My Week 219: Rubbed the Wrong Way

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.
Girl:

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.)

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53 thoughts on “My Week 219: Rubbed the Wrong Way

  1. Wow what a horrible experience. I used to get regular massages before we had to flee the old city. She was AMAZING with her therapeutic massages. I miss those. Never was able to find anyone here that was even close.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve never had a massage, in part because I’m not sure guys really do that and in part because I’m 60% sure that the knots I’ve had in all my muscles for decades are the only things holding my body together.

    This sounds scarier than I would have imagined it, though, like right when you were putting your robe back on, someone was going to walk in and say, “Did you see a crazy woman wander through here who smelled like salami? We’re not sure how she got in.”

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I identify with this SO much! There’s just so much vulnerability in that scenario, and if the therapist is a bit of an odd duck on top of it, my brain will kick into overdrive.

    I need to get massages every three months or so if I want my neck and shoulders to function like normal human and shoulders, and it takes me a good half hour to be able to relax into it because Anxiety Brain is busy analyzing every single thing that happened from the time I walked in the door. I finally just had to start springing for the 90 minute massage, since I spent the first 30 minutes totally UNrelaxed anyway.

    Hope the next one goes a lot more smoothly than this one did!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, I think what bothers me more is the fact that the spa said they had a gift card for you on file and then they couldn’t find it? WTF?!? To me that means that a) someone swiped your card or b) they lied telling you they couldn’t find it so someone could steal your card. In any care sorry about the “horribly uncomfortable, salami breathing, creepy foot washing, awkward masseuse, next morning sore” experience. I would have been pissed, but you took it in stride!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Outside of the missus (who is dynamite at it, by the way) I’ve only ever had one other massage (it was dynamite, too). I was in Hawaii on a company-paid vacation (I was wondering when I could slip “I was in Hawaii on a company-paid vacation” into a reply) and the massage came with the package. It was exquisite and I swore I’d get one professional massage once-a-month for the rest of my life.

    That was 12 years ago now and, as I’ve said, nary another.

    (I was wondering how I was gonna slip “nary another” into a reply. This is a good day!)

    My wife had a different masseuse on that same trip and had the most horrible massage experience of her life (akin to your own).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s been a good year since I’ve gotten a massage from my wife and now I’m mad at her. Your post brought me every emotion.

    And now my makeups’s running …

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The one time I had a massage the woman who did it explained at first that this wouldn’t be a “happy ending” massage and I didn’t know how to respond to that because I thought it was clear, since my wife had referred me, that I wasn’t there for that sort of thing–not that I’d go for that sort of massage under any circumstances, and she was a professional who worked out of her home and had a framed degree hanging on the wall–which pretty much screams “not a prostitute”. Then she asked me if I’d be okay with her playing music and I said “yeah” and she said, “Oh, good, I like guys like you,” and at that point there was no amount of massage that was going to release all the stress I got from just talking to her.
    Anyway I think what it comes down to is that massages are always terrible, humiliating experiences, even without the salami.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ewww! Why would she even ask you that?! Although, ‘professional who worked out of her home’ might have been a tip-off that perhaps her other clients occasionally partook of the happy ending type. Obviously her degree wasn’t in diplomacy or making people comfortable.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so sorry you had to go through such an awkward experience. I’ve never had a bad massage, but my first ever facial was from a person I suspect had no training as an aesthetician. Everything was very haphazard. She got the cleanser in my hair & up my nose, and just sort of glopped on the moisturizer. Also, she was a heavy smoker. Not that she was smoking during the facial but she had just had at least one before the session and her breath, hands, and clothes smelled very strongly of stale smoke. (I normally don’t have a problem with smokers, but the ones I know don’t reek like that woman did.) It was years before I was brave enough to have another.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was given a free massage card and was forced into it. I didn’t like it, was hurtful and I left right after she did my back to redo some incense. Yuck! I have had back therapy massages at a hospital and once I got over the worst of the pain and they put heated packs on me, I was okay. I would never do any of them again, well maybe once, if a certain person did it. I never kiss and tell, well almost never.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Suzanne, you have absolutely confirmed my choice to never get a massage. Thank you! I don’t want to be touched by a stranger, and I am with T….salami mouth is Gross!!!!! I knew this was going to be a good read the minute I saw the work massage!

    Liked by 1 person

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