Monday, October 18, 2010
I remember my first-ever massage very well. I was about 19 and in my first minutes as a cadet journalist. We'd received an invitation at Prevention magazine to take part in a yoga weekend at a nearby retreat. It's important to remember that yoga in 1988 was not Yoga in 2010. It was out of fashion and thought of as the last bastion of people who wore hemp sandals (which were also unfashionable). So I was volunteered to attend the workshop, which would be held by a lady of indeterminate age who claimed to sleep 45 minutes a night. To say that I was not excited would be an understatement.
The massage took place on the first day. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how naked I'd have to get. I asked a friendly lady by the pool whether it felt good and she looked at me as if I were nuts. "Afterwards it does," she said. All I could think was that it must be similar to banging one's head against a wall - bliss when it's over.
When I entered the massage room, I was surprised to find a male massage therapist. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. Now I know that you're generally told beforehand and given a choice. But I was only 19.
He told me to take off as many clothes as I felt comfortable with and, once done, to get under the towel. I was in an agony of indecision - bra on or off? Underpants on or off? I didn't want to look uncool in this hippie haven. I stripped off and hopped up on the bench.
The massage got underway. He was a chatter, which surprised me. I thought massage therapists were the strong, silent type. I could hardly hear the whale music for his small talk. He massaged away for a while and then flipped me over. The following conversation then occurred:
"Shall I massage your breasts?"
"Most ladies don't mind. One does hold a lot of tension in the chest."
"Er." I could feel the tension rising in my chest at the thought.
"I could just start and you can stop me if you feel uncomfortable."
"Er." His hands moved in. I held up one of mine, holding him off. "That's fine," I said, "I feel quite relaxed there already." My blush covered my entire body. I was uncool. I didn't care.
Massage completed in silence.
"How was it?" the lady by the pool asked me as I left.
"Yeah, good now that it's over," I mumbled.
Today's massage was nothing like that. In a beautiful day spa with black-and-white striped walls and a gentle sea breeze wafting gossamer white curtains from the door. Clear instructions about what to remove and when. The delicious sensation of hot stones in warm oil sliding across the skin. No suggestion that tension was held anywhere other than the regular neck/shoulders/ears.
I didn't want it to end.