I always wanted to get a massage. This may surprise some people because I don’t like being touched. But I am receptive to touch if a.) I know it’s coming and b.) it’s deep pressure. In theory, massages would meet these criteria.
But, also in theory, massages are expensive. I have not shopped around a lot for a massage, but one time I saw a Groupon for $60 for a 90-minute session. I mean, that seems like a deal, but it’s also like paying someone 66 cents a minute to touch you. Which seems steep. I could pay $3 to enjoy coffee for 30 minutes. That’s 10 cents a minute! I think it’s even cheaper in Amsterdam.
A few weeks ago, I learned that my university offers massages to students for a special rate of $25 for an hour! That is, by far, the best deal I have ever seen for a massage. I would pay for that, especially for my first ever experience.
I scheduled and then began the worrying. Actually, the worrying began before I even scheduled it. I like to keep an open calendar because I am a flighty person, and I could not decide if Monday at 5 PM or Tuesday at 4 PM was more opportune. You never know what could pop up in the six days between scheduling and showing up. Maybe Wednesday at lunch would be better? But what if a meetinh got scheduled?
Okay, this is why I needed a massage: to de-stress from thoughts like these.
Or maybe I needed yoga? And that’s free in a park and comes with popsicles…
Once I decided on the time (Monday at 5), I began to fret about what to wear. In the TV shows, everyone seems to be stark naked. Would I be unclothed? Does that apply if this is a school-facilitated massage? If I wear a tank top, is that appropriate? Should I at least wear sleeves? Would I have a guy or girl masseuse? Does it matter? Is that a sexist question? I would prefer a female, but also, is that sexist?
My mom, who’s only had one massage in her life, had a male masseuse. She told me this made her uncomfortable. There’s a whole Seinfeld episode on this. Hadn’t she seen it?
I expressed these questions to several friends. I had this impression that a lot of people had had at least one massage in their life and I was behind on the times. This turned out to not be true. Most friends expressed surprise that I was getting a massage. “I’ve never had one,” they said. “I don’t like being touched.”
Yeah, same. When I take photos with people, there’s usually a mile between them and me. But I feel like you can still get a massage?
My friends who had had a massage told me to prepare to undress. Should I worry about my underwear selection?
The scheduling website told me to show up 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork. I arrived 40 minutes early, because I walked. I knew this meant I would sweat, but I hoped to have enough time to cool off. This led to me envisioning a nightmarish scenario where I got nervous being on the table and broke out in a sweat. I cringed at the thought of the masseuse having to knead my back between rivulets of perspiration.
I also envisioned another scenario where…stop! Never mind! I can’t go there. We live in an oversexualized culture. That wasn’t going to happen.
Since I was early, I started working on some emails in my inbox. Suddenly it was 11 minutes before go time! I was late! I rushed into the parlor.
My masseuse turned out to be a woman. There was nothing sexual about her. Especially when she asked me to fill out paperwork. I had to sign about five pages and indicate I didn’t have diabetes, poison ivy, or any other medical ailment that might impair my massage. The form also asked why I was there.
Mmmmmm. I found $25? I have some [insert politically incorrect, contentious, and false story] issues and thought deep tissue massage might release the demons within me? I want my joints cracked?
I wrote, “I’ve never had one before and figured I’d try it out.”
Would I say the same thing if offered Ecstasy?
I checked the time. 5:02 PM. Ohmigawd, we were behind schedule. I should have been on that table two minutes ago.
I walked down the hall and handed her the paperwork. The room had the lighting of a therapist’s office. Maybe I should have cited deep-rooted family issues on my form? The only difference was, instead of a couch, there was a massage table.
The masseuse instructed me to undress to my underwear (once she left! Nothing seductive here!) and lie face down on the table with a blanket across my entire body. Like I was going to bed.
A few moments later, she knocked. (And not a moment too soon! Because we were running behind on my $25 hour, much to my fault, and I shouldn’t be stressed during a massage!) She handed me an eye mask and asked, “Is there any place you’re tight?”
Is it weird if I say my hip? Is that provocative? I don’t want it to be.
“My shoulders,” I said. “And neck.”
“I will uncover the area I’m massaging and leave the rest of you covered. If I ever hurt you, please speak up.”
“Okay.” I paused. “I’m also really ticklish. I may laugh during this.”
She laughed. “That means you’re tight.”
Uptight, you mean.
She then turned off the lights. At least I think she did. No one warned me this was done in the dark. Of course, I also had an eye mask on, but didn’t she need the lights to see which of my muscles were cemented together? All of them?
In the dark, I heard her squirt lotion into her hands. Wait. Do all massages include lotion? Do I want lotion? Do I ask that? Wait. Am I supposed to talk? Do I talk during this? Does that break the ambience? Do I want to talk? Oh my god, should I ask that? “Ma’am, do you prefer if I talk?” But I was sure she’d just say, “If you want to”—and what did I want? Isn’t that why I’m here—to release my stress?
The silence screamed.
Shouldn’t there at least be jazz music?!
Wait. Maybe there was jazz music? I honestly can’t recall because…
I stared facedown into my eye mask and listened to the squish of lotion and her hands gliding over my back. And then I passed out. Legit. The next hour was a shallow shavasana slumber where the masseuse’s hands reminded me of a yoga teacher saying, “Reach, reach, for the ceiling, twist your spine!” except she didn’t speak except to tell me to flip over. But before I flipped over, she laid a steaming hot towel across my back, and I thought I might leap off the table, it was so hot, ow ow ow! What are you doing? But then it cooled, and I relaxed, and I went back to sleep.
Abruptly, she told me I could put my clothes back on and step out into the hall when ready. When ready? Will I ever be ready? Does anyone ever want to leave their slumber? Except I felt greasy. I needed a shower. And “When ready” is just a damned lie because we know there’s someone else expecting this treatment in another 15 minutes.
“Thank you,” I said.
Do you say thank you to a masseuse? Do you tip? Do I even have cash on me?
Did I even release any of my stress?
In the glaring light of the hallway, I realized when she had massaged my face, she had dislocated my contact lenses. I couldn’t see her.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“Relaxed,” I said on cue.
“Be sure to drink a lot of water. Massages tend to release a lot of toxins into your body and you need to wash them out.”
I nodded. If only I could see.
I showered when I got home because I felt dirty. That’s one thing no one told me: how greasy I would feel! Would I do it again? Yes. Would I pay for it again? Eh. And did I feel less stressed? No.
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