Updated: Jun 19
Ah, the joy of an afternoon massage by a qualified and experienced masseuse is one of the joys of life, or is it? You would think it is, but my experience has been a bit different. I readily admit that it is all my fault. I am in no way denigrating any of the wonderful men and women who have given me a massage. In fact, in most cases, I would gather they had no idea I was uncomfortable, so that is on me.
In 2019 BTP (Before The Pandemic) my lovely wife bought me a birthday present that keeps on giving: a membership to Massage Envy. I was thrilled! It had been many, many years since I had a massage. So many, in fact, that I forgot about that experience which is a good thing since it is never a good idea to criticize a gift given to you by your wife. I immediately scheduled my first massage, though, in the end, I had to cancel because I have children and they ruin everything. But that was fine, I just needed to schedule my next appointment by giving them a call.
Making phone calls is the bane of my existence and if all phones disappeared from the face of the Earth, I would dance for joy.
So, I was a bit slow in making my next appointment...and then the pandemic hit and massages were out of the question. Month after month of isolation, weight gain, stiff muscles, and a deep desire to escape my VERY LOUD family built up, so when Massage Envy reopened, I was ready. I had accumulated over a dozen credits and I figured I would cram in as many massages as I could in as short a period as I could so I could "relax" and then cancel my membership to stop paying $60 a month for a service I probably would have forgotten to use if the pandemic hadn't hit. I ran into a few issues with the whole "relaxing" part of the massage. Here are 10 ways NOT to relax during a massage...
1) The Mask
BTP this would not have been a problem, but it is something many of us have to deal with now and a massage is no exception. I understand the caution and I am as willing as the next guy to follow the (sometimes ridiculous) rules different establishments have. I went and washed my hands before the massage and kept my mask on, even when I lay down and wedged my face into the hole that is supposed to cradle your face while you get your massage. In reality, it feels like Randy the Macho Man Savage from the WWE had me in a headlock. As the ear straps dug ruts in the back of my ears, the mask was rammed into my mouth and nose allowing for the free flow of air that even a mouse would struggle to survive on. To add insult to injury, I had a bit of a cold so my nose was clogged and my ability to breathe was even more restricted. I'd love to comment on my "relaxing" massage, but I blacked out halfway through due to a lack of oxygen and I don't remember.
2) Assassination Attempt
I'll admit, I have an overactive imagination. I am a writer after all! If you don't believe me, click on the following link and sign up for my mailing list and you can download a chapter of my upcoming novel for free (Shameless Promotion). I will also admit, that I like to "loosen my mind" a bit before I go to a massage to ease my inhibitions and a side effect is an enhancement of said imagination with a side of paranoia thrown in. As I lay there, "relaxing", my eyes closed, practically naked and vulnerable, unable to see my attacker, uh, masseuse, my sixth sense tickled the back of my mind and made me wary...what would I do if my masseuse decided to end me, right here and right now. The iconic Bond theme popped into my head and my body stiffened in readiness for the attack. I imagined my countermoves to the assassin's attack and BAM! There went my relaxing massage. Every sound made by the masseuse's shuffling feet, the <squirt> <squirt> of the massage oil, or the scraping of a knife coming out of its sheath (I swear I heard it!) left me tense and rigid and yet again, another massage was foiled!
3) The Sports Massage
The first massage I ever had was a sports massage. Like a woman whose mind conveniently forgets the pain of childbirth so she can have more children, I too forgot about the pain. If you are unfamiliar with a sports massage, I think it is best explained with the simple phrase "AHHHHHHHHHH!" A sports massage is beneficial to anyone who participates in sports and has sore or tight muscles. The firm pressure and intense kneading of your muscles help relieve the aches and pains associated with intense sports activity. The problem is, your muscles are usually already sore and the addition of someone using firm pressure (i.e - ripping and tearing you apart, limb from limb) tends to hurt a tad. If you look up the genealogy of any sports massage therapist, you'll find that all their ancestors worked in the same profession: they were inquisitors during the Spanish Inquisition. Don't believe me? Just look at some of the tools they used to use and tell me it doesn't resemble a modern-day sports massage table: Link. Needless to say, I did NOT relax during that massage.
