Before October 8 of last year, I had never gotten a massage before. Since then, I’ve had two. So now I think I’m an expert at getting massages, and I’d like to talk about that here. Also, it’s not every day that I have a story to tell that does not involve body fluids, temper tantrums, or the characters of Busytown. (Actually, since I wrote that sentence, we’ve moved on to Caillou. But that’s a fascinating conversation for another day.)
The week before Jem was born, my neighbor gave me a gift certificate that she wasn’t going to be able to redeem before it expired. The day after Jem was born, a friend gave me a gift card for a massage that I redeemed a couple of weeks ago. The first was a thirty-minute session, originally planned to be “labor inducing” until I chickened out and asked for a plain old back massage instead. The second was an hour-long “Swedish massage” at a different establishment. As it turned out, this was fancy salon language for “plain old back massage,” which was fine by me.
It goes without saying that massages are wonderfully relaxing, if for no other reason than it’s 30 minutes or an hour where you can lay on a comfy bed in the middle of the day and not have to get up to wipe someone else’s bottom or open a stick of string cheese. And speaking of those beds, I’m guessing they put heating pads underneath all those fluffy layers, because the blankets are wonderfully toasty as you get tucked in. It makes you feel surprisingly comfortable and at ease, which is no easy feat considering you’re probably in a strange room wearing nothing but your underwear.
A word about that: massage therapists could take some lessons from hospital nurses when it comes to frank instructions on proper protocol for disrobing and draping. It’s very awkward if one should remove too much, or not enough, and to have clear up those details after the mistake has been made. For my first massage I asked embarrassing rookie questions and still had to make some modifications. The second time I got it right, being a seasoned massage-ee, but I was still apprehensive, which is not the ideal frame of mind for beginning a massage.
You’ll think I need therapy for this admission, but I couldn’t stop thinking of Ma Ingalls throughout both massages. I just knew she’d be scandalized by my allowing myself to be in such an immodest and vulnerable state with a stranger who only knows my name because I just printed it on a consent form in the waiting room. She would not be appeased by the adamant language on the consent forms: THIS IS NOT A SEXUAL EXPERIENCE, the first form bluntly stated. The form at the second place was more subtle but established similar boundaries. But even if you are not a traditionalist on the prairie, it truly does take some intentional mental blocking to get past the strange intimacy of the experience. (That wasn’t even considering what Ma would say when she learned that the massage cost almost as much as Pa paid for the new sewing machine he bought when they lived in DeSmet!)
When people on TV and movies get massages, they’re always on their stomachs with their faces in one of those little doughnut-shaped pillows. The camera likes to shoot the actors from underneath, capturing their attractive faces with little leather halos around them as they effortlessly deliver their witty lines. Now that I am wise and experienced, I recognize this as yet another Hollywood fantasy. As my own face pressed into the pillow, I could feel my skin stretched tight, like the girl in the joke about the too-tight ponytail. And then it got even more awkward as gravity and seasonal allergies teamed up against me and I could feel drips forming at the tip of my nose. (Sorry, apparently I can’t actually get through a post without body fluids.) Suffice it to say, glamorous I was not, and I’ve never been so thankful not to have a camera documenting the moment.
Anyway, in both massages I did eventually get past my mood-killing self-consciousness so that I could enjoy the relaxing experience. As my second massage ended, I was still tucked into the warm blankets as the massage therapist gave me my last instructions as I slipped out the door: “Take your time getting dressed.”
Now there’s the wrong thing to say to a sleep-deprived, fully relaxed mama! I wondered how long I could actually stay in that warm, quiet room without being charged for an additional hour. A nice long nap would have really been the cherry on top of the whole experience! But I believe that’s what they call gluttony, and besides, Jem was going to be getting hungry and dinner for the rest of us wasn’t going to cook itself.
So thanks to my neighbor and my friend for giving me a great gift that I’d have never gotten for myself! Two relaxing afternoons and some fun blogging, to boot!