Hello, Dear Readers.
I want to start off today’s post by asking you something. When you hear words like “luxury” or “relaxation,” do certain images come to your mind? Perhaps something like kicking back with a drink in your hand, or reading by the pool, maybe even a hammock in the quiet of the great outdoors. For many people, pampering is the name of the game when trying to relax, often along the lines of some sort of spa day. And once your mind drifts that way, perhaps you, like many people, also find yourself picturing that stereotypical image of a massage on the beach at sunset.
I must admit, I have always bought into that glamorous idea of a massage, where someone soothes away all your tension in a lovely place that smells good, while soft, magical music plays in the background. As I grew older, the appeal only increased. After a hard soccer game, when my body was tired and aching, what could sound more heavenly than someone to rub my feet? Or when I was studying for an important test, and my head and shoulders hurt from hours spent hunched over my notes, what could be better than someone to rub those knots away? To me, a massage sounded like the very height of luxury, the kind of thing rich or famous people did every day to deal with the stress of their glamorous lives. But this always seemed an unreachable goal for my poor, middle class self– an effervescent dream that danced in the sunset on the horizon, never attainable.
Then I got a job. And a bank account. Of course, I did not realize it at the time, but this was the first step on a long and colorful road I would come to embark on. Today, I’d like to share with you some of the more memorable impressions I have received in the world of massage.
The first massage I ever received was not exactly your typical experience. My family and I went on vacation to Hot Springs, Arkansas which, if you have never been, is a town that was essentially made up of spas and resorts when it was founded. Today, there are still a number of these old spas that are still functional and you can visit them– for a price. But it just so happened that at the particular time we were going to be there, my mother discovered that one of the spas was having a very special deal– you could go through, not just a massage, but an entire spa routine in their historic spa. And, best of all, it was SUPER. CHEAP. Like, I had enough money in my bank account to afford it, and there would still be money left over afterwards.
The only thing that made us hesitate was a slight catch– it was customary to go through this entire spa treatment… naked. Now, this was not like a you go into a dimly lit room and take off your clothes and get under some covers naked, this was like you take a special mineral bath, then you go and get hot towels put on you, and then you sit in a old-timey steam machine, and then you get a massage naked. This required you to move from place to place. Neither my mom nor my sister nor I were especially keen on this idea.
But after some researching, we found something that said you could wear your bathing suit if you were more comfortable that way– perfect!!! After scouring the process, we realized that we would have to take our tops off for the massage part, naturally, but just wear a two piece and that’s not even a big deal, just pop it off and lay down on the table under the sheet. Solid. I’m sold! So we booked our spa treatments, and gleefully headed off to immerse ourselves into the luxurious world that until now had only been the realm of the rich and famous. Not any more, movie stars.
Let me ask you another question, Readers. Whenever you were younger and in school (or perhaps you even now are at that age) did you ever go to gym class and have to do something called stations? You know, where the teacher sets up like six or seven activities and you spend five minutes at each before they blow a whistle and you have to hurry off to the next one?
Well, picture something similar to that, but in an even hotter and sweatier environment than a school gymnasium, and all your fellow classmates seem to be at least sixty years of age and up, and also completely naked. Now, I am an enormous advocate for loving your body and being comfortable in your skin, and maybe by the time I’m sixty I will be as confident (or perhaps just utterly indifferent) as those ladies seemed to be in their nudity. I had not (and still have not) attained that level.
We were hustled from “luxury” to “luxury”– first a bath in a tiny curtained cubicle, and then into one of the steam machines, and then to a table set up next to a ton of other tables where the lady inquired what my “troubled areas” were that I wanted the hot towels on. I felt very unprepared and overwhelmed, like lady, I have never done this before, you tell me (“Uhhh… my right knee kind of hurts?”)
During this time I kind of became separated from my mom and sister because you just had to go to wherever a “station” came available, and in some places you just had to wait. (Oh hi, don’t mind me here, just chilling in my wet bathing suit freezing my butt off and trying desperately not to stare at the naked lady who is so wrinkly and sagging that somehow things are drooping in just such a way that her modesty is remaining intact.)
Finally all that was left was the massage, and feeling much like cattle being herded, I was directed back to another area of the spa to wait my turn. But first, I was required to rinse off in a special shower, to make sure I did not have any minerals on my skin. I say this shower was special because it was in the open– and a lady was just sitting by it, like a secretary at a desk. I started to get in when I was informed that I needed to take my bathing suit completely off.
My bathing suit.
I found myself mumbling some sort of protest, something about how that couldn’t be right because it had said I could wear my bathing suit. The shower secretary simply stared me down with steely eyes, informing me that I needed to wash off the minerals so my skin would be prepared for the massage. Slowly, in a daze of horror, I found myself taking off my bathing suit, three feet from a complete stranger, who carelessly turned on the shower thing, indifferent to the fact that my soul was slowing withering as my body attempted to shrink in upon itself.
