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The most awkward massage in the world (and other searing updates)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I love this New York Times story by John Jeremiah Sullivan, like, a lot. He went on a massage marathon, exploring all the wonders and horrors of having a stranger get all handsy with you while you're prone on a table with twinkling waterfall music playing on an iPod dock.

It really resonated with me. My last massage was a few years ago.

That day, a luxurious day off I had planned to spend in total cliche feminine relaxation, I called up my local chain massage store and made an appointment. I didn't specify the gender of massage therapist I wanted. I didn't really think about it, to be honest. I think I just assumed I would get a woman. I arrived all smiley and grabbed the paperwork to check off boxes ("no, I don't want my butt groped, but thanks," "no, don't touch my front friends, either"). That was when a strapping young man sauntered around the corner. He had cropped brown hair and green eyes that looked like jewelry. He smiled and there was nearly a ping.

I prayed he was just front desk eye candy who would escort me to the back, where my massage therapist, a 6-foot-4 burly woman named Helga, would be waiting. But no.

"I'll be your massage therapist," he said.

If life was like Sex and the City, I would have shown up to brunch in my bra and reported to my harem of unlikely friends about how love really is complicated, but sometimes you just win. But life is actually more like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Immediately, I had a few thoughts.

1. I have a boyfriend, and even though this is not technically wrong, this feels weird.
2. I have not shaved in approximately 27 years.
3. Jesus take the wheel. Take it from my hands.

The new, calm-assertive, Cesar Millan Steph might have kindly asked for a different therapist, all the while complimenting this man's dimples so he didn't feel it was personal. But back then I was just all.

It wasn't his fault. He was just trying to do his job, trying to get new clients and make people feel good. I knew it had to be tough for male massage therapists out there, what with skittish women such as myself, and so I just went with it, into the back, where there was dim lighting and a weird pillow with boob indentations for me to lay on. I left on as many clothes as possible.

The massage was a blur, and I didn't enjoy it at all. Mostly I remember that he wouldn't stop sharing all the overtly masculine details of his life, like how he used to be in the Army, how he was training to be a sports therapist for injured athletes and this was a stepping stone. When it was time to work on my calves, which I had naively checked the box for servicing while still picturing Helga, I choked out an apology for the fact that I looked like I had been trapped in a mountain ravine for several weeks.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "I spent a lot of time in Europe."

I don't know if you remember those slap bracelets from the 90s, but one minute they're all curly and then you unroll them and they're so straight their back almost turns concave. That's what happened to me. I was more tense than I had ever been in my life.

"You gotta relax," he said, all whispery.

After the massage, I think he said something about how my sore back wouldn't be all worked out until I had several more appointments. They always say this, but I think they especially say it when they have just attempted to massage a 4-by-4 in-ground mailbox post.

I have not had a massage since, and I've also had the sort of "necky" headache Sullivan describes in his story ever since. Maybe I should try again. I might start out at the mall kiosk where the massage therapist is blind.

Odds and ends:

1. Speaking of Honey Boo Boo, relationships, body hair and having no shame, here's how Jim and I dressed for Halloween:

2. I wrote a story for the paper about an old-fashioned Halloween costume shop having a hard time, and I'm pretty excited that one of my favorite writers EVAR, Hank Stuever, assigned it to his pop culture reporting class as reading. If they're anything like I was in college, they'll skim it in the bagel line while trying to apply eyeliner moments before class. Read Hank's blog here, with all his class assignments. I would love to take his class, now that I GAF and whatnot.

3. I know I haven't posted an OBITCHUARY chapter in a while. I bought a house (more later), I took some trips. I also just needed a break from it, and I felt like people were way behind on the videos anyway. I am aiming to make the next chapter this week or next and get back into the swing. As for the manuscript, it has recently gone out to a few new houses. Maybe some NY editors got drunk during Hurricane Sandy, read it by candlelight and fell in love. We can hope! If you want to catch up on the chapters, clicky, clicky.


  1. Ew. Must admit that this whole thing didn't look too attractive when my Friend Phoebe did massages and her odd brother thought she was a hooker. Note to self: no massage.

  2. Next time we're together, I'll tell you the massage story from the therapist's point of view. :)

  3. It is for this reason that many therapists frustrate over their poor lifestyles and quiet days. Massage is a great career, but for many, not a good way to make money. relaxey mobile massage