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.

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.)

My Week 4 – An Open Letter To MacLean’s Magazine

Dear MacLean’s:
I recently read an article published in your magazine called “New Girl, Go Girl,” which purported to be about the “new feminism” (because apparently the old feminism, where women banded together and fought for equal rights with our male counterparts, wasn’t good enough). While there’s a lot to be said for young girls taking ownership of “cultural currency” and standing strong against “social stereotypes and a sex-saturated culture”, I take particular exception to three things in the article, and I will deal with them in order of appearance, so here they are:

3 Things I Learned From This Article
1) The best fictional teen heroines are the best by virtue of the fact that they are fat, plain, and sexual. “Fat” and “plain” are NOT my words; they belong to the author of the article, Anne Kingston. The first part of this article highlights a new teen novel, How To Build A Girl, whose heroine is described as smart, well-read, funny, but also fat and plain, among other things. Katniss Everdeen, of Hunger Games fame, according to Kingston, pales in comparison next to this new teen heroine because…well why is that, anyway? They seem to be fairly equal—I think we all agree that Katniss is smart, would have been well-read if the oppressive society she lived in allowed her to read extensively rather than fight for her freedom, and would have been hilarious if she (back to this again, sorry) hadn’t had to fight to overthrow a corrupt and oppressive government. As for her physical appearance, I can’t remember whether she was skinny or fat, pretty or not, because none of that was relevant to (sorry, once more) her fight to overthrow an oppressive, corrupt government. Kingston extolls the heroine of How To Build A Girl for the integrity of her personal quest—-to lose her virginity at age 16, which apparently she does accomplish in the novel. Good for her. Because that’s what very young girls SHOULD be reading about, not about women who want to change their worlds like Malala Yousafzai. It’s a shame that Suzanne Collins hadn’t realized that—I’m sure Hunger Games would have been even more successful if Katniss had spent the majority of her time trying to get laid. As for this being no “Cinderella story”, the heroine somehow gets a “coveted job as a music journalist, and sails into a bright future at the age of 17”, which is what happens to all girls who don’t pursue post-secondary education. In contrast, Katniss Everdeen’s Cinderella story is pretty close to the Disney version, except the mice are all forced to fight to the death, and the Fairy Godmother wants to kill her for starting a revolution.

2) Girls with “bass” run the world. Kingston cites Meghan Trainor, pop singer, and her catchy little ditty “All About That Bass” as part of the new ethic of female self-acceptance. I’m sorry, but did you actually read the lyrics of this song? There’s a neat little tool called Google that you might want to use. If you bother actually reading the words rather than just tapping your toes to the chorus, you will discover that Meghan, who for obvious reasons “refuses to be called a feminist”, is proud of her large posterior for these two reasons: a) the boys chase it, and b) her mama told her that boys like a little more booty to hold at night. In addition, she wants all the “skinny bitches” to know that she is “bringing booty back.” THIS is the voice of the new girl power? That boys like big butts and that we should make sure that our “junk” is in all the right places? I’m sorry, but how is this self-acceptance in any sense of the word? What it is, in fact, is yet another sad example of women trying to desperately justify their physicality to men, and to condemn other women for theirs. As a professional, intelligent woman, I honestly can’t remember a single time that I worried about what “the boys” thought regarding my ass, or the rest of my “junk”.

3) Feminist ideas that should have stopped being an issue are still relevant in 2014. Knight refers to Susan Douglas, who seems to be a walking anachronism, and her two contradictory statements. First, she condemns the new “sneaky form of sexism” which seems to mean “young women can do or be anything they want, as long as they conform to confining ideals about femininity and don’t want too much”. Second, she condemns “a celebration of stay-at-home moms and ‘opting out’ of the workforce”. Excuse my ignorance, feminist guru person, but haven’t we gotten past the point where we look down on our sisters who CHOOSE to be mothers? Isn’t that what the fight for equal rights got us—the option to work or stay home? Some women actually like babies and want to spend a lot of time with them; some women think they’re poop and puke machines and can’t wait to get back to work. Either way, that’s the right of every woman to decide, and to snidely suggest that there’s something wrong with celebrating stay-at-home mothers is akin to someone else snidely suggesting that there’s something wrong with supporting our sisters who want to return to the workforce. So who is it that expects women to conform to confining ideals? You can’t have it both ways, Susan Douglas.

While there were a lot of merits to this article, there were also a lot of flaws. Women need to stop worrying about their physical appearance and how men (and other women) feel about it, and start worrying about a) developing and promoting the power of our minds and self-will b) nurturing love for and promotion of other women and their choices and c) focusing on the world around us rather than the world within us. But that’s just me. Thanks for listening.