4) Happy Ending Concerns
Let me state for the record, Massage Envy is a respectable establishment and has never, to my knowledge, been accused of any illegal activity. That being said, when you are lying on your back, "relaxing" and the masseuse is getting all up in your business, the prospect of a happy ending crosses your mind. It's not like you expect one, but if you pay attention to the news and you remember the big scandal in 2019 in Florida (where I live) involving Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, it makes you think. You may "grow" relaxed enough to encourage an unwanted physical reaction which might make your masseuse think that you expect a happy ending which makes you think about it even more which is a vicious circle of embarrassment for everyone involved. So much for a relaxing massage...and uh, remember to apologize to your masseuse.
5) The Problem With Beans
This header is problematic. In my opinion, there is no problem with beans. In fact, unexpected gas is the best thing about beans! Think about all the benefits. If you don't have a hot tub, all you need is a bath and a can of beans and you are good to go. Family members getting on your nerves? Grab a can of beans and send them running for the doors. Out of air freshener, why not crop dust your kitchen to hide the smell of your wife's failed attempt at poisoning, er, cooking for you. There are endless benefits to beans, including health benefits, if you care about such things. However, there is one time when throwing down a large can of baked beans might not be beneficial. Yes, you guessed it...right before a massage. The first half of the massage was fine, other than some alarming cramps coming from the depths of my colon. The second half, however, was a disaster. There is only so long you can hold a full-can-of-baked-beans-fart in. Even if you are successful, your digestive system won't be quiet about it. After the first internal trumpet, I felt the masseuse stiffen, but she continued. There were a few of those, but we just ignored them. No one wants to acknowledge an unknown person's flatulence, especially if there are no smelly side effects. I was holding my own until she had to go and do her job and press down hard on my lower back. <BOOOOOM> After the echo subsided, the room went silent, and any chance at "relaxing" went out the (now open) window. Again, I must remind you to apologize to your poor masseuse.
6) What to Wear
"Undress to your level of comfort," said almost every masseuse I've ever had. An ambiguous declaration if you ask me! I'm comfortable in jeans and I practically sleep naked, so my range of comfort is pretty wide. As I mentioned before, my first massage ever, many years ago, was a sports massage (aka...voluntary torture) and I was asked this same question by my male masseuse. So, not knowing any better, I took it all off and got under the towel that looked suspiciously like a washcloth. At the time, I was a dedicated triathlete and I was sore all over and needed a good stretch as well, something my very talented masseuse was good at. The first part of the massage was fine, aside from the pain and suffering, but as a triathlete, I was very familiar with the concept. I could take it. Just grit your teeth and hold on. The problem started when he began to stretch my legs. He pulled my knee up, and pressed it into my chest, then straightened said leg and pressed it up and over my body for a solid hamstring stretch...
Say hello to my little friend...
All I can say is, I'm glad I didn't eat beans before that massage...
7) Once Upon a Time
We have already determined that 1) I'm a writer and 2) I have an overactive imagination. If you give me an hour of "relaxation" with no devices and no one to talk to, my mind will wander. Sometimes it wanders and I begin to fear my masseuse is going to kill me, or screw me or torture me, and sometimes it just wanders into a fantasy land that I just HAVE to write about! This would be fine except that I have the memory of an elephant...with advanced Alzheimers. If I don't write my ideas down, they disappear faster than my paycheck after my wife goes shopping on Amazon. The only solution is to keep developing the story in my head, following my protagonist throughout all his/her adventures. Pirates? No problem. Fight them off in an epic battle with swords swinging and cannons firing! Captured by an evil queen? No worries! Use magic to fight the forces of evil and join up with the elven nation to overthrow her and bring peace to the land...through an epic battle filled with swords, sorcerers, fantastic beasts, and fire raining down from the sky! Ah, yes, epic battles and fighting evil is very "relaxing" and doesn't make me tense up, talk to myself, and swat at imaginary enemies. So yeah, that massage ended with a scared, confused masseuse and a forgotten Epic Fantasy down the drain. I'm tired of apologizing to my masseuse. They aren't going to let me come back.
8) Don't Touch My Feet!!
