A few years back my boss – an incredibly smart, caring and generous woman – gave me a gift certificate for a massage therapy center. Although the not-too-subtle hint that I needed to de-stress was appreciated, I had never had a massage (other than a hand massage while on a cruise two decades ago, and a chair massage one decade ago), so I tucked the gift into my stash of gift cards to be used someday when I got up the nerve.
The following year she gave me another...and the next year another.
Sensing a trend there, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out, but I didn’t want to go alone for this first-time experience.
My original plan – to go with my oldest/best friend following my son’s wedding last year – was foiled when I threw my back out while resting on a chaise lounge on the beach after the wedding. (Yes, I apparently stress myself out even while relaxing at the beach.)
Several months passed, and when work became even crazier and fast-paced than usual, I knew I needed help and decided a relaxing massage might be just the ticket. So I asked my daughter-in-law (a middle school teacher who could use some de-stressing herself) if she’d want to join me. She thought it was a great idea, and we decided to go while she was off for summer vacation. She kindly did the research and made a reservation for us.
By the time the big day rolled around last week, I was sooooo ready to put myself into the hands of an expert at relieving others’ tension. I took the day off work, and as I kissed TPM (hubby) goodbye, he said, “Enjoy yourself with Louie of the magic hands!”
“Ha-ha-ha,” I answered with a snort, “Try Louise.” Then I got in the car for the 90-mile drive to meet up with my DIL. We went for a yummy lunch, strolled around a craft store for a few minutes, then headed for our appointment with the massage therapists.
“Oh, by the way,” she said as we crossed the parking lot and headed toward the front door of the place, “they only have male therapists today. I meant to tell you but I kept forgetting. I hope that’s okay.”
I give myself a lot of credit for not stopping and running in the other direction. In fact, I kept walking, although a few of my steps might have stuttered.
“Oh?” I said, as calmly as I could. “Well, hahahaha, I guess we’ll find out!” (That second part did come out on the manic side.)
We went into the place, checked in and filled in a form that dictated where we did and did not give the therapist permission to touch. (For me, nothing in the torso area....NOTHING.) Then we got the run-down of how things would go: You get five minutes to disrobe, the therapist comes in, works on you for 50 minutes (so long??!!), then you have five minutes to get dressed again.
“Ready?” the young woman asked?
“Yes!” we said enthusiastically while inside I was screaming, HELP MEEEEEEEE. SOMEBODY GET ME OUT OF HERE!!
Now, I'm no prude. In fact, anyone who has read my stories know they can be steamy, but it’s not like I’m living the lives of my heroines! While Leah the author craft heroines completely at ease with their bodies, Leah the person is pretty modest when it comes to clothing and showing skin. I don’t cover myself like a nun, but Saturday Night Live's Church Lady might be close. Aside from that, I’ve been married to the same man for almost 40 ears. I wasn’t even 20 when we started dating and never looked back. So the idea of having a STRANGE MAN’S hands touching my skin, all over....to say I was nervous is like calling a stroke a spike in blood pressure.
I got into the room, undressed in about ten seconds, threw myself onto the bed—under the sheet and cloyingly hot blanket—then immediately started sweating. As soon as the STRANGE MAN came in, I said, “Can I get rid of the blanket? I’m dying of heat!”
I knew I risked exposing more of my silhouette, but I figured it was better than sweating like a pig. And the sheet was opaque! And I was still wearing my undies!
The blanket came off and he turned the lights waaaay down and got started.
Let me say right off that the therapist was a complete professional and gentleman – and super gentle with his hands. He did nothing to cause me any discomfort. I was creating enough discomfort in my head for us both! He started with my scalp (which was lovely), then worked his way to my neck and shoulders, my tension/stress collectors. He even did some stretching, and it felt glorious.
Then he moved around to my side and fumbled with something at his waist. I heard a metallic clinking...like a man’s belt! My eyes flew open and I started yelling What-the-expletive!!! in my head...until I realized it was a lotion dispenser attached at his waist.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’m great!!” I said, channeling Tony the Tiger.
I calmed down while he slathered some calming goop all over my shoulders and arms (me trying not to think of the under-arm flab he was encountering). Then he carefully covered me to my neck with the sheet, moved down the table and pulled the sheet away from my right leg.
My eyes flew open again. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered my legs would be part of this deal, but I hadn’t! Here I am, 90 percent unclothed with nothing but a sheet separating me from this STRANGE MAN and he’s massaging me from my toes to my thighs. AND I HADN’T THOUGHT TO SHAVE MY LEGS IN ADVANCE!
I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I hardly have leg hair anymore (Is this TMI??? Sorry, I can’t stop myself), but there are still bumps and lumps and other evidence of several decades of life and ... let’s just say I wasn't blessed with Tina Turner’s legs (or talent).
Did I mention during this entire time I could hear my DIL chatting away and laughing with her therapist? (In my room, aside from the few minutes after I asked him to share how he got into the line of work, and the new-agey background music, dead silence reigned. I tried telepathically communicating with DIL to learn her secret but got nothing from her. Drat.)
Finally, after every inch of my body (aside from the torso) had been stroked, kneaded and gooped, my therapist stopped and told me our time together had come to an end.
I thanked him profusely, dressed and ran to the rest room to see if my hair had turned white in those 50 minutes. When I met my DIL in the lobby, she said she’d had an “amazing” time and asked how I did.
I thought for a moment and answered (truthfully) that it had been a really good experience. Self-inflicted neurosis aside, I had spent the past hour with someone focused solely on making me feel better, my muscles were definitely looser, and the tension in my shoulders had dissipated.
Am I still obsessing about the bumps and lumps he’d seen and touched? YES.
Am I telling myself he’s like a doctor, seen it all, so I shouldn’t be embarrassed? YES, but it’s not working.
Will I go back for another? Probably, but if I do, I’ll make sure a woman is available.
Does that make me old-fashioned? A fuddy-duddy?
Maybe, but I yam what I yam.
I’d love to hear your stories or experiences with male or female massage therapists! Am I alone in my neurosis?
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. When she calms down, this experience will be filed away in her “what-if” file for a future story. Learn more about her writing at LeahStJames.com, or visit her on Facebook where she occasionally shares pictures and videos of her son’s two-year-old (male) cat.