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Manhandled

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For a long time, I had so much self-anguish about my body that I actually preferred to think of myself as just a head. I mentally distanced myself from everything below my neck (ok, everything below my boobs, since I can’t really see it anyway) and then went about my life as though I were a set of eyeballs floating 5 feet 9 inches above the pavement. As stupid as that is.

I recognize that it’s a dysfunctional relationship to one’s self and one’s body. I get that. And it took the better part of my twenties and some of my thirties to get to a place where I felt like what was me was fully contained within the confines of my skin. Ok, that sounds like hokey new age bullshit! I know! And yet.

One of the things I did to fix this broken head was to listen to those inner voices that were telling me I couldn’t possibly do something because of the fatness. Like, I couldn’t go on a plane, because I was fat. I couldn’t go to a dance club, because I was fat. I couldn’t meet new people, because I was fat. I couldn’t demand respect, because I was fat. So many couldn’ts. Whenever I found myself thinking that I couldn’t do something, I said “fuck that noise” and did it, whatever it was. No one tells me what I can’t do, certainly not my annoying inner insecurities!

And one of these things was getting a massage. You might remember my first massage (god, really, 2003?) and how completely nervous I was about it. I even over-tipped, because I felt bad that she must have spent an hour thinking “oh my god, I have to touch THAT?!”. But then slowly I realized and learned that masseuses do this job because they consider themselves health providers and that the massage is almost like a gift of friendship, as hippy as that sounds. Their training and education forces them to appreciate and consider many different human bodies, so they tend to be very openminded (and think about it, wouldn’t you have to be to be a masseuse in Wisconsin?).  And also, I have learned to be very zen about the experience, because I cannot control what anyone is thinking about my body, so I can either waste the massage stressing and feeling badly about myself or I can enjoy the service, be entirely in the moment, relishing the feeling of someone who is committing themselves to my relaxation. After all, to be worrying about my body while they are trying to relax me is kind of working against the masseuse in the first place and making their job harder for them, right?

Last April, I made a bet with my bff from high school, who was on her umpteenth attempt to quit smoking and expressed some worry that she hoped it was the last time. I helped her out with some incentive: if she didn’t touch a cigarette between then and August 1, I would buy her a massage BUT if she smoked at all, then she would be buying ME a massage. I figured that I would win because either way, I was getting a massage. Suddenly that cigarette isn’t really worth it. I’m probably a mean friend, but she took the bet, and said that it helped her through some very rough patches. I had hoped it would, because Fern and I are wired very similarly: it’s easy to justify to yourself that you don’t NEED a massage, even a free one, but knowing that you’d have to PAY OUT? Suddenly that cigarette isn’t worth it. We got dual massages last month, Fern with a male masseuse (her first massage and she goes All In, got to give her props). She raved about him SO much, followed by several massage employees raving about his work that I decided it was time for me to give up my fear of having a male masseur and just do it. After all, that inner voice had gotten much quieter, but it is still undeniably present and fuck if I’m going to let it rule my life.

I had an appointment yesterday, using some loyalty points, and whoa, I’ll say there’s a difference. First of all, hello, I’m naked under a sheet and there’s a man in the room. A man who is not my husband. Also, I am naked under a sheet totally naked. Suddenly, something that seems so benign and calming seems very much like the scene of a seduction! Maybe it’s because I’m just totally sexually repressed, but I was still very aware of the fact that hello, here are my breasts, under this VERY THIN PROBABLY SEE-THROUGH SHEET DOOCECAPS NAKED. And also, I don’t think I’ve ever been thonged by the sheet tuck before, so that was new.

To sum up: boys are different.

Granted, I ended up getting a deep-tissue and yeah, baby, it was some deep shit. I’m feeling vaguely banged up today, but I do have to say that I was amazingly relaxed when I went to bed and also, this morning I have almost zero tension in my evil shoulder/neck Triangle O’Stress. I think I’ll be going back to him, even though I’m wondering if the massage wasn’t really just a complicated construct that enables him to get paid to get to second base. Maybe that’s the Stockholm Syndrome talking.

Are you thinking about getting a massage but too nervous? Don’t be. Here’s a rubdown rundown of what to expect, after the jump.

