I’ve never really been great at relaxing. Sure I’ll often put on a movie or watch television, but I’ll also likely be puttering around my computer, looking up jobs, or organizing documents at the same time. My multitasking is so frequent and distracting that if I want to read a book, I’ll go have a bath so I feel like (well I may be just reading) I’m also getting relatively cleaner and accomplishing more than one thing.
It’s with this in mind that I’ve started on my road to self-improvement… top of the list: learn to relax. My friend recently got a massage and highly suggested it. So while the idea of a stranger touching me (the idea of anyone touching me and not being able to reciprocate) freaked me out slightly, I booked an appointment at the local massage school for the next afternoon.
I arrived at the Canadian College of Massage & Hydrotherapy (CCMH) with a few minutes to spare. I paid in advance (which seemed a little fishy) and then sat in the lobby with a clipboard and a questionnaire. They wanted to know if I had any major health problems or skin conditions, assumably so: a) the masseuse wouldn’t end up with some form of leprosy or b) to prevent a patient from keeling over mid-massage and scarring a masseuse for life. I suppose it could also have been: c) to adjust the massage to accommodate, and perhaps even treat in someway, a medical condition… but I digress.
Sitting in the lobby, I started to obsess about what the masseuse would think of my back. This quickly became an awareness of how sweaty I was. I took off my jacket, mopped my forehead, and took a deep breath. Then, into the lobby walked Kimberly. She was a young woman; blond with a black CCMH polo shirt and plain looking greyish blue shoes with a white trim (how quickly I would become familiar with those shoes).
Kimberly greeted me and led me into the main massage room. It resembled a refugee camp… if refugee camps were created solely with massage equipment (and I’m sure refugees wish they were). Two rows of eight tables ran the center and length of the room with four students clustered at the end talking massage strategy (I assume). Running down both sides of the room, were curtained off sections. Kimberly lead me to the third section to the right (valuable information, I know).
In the “room” were two chairs and a table. At first, I sat on the table. Then, seeing her take a chair, I casually removed myself from this perch and sat across from her. To start, Kimberly conducted an “assessment.” She went over the health questionnaire and noted my high blood pressure.
“My doctor says it’s pretty normal, but whenever I donate blood it’s high,” I explained, “so I just keep an eye on it.” She nodded her approval and took note on the chart. She told me to stand straight up and face her so she could check my posture. She poked me in the ankle, hip, and arm. Then she had me face left and right and she repeated her prodding. Next she had me repeat her movements as she tested my flexibility. Again, she expressed her approval with a nod and an impressed mumble.
After all the tests, she finally asked, “So where do you want me to focus?” I kind of thought she would tell me the answer to that question. And all I could go off of was television.
“My back?” I guessed.
“I’m going to leave for a few minutes,” she replied. “You can get comfortable. For your back, make sure to take off your shirt.” Then she left.
Here I was now: in a curtained-off room with a bed before me, wondering if I should take off my pants. And it felt awkward. I decided to keep everything on, but my shirt and then climbed into the tiny bed. I giggled with amusement (the utmost manliest giggle possible, of course) as I got under the sheets and then rolled over onto my stomach. I pulled the sheet as high as possible onto my back.
Should I put my head into the hole like in the movies, I wondered. But before I could decide, Kimberly came back.
“Just get comfortable,” she told me. “There is no right way.”
That’s when the massage started. She pulled the sheet back and tucked it into my pants. The lotion was warm and she began on my lower back, working her way up. It tickled when she was doing my sides. And it became slightly awkward once again as she used her forearm to push into my shoulders and I knew that her breasts hung just above my head (Hey, nice shoes!).
Mentally, it took a while to appreciate what was going on. At first, I tried to reason out why this wasn’t akin to prostitution. Certainly, if I had a problem and was going to get a massage as treatment, that would be acceptable. But given I had no real complaints, it kind of felt like offering someone money to touch me.
It was only until I thought of Barney Stinson, a character on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, that I grew more comfortable. Picturing the womanizing lush, I felt like it just may be okay to not always be doing and pleasing and it would be acceptable to enjoy myself for two seconds. Then Neil Young started playing over the speakers and I really relaxed.
There were two interruptions during the massage. The first came when Kimberly’s supervisor stopped by and asked how she was doing. She explained that I didn’t have any major problems and she was just doing a relaxation massage. He encouraged her to continue to ask me if everything was okay (which I mentally disagreed with… I didn’t need the questioning) and then he went on his way.
The second interruption was my own fault. Forty-five minutes into the massage, my cell phone alarm started to go off and continued to ring until Kimberly brought me the phone. I apologized profusely, but she didn’t seem fazed.
Before I knew it, the massage was over. I thanked Kimberly, left my tip at the receptionist’s desk, and went on my way. My back felt… a bit sore. But for some reason, I felt… gleeful. I felt like everything was okay. For a brief period, I felt like things were going good. And that’s the joy in a guiltless selfish act every now and again. A reminder that sometimes, it’s not about other people or what’s going on. Sometimes it can just be about you, a quiet hour, and a back rub.