On Tuesday, I got a massage. Now, I am no stranger to “the table”, having had many experiences, usually very positive, with massage therapy, but this time, it was really weird. I haven’t had a massage for over a year, but my brother and sister-in-law gave me a gift card to a fancy spa, so I thought, What the hell? Why not treat myself to something really relaxing? But now I’m starting to wonder if maybe either I’ve reached the point where relaxation is impossible, or the world of massage therapy has changed so drastically that it and I are no longer compatible.
I got to the spa after walking several city blocks in minus 10 degree weather due to College subway station being closed and under investigation for a “gun incident”. So I was absolutely freezing when I arrived. But I know the drill—go into the changeroom, get undressed, put on a thick, cushy robe, sit in a big cushy chair and wait for my blissful turn. I was getting nicely warmed up when the tiny RMT (at least that’s who I assumed she was, but now I’m not sure) walked over, shook my hand, and said, “Hi, Suzanne, I’m Terry. It’s nice to meet you” to which I replied, “I’m…nice to meet you too,” because I was going to introduce myself then I realized that she already knew my name and then I sounded kind of dumb, but that’s par for the course. Also, my mouth was partially frozen, so technically, I could have been muttering ANYTHING.
She took me into the room, and then said, “You can take off the robe and lie down on the table. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes AFTER I WASH MY HANDS.” I put that in caps because it sounded ominous and all I could think was, a) Is it because her hands are dirty? B) She just shook MY hand. Does she think MY hands are dirty? c) If HER hands are dirty, then should I wash MY hands? Is there a sink in here?
Now, you might say that I was overthinking things, but it was a combination of nervousness (what if she walks in the door while I’m still nakedly hanging up my robe?) and general OCD hygiene issues surrounding having strangers touch me in the first place. At any rate, I got myself somewhat settled on the table after wriggling around a bit to find the least irritating way to put my face in the hole, and then she knocked and came in. She started oiling up my back and asked casually, “So I assume you’re here for a FULL body massage?” and I said “Yes.” But then I got worried by what exactly she meant by “full body”. Was this like a massage with a “happy ending”? Because it didn’t seem like THAT kind of place. Was she talking about my upper lady parts? I’d never had anyone ask this before and I really didn’t want someone kneading my boobs. But the problem was, how could I clarify this without sounding like a total weirdo myself? Finally, after wrestling with the dilemma for about 5 minutes, I said, “By full body massage, I assume you mean back, arms, legs, feet—that kind of thing? My feet are really sore from walking here, so I hope they’ll be included in the fun, ha ha ha” and that sounded really f*cking creepy and I was like, My god, I am NOT relaxed at all.
But wait. It gets worse. She assured me that yes, she would make her way around to all the parts aforementioned, but after what seemed like at least half an hour, she was still on my back. She was using her forearm and just sliding it up and down really REALLY slowly in a way that was both irritating and a little boring. And I started obsessing that we would run out of time, and my feet would NOT get to join in the fun, nor my legs. I consoled myself by promising my legs and feet that if they were left out, I would take them to Pinky Nails and get a pedicure, which for $29 Canadian includes not only a full leg and foot massage, but also while your toenails are drying, one of the girls will come over and say, “You like shoulder massage?” and JUST GIVE YOU ONE and it’s awesome.
Finally, she did get around to my arms and legs. She was rubbing her forearm slowly up and down my left calf when suddenly, she asked, “Are your feet ticklish?” I had no idea how to respond because obviously the answer to that depends on the context, like “not normally” but “yes, if you have a feather”—apparently this was the segue into foot time.
I was quite relieved but then she did something I’ve never had done before—she washed them first. She got out these hot, wet towels and thoroughly scrubbed my feet with them, including between my toes. And I didn’t know if she was trying to be nice, or whether this just confirmed that she really DID think I was all germ-y and whatnot, and also it’s very disconcerting to have a total stranger wash your feet, like you’re some kind of biblical martyr.
After the feet, I was instructed to turn over, at which point, she started working on my shoulders, and I realized that a) she had been eating salami at some point during the day and was now breathing it down on me and b) all the essential oils in the world weren’t going to cover up that smell.
Finally, the whole ordeal was over, and she told me to go ahead and get up when I was ready—that she would be waiting for me. So I sat there for a very long time pondering the inevitable action of having to get out from under the cozy sheets and parade naked across the room yet again. I finally girded my loins (figuratively—I was naked), ran across the room, got on my robe, opened the door, and there she was—literally outside the door like a garden gnome. She scared the sh*t out of me, and then I felt immediately guilty for making her wait so long.
And I wonder if she also thought the whole experience was strikingly abnormal, because she was like, “Well, that was great. Bathe in Epsom salts later. Bye.” and then she just disappeared.
In addition to all of this, I had another gift card on file with the spa which, combined with my new one, would cover the massage. They couldn’t find it:
Girl: Would it be under C or W?
Me: It would be under whatever you put it under.
Girl: I can’t find it.
Me: Well, I don’t have it because the last time I was here, you said, “Let me take your gift card and put it on file for you.”
Girl: Do you know how much was left on it?
Me: I would if I had it, because you wrote the amount on it. But then you took it.
I made my way to the subway station to go home. It was super f*cking windy, and by the time I got on the train, my eyes were tearing really badly which wasn’t a real problem because all my make-up had been smeared off by the hole in the massage table anyway. So there I was, hanging on to a pole, sniffing and wiping tears from my smeary eyes, when a friend from work came walking towards me. “My god, is everything alright?!” she asked.
“Oh,” I answered. “I just had a massage.”
(*I woke up the next morning in agony. It took four days for my back to stop hurting and now I think that she wasn’t actually a massage therapist after all, just a demon with large forearms.)