Seriously, WTF? When I make my appointment, the kind customer service representative always asks me what my focus areas are. I usually say my back and shoulders since I tend to be tense and stressed because I have four children who listen to vapid YouTubers more than they do me. I always make sure I state, unequivocally, that the masseuse should avoid any contact with my feet. The masseuse will often go over these specifics at the time of the massage where I make sure to mention to stay away from my feet. Sometimes, requests get lost in translation, or perhaps lost in the folds of my suffocating mask. One of my favorite parts of a massage is the quiet and the non-confrontational aspect of me lying down and the masseuse doing his thing without any need for interaction or cooperation from me. I lie there, you rub me. Simple. So when the masseuse began massaging my feet, I was faced with an uncomfortable situation where I had to either 1) Politely ask for him to stop touching my feet or 2) Suffer quietly and hope that I didn't gleefully kick him in the face. Most people would opt for the former, but where my feet are involved, there is no polite. I was either going to say, "GET YOUR $%@& HANDS OFF MY FEET BEFORE I KICK YOUR FACE IN!!" or I was going to just suck it up and take it.
My therapist told me I should loosen up and become more comfortable with confrontation...so I ghosted her.
After what seemed like a 24-hour massage, my "relaxation" ended and I was able to leave. No masseuse was harmed during the massage and thankfully, I was able to leave without issuing my now standard apology.
9) Can We Talk?
Sports massage, ambiguous happy ending signaling, and flatulence aside, the best part of a massage is the peace and quiet. There is pleasant music playing gently over the speakers, the air is filled with lavender and other pleasant smelling perfumes and the temperature in the room is perfect. Occasionally, there is a need for communication between you and the masseuse. She may ask you to lift your leg or move an arm so she can go about her business and aside from some mask interference, you typically get the picture and do as instructed. Then, one fateful day, I got the worst kind of masseuse: a talker.
The only thing worse than a talkative masseuse is a dental hygenist who insists on asking you questions why she shoves her hands in your mouth.
Here I am, trying to "relax" and she asks me questions about my family (yes, it is big and loud) and if I have pets (confused ones, but yes) and about my job (how is talking about work relaxing?) and a thousand other things. Most of her questions were followed by me saying, "What?" because every damn thing that comes out of a masseuse's mouth is in that meditative, calming whisper-like voice meant to relax you but is practically inaudible when you are wearing a #^$^# mask! So by the end of the massage, I had struggled to hear, struggled to speak and be heard while telling my life story, and struggled to relax because she wouldn't STFU!
10) Should I Get That?
I have some advice for anyone getting a massage: Turn your damn phone off. This is advice I always follow except for that one time I didn't. As a rule, I keep my ringer volume off as the sound of a phone ringing stresses me out. If at all possible, I prefer to text anyway, but I also keep those notifications off as well if only to keep the incessant <ding> <ding> sound at bay when receiving texts from someone who is incapable of completing a full thought in one text but instead needs to send 45 texts for a sentence with 6 words in it. Why? Anyway, this one time, I forgot to turn the sound off and my children, wife, work, and mother all decided it was a good time to incessantly harass me with phone calls and texts. My normal ringtone is the Game of Thrones theme which is fine, but the ringer for my wife is the Minions singing the Imperial March from Star Wars using only the word banana. Yes, it is as embarrassing as it sounds. Good thing she only called five times to ask me when I was coming home before she set the children on fire. All my children now have iPods so they can text me whenever they want which means all-the-&%$#-time. They only texted a combined 48 times. I suppose it could have been an emergency and I could have easily asked the masseuse if she could grab my phone so I could check, but out of spite, I chose not to. I was trying to "relax!"
I hope I didn't discourage anyone from pursuing the obvious joys of receiving a massage. My goal is to educate all of you on ways to AVOID ruining a massage like I am prone to do. I know I learned a few things about myself in writing this blog as well. First and foremost, I learned that no matter how many times I type masseuse, I will always spell it wrong. Even spell check struggles with correcting my misspellings because I am so far off. Secondly, I learned that I should probably cancel the rest of my massages and take the financial hit and lose all my credits lest I end up with another 10 ways to (not) relax during a massage, and frankly, I am out of ways to apologize to my masseuses.