OK, in the interest of full disclosure, this isn’t the first massage I’ve ever gotten. It’s maybe the fifth.
I got a gift certificate for a massage for my 40th birthday and it took me several years to use it, so trust me. The thought of stripping down to my underwear and having a stranger rub me all over my body is not my idea of a good time.
Well, I didn’t use to think it was a good time.
I went to my first massage with more than a few reservations. The salon was very trendy, which made me feel out of place right away. Then I was led to a large dressing room where I was instructed to undress, don a fluffy robe and sandels, and wait in a quiet, candle-lit room where I could enjoy tea and snacks while I waited for my turn.
I’m sure the experience was supposed to be relaxing, but I couldn’t enjoy it, what with all of the questions running through my head. Should I leave on my underwear? Would I feel ticklish having someone touch me? Where, exactly, was this stranger going to touch me anyway? Would he or she be disgusted with my body or notice my fat? Did I remember to shave my legs and wash my feet? Would it matter?
When my massage therapist came to claim me – it was a woman, Melissa – I just fessed up and told her it was my first massage and I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to have it. She was great and said most people felt exactly the same way the first time. She explained the process, and assured me that at any time I could tell her it I wasn’t comfortable.
It only took a few minutes to realize that she knew what she was doing, and that not only was this going to be a relaxing half hour, it was going to be theraputic. And no, I wasn’t lying totally naked on the table. I was covered by warm, fluffy comforting blankets with only the limbs she was working on exposed. The rest of me was covered and toasty.
During that first massage, Melissa pointed out the tension I had in my neck and shoulders and what she was doing to work it out. She also warned me that I might feel sore the next day, and that I should drink lots of water, because a massage is like a workout on your muscles.
Sore? Not a bit. In fact, I felt great. For the first time in months, I could actually turn my head without pain.
I was sold on massages. The only problem is that it can get costly, so a massage is definitely a rare treat, one I usually indulge in when I have a gift card.
Until today. For quite a while I’ve been having pain in my neck, back, hips … oh, let’s face, I’m in pain everywhere … and today I realized that there was something I could do about it.
My salon was offering a special discount on full body massages: $45 for 50 minutes. The only problem: this isn’t where I normally go for a massage (I get my hair done there), so instead of Melissa I’d be having a stranger touching me. And a guy at that.
But the pain won out, which is how I found myself on Michael’s massage table.
The salon isn’t as luxurious – no separate dressing room and shower, no candle-lit waiting room – but the massage was exactly what I needed. It was the first time I’d had someone work on my body from head to toe – literally. Michael worked pressure points in my feet that relieved pain in my back, spots in my legs that loosened up my hips, and my neck – oh, my neck. I could move again.
It was different than any other massage I’ve had- I saw how my entire body was involved in my pain and how what he was doing was helping me all over – and when I was finished I felt a little dopey and the headache I’d started the day with was a little worse.
By the time I got home, I was feeling nauseous and really dizzy, so I ate lunch, took some Advil, and had some tea. And in about half an hour, I was feeling fantastic. In fact, I felt so good I took the dogs to canal for a walk … in the rain. It was great.
Best of all, my mood was drastically improved. Being in pain just wears you down physically and mentally. I can’t imagine how people in chronic, severe pain – like my Aunt Mary Ellen, who has rheumatoid arthritis – manage it.
I asked Michael if he enjoyed his job, and he – quite adamantly – said yes. When I asked if it freaked him out to touch strangers, he said not at all (except you couldn’t pay him enough to do pedicures; eeew, cleaning people’s feet? Not his thing). I told him that it must be nice to have a job that you enjoyed and where you left people feeling so good. He laughed and said it beat working at the DMV.
So in the spirit of adventure, let me challenge you to go get a massage. If you’re really scared, start small, maybe with a chair massage, where you’re fully clothed. But I suggest you jump in with both feet. Trust me. It’s not as weird as you think it is.