Last weekend, I had my massage V Card taken.
My cousin recently started Massage Therapy school and apparently, the students are asked to find “clients” to bring in to their “clinical environment” so that they may practice on new pieces of flesh for a certain number of hours. My family, as you might imagine, is thrilled with my cousin’s choice of academic pursuits (especially because two years ago I, by contrast, chose to learn the masterful art of phlebotomy in an off-brand program in the civic center).
As the story goes, I was in Arizona for the weekend for my youngest sister’s 13th birthday and voila, the opportunity for a FREE massage fell right into my lap and despite my relentless anxiety, I accepted. I sat with my mother and my aunt in the Zen-Wannabe lobby of a small building in an absolutely terrifying part of town. The minimalist decor, clad with bamboo planters and soft chimey music on repeat playing overhead did little to squelch my preexisting awareness of the imminent crime lying just outside the simple glass door. It seemed oddly humorous to me at the time that I was about to get naked and let a stranger touch me in such a horrible neighborhood.
I’m led back to a small curtained space by a large, warm, nervous looking woman named Christina. Christina struck me as warm in the softness in her chocolate brown eyes and also in the sense that she was red faced and wearing a sweat band. I took a mental oath not to read to much into it, to treat the next 50 minutes of my life “as a sociological experiment,” which is what I sometimes tell myself to distance my busy brain from my actual physical environment (ie-turbulence on an airplane, waiting for my uber on the only rainy day of the year, when my nose bleeds in yoga class). We walk into the 6×6 makeshift curtain “room” and Christina tells me, in her best “zen, comforting, new massage therapist student” voice to “undress to my comfort level.” I almost laughed. I found it interesting that she did not offer me additional layers of clothing, which would, of course, been my honest comfort level. I thought of how much I could F**k poor, nervous Christina’s day up (and possibly the future of her education as a massage therapist) if she returned to the curtain to find me wearing a secret parka, smuggled into the space in my very large purse, declaring that I had reached my comfort level, thank you.
As one would expect, the massage commenced and the next 50 minutes of my life flew by in an uneventful, warm, blissful haze. Other than my periodic instances of unwanted mental commentary about why they choose white sheets, which are sooo very see-through, and trying to ignore the festering giggle inside that I sometimes get when people touch my hands – I was relaxed.
As the massage finished, Christina left the curtain to allow me to re-dress to my comfort level. She walked me back to the lobby and I thanked her, declaring that I would like to bring her home with me and bake her cookies. She laughed uncomfortably, as many people do when they don’t quite know how to respond to whatever shenanigans have just left my mouth. Honestly, it’s all a little fuzzy at this point, but I’m sure I meant something grandmotherly by it that implied that I would like to receive her massages on the regular.
…And then I walked back out the glass door onto the crime-riddled streets, as if none of it had ever happened. Maybe that’s for the best.