So there I was, in a room with some kind of Eastern relaxation music playing and a candle burning, lights low. Megan had bought me a gift certificate for a massage, and I’d finally made the appointment. The therapist walked in…
“You’ve never had a massage before, have you?”
Umm…. no. You could tell?
“Well, I’m going to leave the room, and you can get undressed. Some people take everything off, some leave their underwear on. It’s up to you and it doesn’t make any difference to me.”
Excuse me? I’m taking my clothes off? This hadn’t occurred to me.
“I’ll give you plenty of time and I’ll knock on the door before I come back in.”
Right. It’s one thing to walk around my own house naked, but absolutely another to be taking things off in public, revealing my unimpressive self to a woman wearing white Reeboks, skintight grey sweatpants, and a cream colored turtleneck sweater. Must relax…
Knock. “Chris? Are you ready?”
No, but come in anyway. We might be here all day otherwise.
“I’m just going to pull this sheet up a bit.”
Right. The sheet. Am I blushing?
“I’m going to do a full body massage unless you tell me otherwise. Whatever feels good for you. We’ll start with you facing down and then turn over halfway through. Do you want light, medium, or intense pressure?”
Hmm. What will my answer reveal about me? Intense might be the macho way to go, but it also sounded painful. I was feeling vulnerable, but light seemed like something a florist would ask for, not a marathon runner. Medium then.
So there I was, getting a massage. If the object was to relax, I was failing the test. I’m the guy who goes to the eye doctor and worries he won’t score well unless he can read every letter on the chart.
“OK, I need you to turn over onto your back now.”
Memories of being called up to the blackboard in eighth grade, interrupting my meditation on the finer points of Julie Shadd’s neckline, occurred to me.
“Ummm… You know, I’m pretty good friends with my doctor. We run together. I was telling him about my recurring fear of having an, ummm, inappropriate physical reaction during an exam. I just realized that the danger of that happening in his office is nothing compared to the danger of something like that happening here.”
Laughter. “It’s not a big deal.” (Ouch.) “Most of the time it’s a parasympathetic reaction,”(I looked that up later – seems it’s a canned massage therapist response to my concern, which isn’t uncommon by the way) “…but it’s why men have a difficult time making a living as massage therapists.”
Really? I hadn’t thought of that.
“Women usually request a female therapist. Men also request having a female therapist. God forbid a man should have a reaction when a male therapist is working on them – it might require an entirely different course of therapy.”
They say that naming our fears gives us the strength to overcome them. I passed the massage test without having an inappropriate physical reaction; although I’ll admit I left feeling much more tense than when I’d arrived. I tipped her ten dollars for putting up with me. Good grief.