Massages: The Most Relaxing Way to Feel Uncomfortable

By Andrew Niesen

Doesn't this look relaxing? (Answer: No, it looks like someone was just stoned to death.)

It seems there are two schools of thought for men when it comes to things like massages.

The first school of thought is a love for these things. Nothing feels better than a good rubdown by a person you have just met. These people are usually very awkward to be around as they have no issue invading everyone’s personal space.

The other group hates massages. “Massages are for women,” they say as they eat raw steak and punch each other in the head. That is, after all, what men do.

While I am not the most manly person out there (I prefer my steaks cooked medium), I also hate massages. I hate the idea of them, the feel of them; I don’t even care for the word. The whole double ‘s’ thing is just irritating. Why don’t you share an ‘s’ with another word, massage? Stop being so selfish.

To understand my feelings about the thought of a massage, you have to get into my head for a minute. There are three things I don’t like in this world.

I don’t like cowboy boots. They make me taller, giving me the feeling that, at any second, I could fall to my death from atop these shoes. It may be irrational, but it is true.

I don’t like that thing that Yoko Ono does that she calls “singing.” It’s not.

Lastly, I don’t like people invading my personal bubble.

Clearly massages go completely against that last point.

My journey to my first (and hopefully only) massage table began over a year ago when I was working in a hotel restaurant. As anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows, you are prone to spend a lot of time standing and walking. It seems you don’t receive an adequate tip if you sit down with people that are in the midst of negotiating a business deal over lunch.

Due to this, my back had moved beyond tight into a new region of back tension we like to call the “How Does This Person Even Move Because His Back is Clearly Made Out of Granite?” zone. Every day I would come home and attempt to decompress the tension I my back, but to no avail. I tried literally everything except letting a stranger poke and prod me.

For my second anniversary, my wife got me a thoughtful and very nice gift: a gift card in the exact amount it costs to receive an upper body massage.

“Trust me, this will make your back feel so much better,” she said, certain that this was the perfect gift. In fact, it really was the perfect gift for anyone besides me.

She clearly hadn’t looked at number three on my list of dislikes.

The gift card set in a drawer for months. I had very little interest in getting a massage, I found a new job that required significantly less walking and standing, and I forgot all about that possible back torture.

That was until this last weekend.

Over a year after the card was given to me, my wife planned a nice day for our anniversary. It included my favorite record store, a picnic, the world class Nelson Atkins art museum. Oh, and it included my massage.

I walked into the salon with a brave look on my face, but inside I was kicking and screaming. The place smelled like someone had eaten a large number of fragrant candles and subsequently spewed them back up everywhere.

“Can I get you something to drink?” the young lady at the front desk asked.

“I’d take some water,” I said. It’s very hard to swallow your emergency cyanide capsule without some water.

After filling out a form that promised I wouldn’t sue the salon if the masseuse somehow, most likely due to her oily hands, slipped and stabbed me in the eye or accidentally disemboweled me, I was ready to go. I walked up the stairs, each step creaking like a sound effect from a Hitchcock film. After a quick wardrobe removal, I was laying on the table. That is when the professional masseuse walked in.

“Let’s drown out some of that sound from downstairs,” she said, as she hit play on the CD player nearby. Out came music that had to have been from some award winning epic holocaust film. I was relieved because nothing gets you ready to relax like the thought of Hitler’s atrocities.

For half of an hour I laid there as this woman pushed on my back, elbowed my back and pressed all of her weight onto my back. She massaged my scalp, a fate far worse than death in my book. Having neglected to tell me the upper body contained the foot, she was forced to try to massage my feet through thick cotton socks. As I laid there, she rubbed hot stones on my socked feet, she worked the muscles through my socks, all the while silently cursing Fruit of the Loom.

While my socks were busy keeping a woman from my feet, I was busy thinking about the job of a masseuse. I’ve had crummy jobs in my life, but I don’t know if anything would really be worse to me than being a masseuse. Every day you would have to oil up some hairy and, at least slightly, overweight man. You have to touch hot stones even in the heat of the Kansas City summer. Oh, did I mention the touching of other people? Gross.

After the longest thirty minutes of my life, I dressed myself and came back down the stairs. My wife jumped up and asked me how it was.

“It was okay,” I said. You can’t really tell your wife that her year old anniversary gift is, to you, on the same level as waterboarding.

“Do you feel more relaxed?”

“I guess,” I said, feeling the same level of relaxation I normally experienced in my everyday life.

Her intentions were more than good. In fact, they were very selfless because I know she would have preferred to have that massage herself. It was a great idea, just a bit off base.

After three years of marriage, she seems to have a much better handle on what I like. The rest of the day consisted of looking at Daguerreotypes and finding Jimi Hendrix on vinyl. It was a day she enjoyed, but it clearly was not a day that was meant for her enjoyment. She planned it for me.

That kind of selflessness always makes me feel a bit competitive. After this weekend, I have just under a year to prepare the best anniversary gift she could ever hope for because there is no way she is going to be known as the best gift giver. Not if I have anything to do with it.

If there is a massage involved, though, I’ll let her have it. I think I’ve had enough back torture for one lifetime.

Oh, and I’ll remind her to take her socks off. Socks make it just that much more awkward.


(Fun Fact of the Day: Today’s post mentioned Hitler and cyanide capsules. Did you know Hitler bit a cyanide capsule before he shot himself? Talk about making sure a job is done right!)

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