I may be one of the few people who actually doesn’t like getting a massage. It’s not that I don’t appreciate having someone work over the knots in my back and relax all my aches and pains, it’s just that there’s still a part of me that feels awkward when it’s done by a strangers. In our society touch has been elevated to one of the most intimate gestures. Even on subways or elevators all seem to be able to perfectly manuever ourselves to avoid even a hair intruding the personal space of a stranger. Even the term pat on the back seems outdated in this era of lawsuits for sexual harrassment. So it takes a lot to be able to disrobe and pay someone to touch you. Massage therapists are more than aware of the sexual connotations of getting a massage. When I talked to professional massage therapist Jennifer Robinson of Relax & Rejuvenate about how she handles anytype of sexual overture she says while that’s never happened it would end the session immediately and perhaps involve a call to law enforcement.
This may help to explain why the word masseuse has gone the way of stewardess. Robinson says professional massage therapists want their clients to know they are not the people you find in the back of magazines or in Craig’s List’s adult services section as the case may be..
Even being relieved that you’re in the hands of a professional, I still was apprehensive. I was revealing to Robinson parts of my body that I usually take pains to conceal, like my body hair, my less than stellar physique and that scar on my back from when I had a mole removed years ago. But again Robinson assured me she really couldn’t care less “A body is a body she told me.” Great I should think of myself as some sort of meatwad.
As the masage went on, I did start to relax and enjoy having my knots worked on, and yet I still couldn’t quite let myself go completely. Perhaps it was because we didn’t have any Enya on in the background or the fact that I knew I was being filmed. But I think a lot also had to do with the whole face cradle you’re put in when you get a massage. Robinson explained this is much better for your muscles than lieing on your side but it also locks you in and prevents you from ever seeing the face of your massage therapist. There’s a little bit of creepiness of having disconnected hands move over your body. Robinson says she prefers not to talk during the massage, so as to let her clients fall into the transe of the moment. I talked this over with my colleague NPR’s Alison Bryce, herself a former massage therapist. She took a little different approach and would talk with clients as you would at a barbershop. She saw herself as a healer and if that involved letting out your emotions verbally she would do that with her clients. For me massages have been more about physical therapy then relaxing. Perhaps because I get them so infrequently, I always seem to need deep tissue work. As you can see in the video – I’m not always so good at handling the pain of this.
There is actually an instance where I have enjoyed getting a massage and that is when I’ve had a couples massage.
This is where I’ve gone in with my wife and we’ve gotten a massage together. This accomplishes a couple of things for me. First off all it alleviates any odd feelings off having another woman touch me, and second it gets me off the hook for having to give her a massage later on.