I got a massage the other day because my right hip was hurting me. I’d gone to the doctor, and he told me that pain was my hip’s way of telling me that something was wrong. “Oh really, that’s how it works?” I asked him. “We communicate through pain?” So I punched him in the face and told him that I wasn’t going to pay the bill. Listen up, medical professionals: Insurance sucks, our bodies are essentially leaky bags of meat, and we’re likely to die of old age in the waiting room. We don’t need to add condescending doctors to the list of shitty things associated with health care. Just tell me that you don’t know what the problem is and give me a prescription for some gnarly painkillers already. Don’t make me go all Drugstore Cowboy on your ass.
So a day later I was at the place where I get a massage, lying face down on the table with the aid of a face rest. If you’ve never gotten a massage before and you don’t know what a face rest is, it’s soft and padded with a hole in the middle and it fits over your entire face. It’s kind of like going down on Kirstie Alley, only without the Skittles and baked ham smell. And while I was lying there for 90 minutes, I had plenty of time to think about the massage experience.
The first thing that crossed my mind was relief when I discovered that I had a masseuse working on me, and not a masseur. It makes absolutely no sense, but I cringe at the thought of a guy giving me a massage. I’m not homophobic, and sincerely believe that whoever you get to handle your genitals for you is none of my concern. I am no more threatened by people who sleep with other people of the same gender than I am threatened by the fact that Ryan Seacrest soaks his balls in borscht and can’t have an orgasm unless you slap him across the face with a haddock. I don’t care, it doesn’t affect my life, and I don’t think any less of someone for having a different sexual preference than my own (I’m into Shriners).
But a dude rubbing me down? For some asinine reason it freaks me out, and so I need to be careful when I make an appointment. The previous place I used to go would make this a non-issue from the get go: They’d simply ask my preference when I called. “And do you prefer a male or a female massage professional?” they’d ask, hanging up shortly after I detailed my preference to the point where I was asking for someone whose clit was unpierced. Those people had no sense of humor.
But the place I go to now doesn’t do this, and so I have to play this stupid game wherein I try to guess the person’s gender by their first name.
Reservationist: Well, we have a 7:30 opening with Brooke.
Me: Great! (pauses, realizes that she may have said Brook, in reference to A GUY!) Ummm, how is Brook(e)? Is she capable of deep pressure?
Reservationist: Oh yes, Brook(e) is quite capable.
Me: She is?
Reservationist: Yes. Brook(e) is.
Me: All right, let me ask you something off the record. Have you ever met Brook(e)’s boyfriend?
Reservationist: Uhhh, no.
Me: But Brook(e) does have a boyfriend, doesn’t she?
Reservationist: I think so, but I don’t think this is an appropriate discussion for me to have with you.
Me: Ok, that’s fine, I’ll see Brook(e) at 7:30.
And then at 7:25, in the waiting room, I’ll realize the hole in my logic: What if Brook(e) is a guy and he’s gay! Then he’d have a boyfriend! So I sprint into the reservations area and loudly demand to know if Brook(e) has a penis, which, as it turns out, puts everyone on edge. These people should relax. Maybe take in a massage or something.
The next thing I think about while I’m lying there, with Brooke working on my hip, is that it’s strange that I feel uncomfortable making noises while I’m receiving a massage. I mean, picture yourself getting a massage from a loved one. When they hit that magical spot, it’s not uncommon for someone to say, “Ohhhh, God, that feels good!” But I feel as if making any kind of noise would lead the masseuse to believe that I was (gasp) enjoying myself, and given what a bunch of degenerate perverts guys are, she’d probably get a little defensive. Considering the fact that her hands could crush bowling balls and are located a mere six inches from my Happy Zone, I decide to keep my pleasure comments to myself.
This rule isn’t as applicable to the masseuse, however, as she needs to be able to ask questions in order to better do her job. You know the questions I’m talking about: “Is the temperature all right?”, “Is this pressure ok for you?”, “Do you mind if I stream this live on the internet?” But lying there, I decided that the worst thing she could say would be a loud, “Hiiiiii-YAH!” I’m lying naked under a sheet. I don’t need any spontaneous karate going on.
Then, as if by magic, my masseuse started doing the karate chop massage thing on my back, and it felt wonderful. There are only three people in the world that have done the karate chop massage to me with such results, and Brooke was one of them. The other two are, strangely enough, my 7 and 5 year old boys. From time to time my back will tighten up and I’ll ask them to give me the karate chop treatment. They love it because it’s finally time for a little fucking payback: “Make us eat our vegetables, will you?” (WHACK!) “Maybe next time you’ll let me ride my bike on the roof, asshole!” (WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!)
