Clearly, I've been in the mood for some self-imposed debasement lately, because in the last little while I've gotten both a bikini wax (extended) (my first) (Oh holy hell) (never again) (okay, maybe a basic, but none of that landing strip shit) (it was like wrapping my nethers in super sticky packing tape and letting snarling dogs chew it off) and a Chinese Foot Massage.
Which isn't a foot massage so much as a full body smack down.
A few lovely moms gave my friend Heather and me Two Happy Feet gift certificates for leading the Daisy girl scout troop this year--also a bit like wrapping my nethers in super sticky packing tape and letting snarling dogs chew it off. The gesture was sweet, though. We looked forward to it. How decadent, we thought. A foot massage in the middle of a Friday.
Let me start by saying that Heather had a great experience. Maybe it was because she's 22 weeks pregnant and was treated gently by a sweet Chinese girl rubbing her scalp and smoothing lotion into her soles.
My venture was a little different.
I walked into a dark room in which eight or so reclining chairs were arranged. Calming music heavy on the erhus played through hidden speakers. Without preamble, I was led to one of the chairs and covered by a towel. My feet were plunged into a basin of 1,000 degree water. I soon got used to it and liked it.
A Chinese man who spoke no English I could discern except "Relax",""That okay?" and "Tip?" started in on me. He began knuckling my forehead and temples so forcefully that I feared brain injury. It hurt. And he didn't pick up on the fact that I was shimmying ever downward, my shoulders pulling up protectively over my skull.
"That okay?" he said.
"Oh yeah! Fine!" I'm not one to hurt someone's feelings. Especially if it's only a matter of slight paralysis.
He then, thankfully migrated to my arms, which was okay. Nice, even. Legs and feet went fairly well with only a few sharp inhalations on my part.
Every ten minutes or so, the erhus started to skip, and I heard footsteps move toward the CD player so it could be restarted. At about the same intervals, my masseuse escaped behind a wooden screen and made loud, gutteral noises like only men over thirty can.
Whatever, though. CDs jump. Men get phlegm.
At the halfway mark, the Chinese man asked me to flip onto my front. Oh God, he's going to kill me with his bionic fingers, is what went through my head. True to my expectations, he squeezed my shoulders so hard that I gasped and squirmed. "Relax!" he kept saying. "Relax!"
Maybe I could if you weren't pinching the life force out of me.
Of course, I actually said nothing.
Finally, his hands abandoned my sensitive shoulders and found my back. He pressed into me like a two-ton pickup truck rolling down my spine. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't say, "No, that's not okay!" I imagined it to be a little like a chiropractic adjustment, without the cracking and snapping.
What ensued was a bit of a surprise. But not really. He kneaded my butt. Fingers sinking into cellulite. It was the best part of the whole thing! I'm not used to butt kneading, but I highly recommend it. It's just working the glutes, right? No shame in that.
By then, I knew to expect the slapping and karate chopping, so loud through the small, quiet room filled with other massagees, that I couldn't help but grin into the downward facing hole that held my face. How else to end such an hour but with some final, eleventh hour abuse?
I was relieved beyond relief when it was done. Only problem was, I'd given my gift certificate to the women standing at the desk when I first got there, and she was no where to be seen. My Chinese butt-kneader had to call someone on his cell phone to translate so I could communicate that I'd already paid.
Once that was cleared up, he was all "Tip? Tip?"
I was all, "Yes, I definitely want to give you extra for the ass work and brain damage!"
I handed him ten bucks, burst out into the misty Seattle afternoon and vowed Never Again.
And yet. And yet. I'm glad I did both: the (holy hell) bikini wax and the Chinese Foot Massage. They're experiences, right? A little painful, maybe. One-time events. But they're behind me and make my soft mattress and the warmth of J.'s hand lying lightly on my neck and smooth porch boards under my feet that much sweeter.