Friday, February 22, 2013
Touch Me, Baby
[Music: “Like a Virgin“ (Madonna) ]
Oh, yeah – that was me, baby – walking into my very first appointment for a massage, a virgin to the world of the spa. But now? I’ve seen the light. I think ..
While I’ve never been actively opposed to massages as an antidote to stress, my own modus operandi falls more along the lines of “Tough it out, kid.” But when a friend gave me a gift certificate to a local spa, I found myself growing giddy … and then alarmed… by the prospect of a 30-minute rubdown by a total stranger. Like a traveler planning an adventure, I Googled the customs of the Land of Massage, and found other clueless folks asking the same clueless questions: To tip or not to tip? (Yes, of course, tip, ya cheapskate.) Clothes on or off? (Outer off, under on – please! But only on the bottom. Okayyyy….I think I got that.) Talk or don’t talk during the massage? (Do as you like, or follow the therapist’s lead. But mostly, plan to shut up.)
When my appointment finally arrived, I was a tense little knot of nerves, pretty sure this was a terrible idea, and that I’d make a gaffe that would show up in a Spa News column titled, “Clients Who Rubbed Us the Wrong Way.” Once the glass door shut the snowy asphalt behind me, though, I could see why folks dig this sort of luxury. The lobby was warmly moist and herb-scented, and wooden flute music floated from behind folding bamboo screens. While I waited my turn, I ogled the displays of take-home merchandise: jars of treatments with tasty names like Pear Whip and Poppy Seed Scrub … I was working up an appetite until my eyes fell on a whole row of “youth serums” in eye-dropper jars that looked like they fell off the back of a snake oil wagon. This bleak reminder of my aging corpus deflated me a bit, but a gentle voice was already calling me back into my private room.
Suddenly, like a character in a fairy tale, I was ushered into a darkened chamber with a platform bed canopied in gauze, and instructed gently to undress (not all the way!) and climb between chocolate-brown sheets with a thread count so high it felt like being sandwiched between layers of chamois. The complete disorientation of being tucked into a strange bed in a strange room in the middle of the morning somehow gave permission to my puritan self to embrace the unknown. A counter tune to the wooden flute began playing in my head … yeah … :
[Music: “Touch Me Baby (The Doors) ]”
And … not to brag, but as a first-timer, I think I did pretty well. I managed not to giggle even when the therapist hit some tickly spots. And I learned quickly – well, sort of quickly – that I didn’t need to praise the therapist for every move she made. (After 20 years as a teacher, it’s hard not to say, “Good job! Nice work! I like what you did right there!” )
While my flesh was being pressed, my mind buzzed, mulling over what I’ve learned about the oxytocin release that comes with warm touch, and how important it is for us, as animals, to be touched with care. I like the way Stephanie Price, a Goshen News columnist, describes the body’s sense of supportive touch during childbirth as the message, “I’ll share the load.” Put that way, massage therapy rhymes with what lots of us do in a million different ways on this bumpy planetary journey. Yes: I’ll share the load.
The best advertisement for massage therapy was not so much my oiled and languid body at the end of the session, but the therapist herself, whose beatific aura was enviable, even though she’d been doing all the work. As we all suspected, sharing the load makes everyone feel good.
For Michiana Chronicles, this is the freshly kneaded April Lidinsky, hoping you hear the silent “K” in Barbra’s famous ode to massage [Music: “People, People Who Knead People”]
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