They’re going to town, but because they’ve got puny, little boy muscles, it’s like a delightful tingling in my lower-back region. Seriously, they think they’re really strong, an idea I reinforce by dramatically wincing every time they give me a high five, but in reality I could kick their motherfucking asses all over the place without even trying. So it was amazing that Brooke could recapture this feeling so expertly. She applied exactly the right amount of pressure, which is a good thing because I do not think that I could have kicked Brooke’s ass. Had she decided to (maybe if I were foolish enough to suddenly moan, “Oh yeah, baby!”), I have no doubt that she’d use her vice grips of death to reduce me to a blubbering pile of hip pain and regret.
A lot of people state that they’re concerned that the masseur or masseuse would “put the moves” on them. I never worry about this, and not because I’m a guy. I don’t worry about it because I go to reputable places where the professionals earn their degrees through the study and application of physiology, and not by sucking the chrome off of a trailer hitch. Once I was given a gift certificate to a place that seemed a little shady. They didn’t have a pile of lube and condoms next to the towels or anything, it was just a small place with a really slutty looking masseuse working on me while she chewed gum and blathered on non-stop.
Masseuse: So I says, Luther, I says, I don’t got no fifty bucks because the last guy stiffed me in more ways than one, you know what I’m saying?
Me: God, I hope not.
Masseuse: So he took out this big motherfucking straight-razor and told me to get my ass back out on the street. I was all, Luther! I’m worn out. I’m not flapping in the wind, I’m dragging on the goddamn ground, you know what I’m saying?
Me: Please leave me alone.
Masseuse: Yeah. So I got set up with this sweet-ass job. No more turning tricks in a dumpster for me! Now, how many fingers you like in your ass?
Me: AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH! (sprints naked through parking lot, sets land speed record driving home)
Another thing I wondered about while lying there, and I gave it a lot of thought, was a sign I saw in the waiting room (or, as they call it, the Tranquility Room because it contains a TV showing a waterfall) that advertised something called a sugar scrub. It showed a picture of a pair of feet coated with something that looks like it came off of my kids’ faces after Halloween. Now I’m sure there are all kinds of supposed benefits of rubbing your feet with sugar (I’m guessing they include such ethereal properties as “Rejuvenating!” and “Refreshing!”), but I’m damn sure that they don’t tell you about the fact that it feels like you’re walking barefoot in a movie theater for a couple of weeks. Sugar? Really?
This is clearly just a way to drum up new revenue streams. Every time projected profits dip below CEO-Gets-A-Gold-Plated-Hot-Tub level, they merely switch spices. Sugar scrubs are replaced by nutmeg scrubs, oregano scrubs, and finally, in the mother-of-all-lawsuits category, horseradish scrubs. Actually, this turns out to be not too far from the truth. I just looked it up (Wow! Actual research!) and sugar scrubs are a “gentle alternative” to sea salt scrubs, coffee scrubs, and rice bran scrubs. Rice bran. People in this country give other people money to rub rice bran on their feet. We’re too lazy to just sit at home with our feet jammed into a box of Rice Krispies, we’ve got to have someone else do it for us. We have officially peaked as a country. It is all way, way downhill from here.
There are some other massage techniques that I’m wary of, acupressure being one of them. Acupressure is this mysterious Chinese method to do crazy healing shit to your body by having a half-blind Chinese guy dig a thumb into your back like he was judging tomatoes for freshness. There’s a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo about meridians and chi involved with acupressure, and while some people swear by it, I think it’s all bullshit. I’m not so sure, however, that I’d submit to it for fear that a vengeful acupressure therapist would press their thumb into my side and 4 weeks later I’d suddenly evacuate my bowels at the movie theater.
There’s a mall near my office where they do this, although it’s not a very private affair. What happens is some Chinese guy sidles up to you and says, “Flee-sam-puh?” He’s so hilariously difficult to understand that they gave him an actual sign that reads, “Free Sample” on it. If you break stride for even a moment to read the sign, he then grabs you by the shoulders and forces you into a chair in the middle of the mall and begins jamming his thumbs into your back. Right out in the open, with fat people strolling by, looking at you as they inhale a 64 ounce Slurpee. It’s fucking weird, and probably the reason you don’t see too many Chinese doctors at the mall.
“Okay, you pull down pants now, and we look at your anus.”
“Right here in the food court?”
Still, it beats the alternative. Ever try to massage yourself? (Ladies: Not like that.) It’s impossible. You’d need arms that are 20 feet long with triple hinges to be able to do any good. And the mechanical alternatives aren’t much better. I was once given a massaging chair on the grounds that I like massages, and I’ve been known to sit down. It felt indistinguishable to rolling around on a pile of used car parts, and came with three settings: Low, Medium, and Remove Spine. It was the kind of massage chair you’d expect to find in Guantanamo Bay.
Our only mechanized solution would come in the form of the Massagebot, but let’s be honest: If a robot was capable of giving you a decent massage, it’d be pressed into service for other, more prosaic functions, the kind where screaming “Oh, baby!” would be more appropriate.
So we’re stuck with massages administered by other human beings, all of them wielding sugar, coffee, and rice bran, ready to help get your hip to stop talking shit to you. And these ladies are all named Sam, or Alex, or Dylan.