After this shameful procedure was finished, I was allowed to wrap myself in a towel, which I then had to huddle in for a period of ten-ish minutes (that felt like an eternity) as I found myself just sitting in a chair against a wall as I waited my turn to see a therapist, like someone in the waiting room at a dentist’s office. Except, you know, I was completely naked except for a small towel with strange people about my person.
Finally it was my turn, and I rushed into the room, ready for the entire procedure to be finished with. But the best was yet to come, my Dear Readers. For my therapist then instructed me to take off my towel, get onto the massage table, and then cover myself with the sheet.
I stress the “then” part, because the order this was supposed to occur in was very important. If you’ll recall, I was naked under my towel. And then I had to get myself onto the massage table. I am a very short person, if you didn’t know, so it was more going to be a climb onto the massage table–this would not have been a graceful procedure if I was decked out in mountain scaling gear.
But alas, I was naked.
You’re a human being, you have a body (unless of course you’re an alien or a ghost or something, in which case, that’s freaking cool, and thanks for reading my blog!)– I’ll just let you ponder why this might be uncomfortable.
Ah, if only my therapist would have stepped out for this event, it might have remained just awkward instead of one of the most humiliating tasks I have ever been instructed to perform in my life. But she did not. She simply bustled about the room preparing things as this occurred.
To this day, it still occasionally strikes me that there are two strange women floating about Hot Springs, Arkansas who have seen me in my altogether.
But let’s take a minute to pause here. That story indicates to you that I found my first massage experience pretty traumatic, right? So why, you may be asking, does my post title seem to indicate that I have purchased massages numerous times?
Well my friends, never let it be said that I have shied away from or been held back by awkwardness in my life. (Seriously, though, I would never be able to do anything if I let a previous awkward experience with it ruin stuff for me.) Eventually, I discovered websites like Groupon, and LivingSocial, and CrowdSavings, all simply swimming in deals for massages at different places. And somehow or another, I found myself succumbing to the siren lure of that mystical, magical image of the massage on the beach at sunset– not that I have ever had a massage on a beach at sunset. But still, the image tempted me.
Luckily, the majority of my subsequent attempts actually went very pleasantly. Massages became an indulgence I could occasionally afford with help of a discount website, and when I was stressing over a midterm, I could simply schedule one of the massage deals I had purchased to help me relax.
But as with all things in life, from time to time stuff doesn’t go quite as expected. This happened when I bought a groupon to a massage academy, that I came to find out was in a… less affluent part of town. This particular groupon was incredibly cheap, and I realized it was because it was going to be given by a student studying to be a therapist, not an actual certified one.
Now, if you have followed my blog for any length of time, you have probably received the very accurate impression that I do not have a great deal of experience with boys. But what you might be surprised to hear is that I have actually been talked out of my bra by a man.
His name was Jesus, and he was a man in his (I’m estimating) mid-40’s. He also happened to be the student therapist that I was scheduled to receive my massage from. Now, as I mentioned, this whole situation ended up feeling very dodgy. Typically when you get a massage, you undress down to your underwear only. But in this case, when Jesus instructed me to undress to my comfort level, I was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. I was in a bad part of town, at a somewhat rundown massage academy, facing a massage by a man for the first time. To make matters worse, my sister was not getting a massage at the same time like she had every other time before, so I was all alone. I opted to leave not only my bra on, but also my shorts.
What proceeded was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Jesus started asked me lots of questions about myself and life, and he began making predictions about what kind of person I was based on where I had tension in my body and what kinds of chronic aches I had. At one point he was asking me why I let people push me into doing things I didn’t want to do and encouraging me to stand up for myself. He continued to give me life advice, all while periodically “pushing out the bad auras” and “throwing them away” (always followed by a literal shaking of his hands after hovering them over my body a few inches). It was almost like receiving a massage from a fortune teller– he talked really fast and sometimes with an accent I couldn’t understand so I just nodded sometimes even though I didn’t know what I was agreeing to and I think this led him to make some inaccurate predictions because I provided him with false information and now sometimes I’m secretly afraid he laid a curse on me and that’s the real reason I’ll never find a boyfriend (probably).
Suffice it to say, I left that place confused, oily, and a different person.
My most recent massage was this past week, and luckily it was at a place called Petra’s, where my sister and I had been before and really liked. Because neither of us have any semblance of a love life (the excitement with Jesus was a couple of years ago, sadly) we tend to end up doing everything together instead, and we had what was essentially a couple’s massage (or the single sisters’ massage as I like to think of it)…. aka we were in the same room.
My first tip about getting a massage is make sure you go to the bathroom before you start. I didn’t need to, but I still pretended I did because I wanted to check in to the massage place on Facebook because I had thought up the oh so clever caption “I live for the massage, massage, massage, live for the massage-sage, live for the massage-sage” to put with it. Yes, I know I am a product of my terrible generation and I’m obsessed with social media and blah blah blah. But really, I just love terrible puns, and I was not passing up my chance to parody Lady Gaga.
