The Minister of Common Sense got a massage the other day. They are supposed to be relaxing, but I don’t think they are. I mean, the first thing that happens is they send you to the locker room to change into the robe and flip flops that they give you. That would be fine, if you didn't have to try to time your nudity to avoid other people. I went into the locker room and, thankfully, I was the only one in there. However, I heard the shower running, so I knew there was at least other nude dude around somewhere. No one likes to get naked in front of strangers in these situations. So now I have to contend with changing out of my clothes and into the robe. Do I dilly dally to see if the guy gets out of the shower right away, and then I can see where he goes so I can avoid him? Or do I rush to get changed now while he’s still in the shower and hope that I beat him into the robe before he comes out? But if I wait a few moments to get changed, then that increases the probability of someone else walking in. I decide to rush and immediately strip down to nothing and quickly wrap the robe around me. I manage to get the robe on while the guy was still in the shower and with no one else walking in on me, which is a big relief. The massage hasn't even started yet, but I've already gone though one of the most-stressful moments of my week.
And it’s not like I’m ashamed of my body or that I am “small” or anything like that. Believe me, my body is way better than 90% of Americans (which I know which isn't saying much). It’s just that it's awkward and weird being in a group of strange, naked men. No one really likes it. It’s like everyone’s trying not to look at one another and trying to act like no one else is in the room, but everyone IS in the room, and everyone is trying to look to see if anyone else is looking, but you’re not supposed to be looking, but you have to see where you are walking... it’s just a stupid, impossible situation.
Anyway, after the awkward nudity that the spa forces you to endure, they make you sit in some kind of fancy waiting room with plants and running water and other people in robes sitting around. I want to get a massage NOW – at my appointed time – I don’t want to sit and “relax” in your “Garden of Tranquility” or whatever the hell they call it. In fact, there is nothing relaxing about that room at all. You sit in this small room, wearing a robe (which is already awkward), pretending to read Home & Garden or some other bullshit magazine, with other robe people sitting around... it’s just weird. And if the setting isn't weird and stressful enough, then there is the stress of waiting to see which masseuse will come out and call your name.
I think I speak for all straight guys when I say we want at least a semi-decent-looking female masseuse. It’s not that we think “something will happen” during the massage, or that we'll get a "happy ending"... it’s just that a massage is nicer if it’s someone we don't mind touching our bodies. When the husky, old woman masseuse walks out to get someone, I hold my breath until she calls someone else’s name... then I sit there anxiously waiting to see what the next masseuse will look like and what name she will call. Once again, this is not a relaxing process. And what if a MAN comes out and calls my name?? I specified that I wanted a female, but mistakes can happen during the reservation process, right? What if a guy comes out for me? I mean, I can’t really say to him (in front of everyone), “Oh, no, sorry, I wanted a female.” Everyone will stare at me as I spoil the Garden of Tranquility with homophobia. And for the female clients, it’s not that they are afraid of looking homophobic – it’s the opposite – they are afraid of appearing too heterosexual. I get the sense that women are generally OK with either a female or male masseuse, but if they ask for a male and they get a female by mistake, they can’t say out loud that they wanted a male, everyone will think, “Oh!... Look what she’s after with her 'massage', hmmm!” The point is that this whole masseuse delivery process is riddled with uncertainty and anxiety for both men and women.
Once your masseuse comes and claims you, they guide you to the room where they explain a few things. You know they are going to eventually leave the room to let you take off your robe and allow you to get naked under the sheets, but there is always those few seconds when they don’t leave right away, and you’re thinking to yourself, “OK, OK, I know what to do – now get out, lady.” Finally they leave, then comes the stressful moment of whether or not you will be able to take off the robe and get under the sheets quick enough. You know the masseuse is going to come back very soon (after all, how long does it take to remove a robe and get under a sheet?). In fact, she is probably standing right outside the door with her hand on the knob. I tried to remove my robe quickly, but I fumbled with the knot (which was probably tangled up after the paranoid and hasty tie job I did in the locker room). Anyway, it took WAY too long to get the robe off, so then I’m rushing over to the massage table, frantically trying to get in it. But the sheet is tucked in too tight, so I’m standing there naked, scratching and clawing at the table, desperately trying to find a seam in the dim lighting. Meanwhile, I know the seconds are ticking away, and the masseuse is going to bust in at any moment. However, I managed to get under the sheets in time. My heart was pounding as my face was down in that holding contraption... not exactly a “relaxing” moment, right? How much am I paying for all this??