Never had a massage? Here’s what happens. If it’s an actual spa, you get naked in the spa’s locker room or you can go to a bathroom to change and put on a robe. If it’s a smaller spa, you may just be taken straight to the service room by your masseuse. In the room, there is a very sturdy table that’s basically a tall bed, with pillows and heated blankets but with a padded toilet-seat looking thing at the top. She’ll instruct you to get under the blankets on your stomach, because they almost always start on the back area (unless you’re getting a body treatment, at which point they start on the front, but that’s unusual), and then she leaves the room so that you can take off your robe and slippers and get adjusted. You crawl into the bed, face down, and put your face into the hole of the “toilet seat” thing. I always have a problem figuring out what to do with my arms, but it doesn’t matter, whatever is comfortable for you, at your side or up under your chin, whatever. Eventually, she’ll knock and you tell her it’s ok to come in. Then she takes off her shoes, usually, and warms up her hands. She’ll then roll the blanket down to your waist. This is the most naked you are during the entire appointment, but you’re lying on your stomach/boobs, so nothing is really showing. I sometimes think about my back fat at this point, but then she starts massaging, and it’s not a big deal anymore. Remember, they’ve seen it all, and one told me that she’s just thrilled when it’s not someone who has a lot of body/back hair or serious back acne. Eventually, she’ll finish with your back (this takes about 20 minutes and is the best part of the appt in my opinion). She will talk as little or as much as you want, and a good masseuse will figure out what you need to help relax, conversationally. When she is done with your back, she’ll cover you back up and then roll the blanket to expose one leg, tucking the blanket under it, so that you’re basically tucked in except for the part that she’s working on. When she’s done with your back, she will hold up the blanket like a wall in front of her and you have to do a flip over onto your back. That’s sometimes a little awkward, but I’ve always managed it with minimal difficulty. She then covers you back up and works on the fronts of your legs and then finishes with your arms and shoulders, sometimes your scalp. By this point, you’re practically hypnotized and relaxed and you wouldn’t care if a boob flopped out on the table and you won’t even believe you were ever freaked out about the whole thing. When she’s done, she’ll tell you to take as much time as you need, and that she’ll be waiting in the hall for you when you’re ready.  She leaves, you get up, put on your robe (or get dressed), and then drink the water that she’s left for you (weirdly very important, as the massage actually does detox your muscles and you can get a cramp or get a headache if you don’t hydrate) and then open the door.

Simple right? Now go make an appointment! You’ll thank me for it!

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5 Comments

  1. Amy wrote:

    Booked for Sunday! I had never had a massage until the last two years but a friend suggested they would help with my migraines and the last year I’ve been going a couple of times a month and it’s heaven.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink
  2. Christi wrote:

    I have a standing appointment with my massage therapist twice a month, and it is the most important item in my budget. I seriously think I would cut out food before I cut that. I’ve been seeing the same therapist for almost ten years now, and she has become a good friend — I joke that she has seen my fat naked butt more than anyone else in the world!

    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  3. Deb wrote:

    This is something I’ve never dared. I’ve always said it’s because I don’t like people touching me, but perhaps it really is about the fat.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink
  4. Linda wrote:

    Massage is now a regular part of my life. My uptightness towards it has nothing to do with my body, but was all about money! Because spending money for your body without an RX in front in our family’s belief system is indulgent crap. Americans have a lot of ways of being puritanical. How wrong I was! It’s the best money I spend to get my body in shape and mind relaxed and happy.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 4:49 am | Permalink
  5. Allyson wrote:

    Well this was a fascinating read. As I’ve said before, I’ve been reading you for years, and I had NO idea you were ever so insecure with “the fat.” I always marvelled at how confident you were to go out dancing, wear revealing clothes, travel, etc. I mean, I am a fellow girl of “substance,” and I totally understand the “fears.” So, good for you for just pushhing the fears aside and enjoying life. As far as massages go, I can udnerstand the thoughts there, but, to hell with that I say. I LOVES me a good massage. And frankly, I have always preferred a man. I also always usually leave my underwear on, ’cause well, that just feels too wierd to me not to. BEST massage of my life was a guy, no really, CHANGED MY LIFE! My sis in law is a massage therapist, so I’m lucky to get a few free ones thrown in during the year as well. Anyway, keep on keepin on friend. I think you’re amazing.

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

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