Another tip when getting a massage (especially if you are a lady) is to make sure you shave really well. It’s a slightly disconcerting feeling to have someone massaging your legs and you suddenly start thinking Oh god oh god oh god oh god did I remember to shave above the knees last night (nope!). My therapist was really nice, and it just seemed like I owed that much to her, but it was too late at that point.
The biggest problem I have noticed in my chronic massage experiences is that I have trouble just being. Like, the point of a massage is that you’re supposed to just lay there while someone else pampers you. But the problem with massages is that you’re supposed to just lay there while someone else pampers you. Without fail, every two to four minutes I feel like I should say thank you, but what kind of body oil slick slope does that lead to? Where do you stop? How many times is too many times to say it? Is she silently judging me because I’m not saying it and she thinks I’m an ungrateful jerk? Or if I started saying thank you periodically, is she going to think I’m a freak and it will get really annoying?
I usually spend the first ten to fifteen minutes occupied with thoughts like this, and just trying to keep my eyes closed (Third tip– If you’ve never had a massage before, I’ve realized that it is definitely best to keep your eyes closed so you’re not just uncomfortably staring at your therapist). Finally I’ll come to a point where my brain will think, well, it’s too late now, I’ve gone too far as it is and she’s going to think of me what she’ll think of me.
Like me, you may have noticed in life that things you really build up an image of in your head rarely end up being like you think they will. I was finally relaxing, beginning to enjoy my massage, and I was at last able to keep my eyes closed without having to scrunch them. I’m settling in, and I perk up my ears to allow myself to be soothed by whatever dulcet sounds were drifting through the room. Now, if you’re talking about soothing background music, I definitely prefer things that have to do with water– rain, rushing rivers, babbling brooks, thunderstorms, etc.
Unfortunately, a rainy day soundtrack had not been selected for our massage time. Instead, something that sounded like electric guitars in space was playing. Not terrible, just… strange. We came to the point in the massage when it was time to roll over and put your face into that little face rest thing that has a hole in the middle. Not necessarily the most comfortable thing to put my face on, but not a big deal, of course. Unfortunately, around the point when my therapist began working on my arms and shoulders, it came to my attention that my eye itched. Ferociously.
In case you didn’t know, it is very hard to make subtle, stealthy movements when someone literally has their hands on you. I began trying to rub my face on the thing, but the itch was just so located that I couldn’t get it to the face thing to rub on without essentially just turning my head and rubbing my face up against it like Baloo in the Jungle Book does with that tree.
My arms also happened to be otherwise occupied, so there could be no quick, casual scratch and run either. I suffered through for the next five minutes before the itch finally faded. Around that point, my therapist moved up and started rubbing my neck… and then my head. She was massaging my scalp, guys. You know those people who, if you play with their hair, they will actually literally melt into a puddle? Yep, that’s me.
Another fun fact about me– when I get really relaxed, I have an unfortunate tendency to drool. So for example, when I’m really, really tired at night and I sleep really heavily, I’m much more likely to drool. Makes perfect sense, right, I mean my muscles relax so my mouth gets very slack and so slobber is much more likely to come out (It’s science). Well, when this lady began massaging my scalp, I fell into utter relaxation mode. I wasn’t concerned any longer about the fact that I might have forgotten to shave or that my hair might have somehow suddenly started producing dandruff the very day I got a massage or even that my bare chest was currently smooshed into a table. I don’t think I even knew what my name was.
Regrettably, however, this led to an unfortunate circumstance– as my lady finally quit rubbing my scalp and went back to rubbing my shoulders, I emerged from my stupor to find myself with my mouth wide open, drool hanging precariously from my lip. My eyes had barely had time to process the fact that I was staring down at my therapist’s tennis shoes when I felt the drool lose its tenuous battle with gravity. In slow motion, I watched it plummet towards the ground, and the desperate refrain running through my mind was please don’t land on her shoe please don’t land on her shoe pleasedon’tlandonhershoooooooooe
With my track record, Readers, it’s really a miracle that I didn’t end up drooling on my therapists’s shoe. But maybe fate owed me one– I did fall asleep once on my then-boyfriend and I literally covered his arm in my sleeping spit.
The rest of the massage passed without too much incident, and I found myself enjoying the experience immensely as a whole. Another, very pertinent tip to know about massages is that you should expect to feel like you just finished wrestling a greased pig in a vat of Crisco when you finish. I generally go straight home and take a shower after. That aside, I certainly felt relaxed after I was done, and that, of course is the point.
So what I’m trying to say, Dear Readers, is that if you’ve been eyeing those Groupons lately and dreaming, like I did, of that massage on the sunny beach, I encourage you to go for it. It more than likely won’t be exactly what you were expecting, but isn’t that the best part of life? Sometimes you don’t get what you thought you would, and yet you end up loving it.
As for my final tip about getting a massage– don’t try to write a blog about it, because no matter how you try and phrase it, writing about someone putting their hands all over your oiled, lotiony half-naked body just comes out sounding so awkward.
But hey– never let it be said that I allow awkwardness to stop me.