And that face-holding contraption is never comfortable, is it? I bob my head up and down on it several times, trying to get a good “fit” and it never happens. Once I’m totally uncomfortable, I can feel the creases beginning to form on my face from the wrinkles in the sheet/face/contraption thing. They put a flower on the floor to look at, but I can never see it because the sheet from the contraption covers my eyes. I must have a malformed head or something.
So then the supposedly real "relaxing" part begins – the actual massage. But it's always a little awkward because you worry about so many things. First of all, will she accidentally (or purposely??) touch your privates? What do you do, if that happens? Or what do you do if you get aroused?? And they move that sheet around you, near you ass, and you just know that they are looking. Are you supposed to say anything during the massage? It’s so quiet. Are you supposed to give verbal feedback, one way or the other? Maybe you start to moan in pleasure to let them know they are doing a good job, but it probably comes across as totally creepy. Sometimes the masseuse talks to you when you don’t want them to. Or they ask you a question, but you can’t hear what they are saying because your face is in the contraption, so you have to immediately decide to either say, “uh, yeah” (without really knowing what they asked) or crane your neck upward and ask, “What did you say?” and now you're in a whole awkward conversation.
They make you flip over at some point and your eyes are closed. She is rubbing your legs or whatever, and I always want to open my eyes, but I fear that if I open my eyes, I will see her staring off into space, with a totally bored look on her face, which will completely ruin everything for me. Or worse, she will have a look of complete disgust on her face. Even if that’s not the case, and I look at her, she will be thinking, “Why is this guy looking at me??” Then she’ll ask if everything is alright, and now I’m back in that awkward conversation thing. So, I clench my eyes even tighter, out of fear of accidentally opening them, which makes my face scrunch up, which makes her quietly ask, “Is evye hinde troyt?”, to which I have to respond, “Uh, yeah” or “What did you say?”
So once the whole thing is over (whew, what a relief!), she then says some stuff which you still can’t hear, and she leaves the room. So you get up and get the robe back on. Then you are sitting there trying to remember if she said she would come back with the water or do you come out to get the water or what exactly happens next? So you open the door and peek out and there is no one in the hall. So you quickly shut the door and stand there, getting more and more anxious with every second. Maybe you are supposed to go to the front desk? Where IS the front desk? Is she coming back? What if another massage patient comes in? Soon, you are just as uptight and stressed out as you were before you even arrived.
Just when you are about to give up and get back under the sheets, the masseuse returns and takes you back to the dreaded locker room, where she invites you to use the sauna or steam room. I should have just left at this point, but I thought the sauna or steam room would help relax me after a stressful massage. I rush out of my robe and into a towel (again, trying to be as quick as possible to avoid everyone). There is a steam room and a sauna room – both have glass windows. I don’t really want to be in either of these rooms with anyone else, and I can’t confirm if there is anyone in the steam room (because the steam clouds my view), so I choose to go into the sauna (which is empty). But are you supposed to go in there with a towel or naked? I never know the rules for these things. I elect to go in with a towel (which I think is the right thing to do). So I’m sitting in there alone, FINALLY relaxing a little, when in walks a guy who is completely naked. Great. Of course, I can’t rush out, because that would be weird, too. But it’s also weird that I have a towel on and he doesn't. So I have to sit there for a few awkward minutes before finally leaving, making one last rapid towel-to-clothes exchange, and eventually get out of there. So I ask you, what is remotely relaxing about a massage??