That Time I Got a Massage

by Kim on May 8, 2012

(This post is from my old blog–I’m posting it here for posterity, in case I’m ever tempted to get a massage again and need a reminder about how awful interesting it was the first time.)

So, I experienced my first ever professional massage last weekend. This is the sort of thing I would only do if I’d received a gift certificate…which I had, and which had been floating around in my purse for almost a year, kind of pathetically. But anyway. Every time I would envision actually using this gift certificate throughout the last year, I would try to picture this relaxing dream world where I was constantly wrapped in warm towels and drinking sparkling beverages. I would envision super white walls and ocean sounds and, basically, everything movies had taught me to envision about spas.

But then, this dark, uneasy feeling would sweep in and shadow over all of it, revealing what I actually, realistically anticipated: this was going to be the most awkward experience imaginable.

And it was.

First of all, there are so many etiquette-y questions that are probably so shockingly basic to experienced spa-goers, but almost impossible to guess smoothly on your first try. Like, how much of my clothes do I take off? Am I a weirdo if they come in and I’m totally naked? Or am I weird if I keep a few things on? What about this robe-do I put it on now or is it for later? Which way do I face on the bed-up or down? On my side?? Where’s my damn sparkling beverage?!

But let me back up. So I arrive at the Oasis (naturally), already concerned that I got too sweaty on the drive over and is that a Spa Faux Pas, showing up all sweaty?? Should my hair be up?? Are they going to judge me because my fingernails and toenails are all jagged and unpainted??

Relaxation levels so far: low to very low.

I check in and sit down to read a magazine, trying to look bored and a little annoyed, like a regular spa pro. Gosh, I didn’t have to wait this long any of the last 65 times (at least) I’ve come here. I wonder if Chastity is working today? I really should get Jillian to take a look at my highlights while I’m here-I swear they’re fading already.

Finally, my masseuse (*pause to go Google the spelling of that word*) shows up. I had for some reason pictured a 45-year-old lady with clownish makeup, poofy hair, and a nice, comforting momish vibe.

But it’s a guy. A small, Asian guy named Dustin. He didn’t even bother to have an exotic name, like Chang or Hao, so I could picture him getting deeply spiritual massage training in a small Tibetan village, wearing a robe and surrounded by a sea of candles. No, just Dustin, who probably took massage classes at the local community college. Not that that’s a problem per se…just far less interesting.

So he takes me down the hall to a little room. It is white, as expected. There are ocean sounds. Check. The lights are so low I can barely see at first, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something dirty. Probably not the mood they were going for. He begins by having me stand in front of the mirror, and stands behind me. All I hear is a disappointed sigh and an “ohhh, boy.” When I ask what’s wrong, he says, “this is just gonna take awhile.”

We have a brief conversation, something like this:
Dustin: Does your right shoulder hurt ever?
Me: Yeah.
Dustin: I bet. Lower back?
Me: Yeah.
Dustin: I bet. Neck?
Me: All the time.
Dustin: Uh-huh. Yeesh.

So apparently I’m very visibly crippled. I decide not to mention that I can crack my neck 15 times just by rolling my shoulders back.

He points out that one of my shoulders is a lot lower than the other, meaning one of my legs is likely slightly shorter. Puh-lease. This is called slouching, my friend. It comes with the desk job.

He slides one hand under the foot of the allegedly shorter leg and asks, “Isn’t that better?” Since nothing hurt to begin with, I confirm that it’s continuing to not hurt, choosing to express this with some words like “Yeah, that’s great.” I decide that a little white lie will boost his confidence and get us on with this massage (this conversation was cutting into my hour slot). Little do I know that the hour will continue exactly like this…even though I had clearly indicated “prefers little or no talking” on the first-time spa-goer worksheet I had filled out when I arrived. I had no idea this would be so interactive.

Once the massage is finally underway, he asks where I have pain. I say shoulders. “Yep,” he says, because he can tell. He is probably wondering how I am walking upright, picturing the hunchback I will have in my later years, and thinking about his friends back in Tibet. (Oh, no, we ruled that out, sorry.)

In response to the shoulder complaint, he inexplicably proceeds to not even touch my shoulders. Instead, he starts to poke around on my right thigh, looking for some kind of pressure point. “It’s all connected,” he explains, then spews a bunch of biology class gibberish about muscle groups. Though it’s slightly interesting, I a) won’t remember a word of it, b) wonder if he even looked at my worksheet, and c) can barely hear him over the crashing ocean waves. And furthermore, I’m slightly uncomfortable about the fact that he could be making up every word just to spend extra time with my thighs, and I’d never know. I can’t help imagining the weird scenarios that could go down in this environment, and even plot some basic escape plans.

Relaxation levels: off (the bottom of) the chart.

To my frustration, he continues to talk and request feedback for the rest of the hour. When we talk about my neck pain, he digs his fingers into my armpit until he connects with whatever he’s looking for, makes me breathe three times, and then releases, expecting a dramatic response out of me. Always desperate to move on, I tell him I’m instantly cured every time.

When I mention that I get tension headaches sometimes, he decides that I have one now and proceeds to try to cure it. The process for doing this is to grab onto some tendon in my throat and squeeze it firmly, then stare at me until I admit that all of the tension is miraculously dissipating. Whatever. I’ll stick with my Excedrin.

Next, he proceeds to give me a “sports massage” in preparation for the marathon I told him I was running the next day. My words: “so go easy on my legs…in fact, you can just disregard them altogether.” His response: 10 minutes of vicious leg rubbing (to get the blood flowing) and some weird foot work, but no actual “massage” in the way I thought I understood the word. Mostly just poking and prodding.

After the massage, I was scheduled to get a facial. At that point, being thoroughly traumatized, I actually asked if I could reschedule, but went through with it after finding out that I’d still have to pay 50%. This was my first good decision. It was nothing but bliss. Lots of different creams, a head/neck massage, and the warm towels I’d been waiting for. When the lady placed the little circle things on my eyes, I had to pick one up just to see if it was, in fact, a cucumber slice (nope, just a teeny cloth, white of course-thanks a lot, Hollywood).

Even though I was finally relaxed at the end, I couldn’t wait to slip out of that blinding white prison and back to the real world.


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