body and savoring every sensation, which can lead to profound ecstatic states typically achieved after a lengthy ‘edging’ session. (And which can also, like my erection, be difficult to manage with someone examining it from multiple angles.) ‘Edging is the ability to maintain sexual arousal at a high level for a prolonged period of time,’ he explains while overemphasizing deep, relaxed breaths, ‘ideally just below the point of no return, when ejaculation becomes an inevitable fact.’”
To round off a truly brutal year, Smith did what no man should ever have to do: Eat like President Trump. Alongside MEL assistant art director Sam Dworkin, he wearily did his best to devour Trump’s alleged campaign diet: two Big Macs, two Filet-o-Fish and a chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s. The result: profound sadness.
“I’d fallen into a melancholic haze which resulted in an embarrassingly unproductive afternoon. Guess I won’t be hitting that deadline, I figured. ‘I’m kinda sad,’ I confessed to Sam. ‘Agreed,’ he replied matter-of-factly. ‘But I think I could probably eat a McChicken sandwich.’”