It always starts with me taking off my clothes. Normally I’m all for getting naked in public however the combination of sterile linens and neutral wallpaper reminds me of a doctor’s office, so at the back of my mind, I spend the whole time waiting for the speculum to appear.
Of course there’s the music, piping softly into the room. Clearly the person who mandated that the natural soundtrack be played at all times, was never woken up by birds. Sometimes I curse those chirping harbringers of the morning.
Then in walks a stranger. This is the part that consistently throws me for a loop, As children, we’re taught not to talk to people we don’t know, not to get into their cars, never to take any sort of foodstuffs from them, but then we become adults and suddenly it’s a clothes-off, pants-off, dance-off. Not really, I haven’t ever actually danced during one of these things. But you get the drift.
This is followed by pleasantries. As I am a hero of small talk, this regularly is a smashing success. And by success I mean, now not only am I uncomfortable but so is the masseuse. At some point the massage starts, and the real discomfort begins. Supposedly other people relax when they receive a massage, by contrast my mind lurches into action, trying to figure out why I’ve chosen to do this.
Questions start rolling through my head like; why is it acceptable for random people to knead my buttocks while Enya plays in the background? Or, I wonder if in another dimension Pink Floyd is played while people throw themselves against walls for enjoyment rather than having underpaid workers rub their bodies?
Or I contemplate whether the answer “I prefer no pressure at all, in fact you can probably stop now” is an acceptable response to the massage therapist’s question of “How’s the pressure?”
Once my brain has accepted the fact that another person will be touching me for an hour, I try to focus on enjoying the massage. My thoughts start to resemble a pep talk before a big football game. “Unwashed, you’ve trained hard, you hugged three people whom you felt ambivalent about last week, hence this massage will be a piece of cake. Three separate co-workers were convinced that you were normal yesterday. Unwashed, you are a pro at pretending to like normal activities like eating ice cream and paying strangers to touch you.”
This kind of thinking works for a while but after three or so body parts have been fondled by a person who would no doubt rather be baking or knitting or doing anything but touching my extremely tense limbs, I try and figure out the most subtle way that I can check the time. Since I’ve never been able to fake a sigh of enjoyment while at a spa, I tend to go for the fake violent sneeze rather than the sigh-head-turn combo. The sneeze trick also has the added benefit of unnerving the massage therapist into thinking that I’m potentially contagious, and perhaps they should end the massage early.
Afterwards of course I smile, thank the massage therapist nicely, and swear never to return. At least until the next time someone convinces me that I’m going to love getting a massage.