The Golden Door sits on 600 acres and grows many of its own fruits and vegetables. It’s built a bee farm and makes its own honey. While I’m there, I discover a strawberry-guava shrub on a mountain top and pick two dusty orbs from its branches. Had it been described to me, it would have seemed like a bad fro-yo flavor. But it is real and transcendent. On one walk, I come across a bamboo forest that has been planted in honor of women who’ve visited the spa more than 10 times. The forest is enormous. It turns out there are dozens and dozens of women who want more routine exposure to strawberry-guavas. On my last 5:45 a.m. hike, I finally glimpse the enormous mountain-top labyrinth that one woman who’s been to the Door before claims will bring me inner peace. It doesn’t, but it is a nice touch.

A woman from the Golden Door had prepared me for much of this, save my new mom friends. Two weeks before my arrival, Melanie schedules a time to chat to let me know what I can expect from my trip. She promises rest, relaxation, a disconnect from the demands of my existence. I’m supposed to leave my iPhone in my room at all times, she explains. I’m not supposed to check my email. I assume it’ll be hard for me, but it takes me all of six minutes to delete Twitter from my home screen and turn on my OOO alert. (“Isn’t it nice to take a break from the Tweeter bird?” one woman asks me. I don’t correct her. It is.)

When we speak, Melanie explains that the Door will provide workout clothes, rubber slippers, and a water bottle, which means I only really needed to pack some sports bras and sneakers. On my second hike of the week, the Golden Door-stamped water bottle leaks all over me, but the sensation is almost pleasant!

“Oh, honey,” a mom coos over me on one of the more torturous switchback runs. “I could wring you out like a towel!” Normally, I avoid most human interaction and almost all similes. But now, I’m charmed. Such is the power of the Door.

A day at the Door.

Mattie Kahn

Melanie requests a rundown on all of my fitness likes and dislikes so she can come up with my schedule. She wants to know if I’m interested in shooting arrows for fun or fencing, activities that are both available during the week I’ll be at the Door. (No and no.) She wants to know if I’m interested in having my birth chart read. (No.) I register for pilates classes and a bootcamp that terrifies me. I decline to join water aerobics, but when I see my new pals doing plies in the pool a few weeks later, I regret it. I make up for it by going to a jazzercise class. I try to picture Jane Fonda, and I find that I can. The woman in front of me looks just like her. Twice, I go to what becomes my favorite class—one that takes place entirely on a foam roller.

And in between the classes and the treatments and all the decadence that worms its way into these hours when you have no responsibilities and are in technical paradise, I meet the women. And the women surprise me. They’re not all bony and fit, though some make it very clear to me that they’d somehow like to be in less than week. One tells me she’ll eat the microscopic cheesecake that is served one evening, but only if her trainer kicks her “patootie” tomorrow. I find this so hilarious that I end up snort-hiccuping a little bit of my cauliflower bisque. One woman I meet is on her first vacation in a decade. She has two kids and her job is literally to cure cancer. The women brim with advice and book recommendations. Frankly, they make me feel amazing, complimenting my hair and asking about my job. Women have come with sisters or best friends or sisters-in-law. A bunch miss their moms, who’ve recently died. We hear Tibetan singing bowls. Really. It’s time for dinner.

By day five, I do find I can take deeper breaths. I’m sleeping better, exhausted from spin sessions and a boxing class that really is an excellent outlet for my recent politically-induced furor. Besides, we all get into bed at around 8:30 p.m. But the biggest treat isn’t even the sleep, how ever welcome, or the massages, or the excellent advice I collect from my new friends; it’s the permission to be selfish. Sure, we could shower ourselves with this much kindness and adoration all the time, but we could also make our moms pancakes for breakfast every day. When we’re not at the Door, it doesn’t happen.

I lived here for a week.

Mattie Kahn

The Golden Door is a millionaire’s retreat that happens to donate all of its proceeds to children’s charities, which is very nice. It plants bamboo trees for monied ladies and serves bento boxes to the elite. It is a year-round Hallmark card. And I loved it. I loved the enthusiasm, the upbeats, the moms. On their recommendation, I purchase an $80 eye cream to kickstart my “prevention” regimen. (It’s organic.)

“It’s never too early to start!” one woman tells me. I look around, blissed and with far more impressively defined triceps than when I arrived. Agreed.

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