A Man’s Kneads

The basic idea of a massage is to soothe and relax your body and mind, which you accomplish by going into a dim and unfamiliar room, taking off all your clothes, and lying down with your eyes closed. Only then do you allow a stranger to enter the room and touch you in thirty minute increments.

I’m not so sure about this process.

no pantsTaking my clothes off is not the issue. Au contraire. Used to be, legend has it, you couldn’t keep me dressed. As soon as I got home from play dates or the grocery store—BAM! Pants off. Running around, happy as a billy goat in a tin can factory.

I was apparently like that even as a little kid.

No, the real issue in the whole massage scenario is that this licensed stranger might take advantage of the situation and attempt to force me, while I am both naked and captive, into horribly awkward conversation.

Going into my first full-body massage, this dread of conversation outweighs my fears—common massage fears, according to the internet!—of surprise erections, the masseuse secretly judging my surprise erections, and actually managing to relax so much that I fart.

With such rampant and realistic horrors awaiting, how could I possibly chit-chat? And when I am cornered into conversation, which is worse? Making up answers to which essential oil I prefer? (“Sandalwood” sounds safe, and perhaps “ochre.”) Or stonewalling the person who is lending more intimate attention to my entire body than all but the most involved airport screeners?

All this anxiety over massage etiquette and protocol is stressing me out. If I didn’t need a massage before, I sure need one now.


When I arrive for my massage, the masseuse—let’s call her Julie, because that is her name—shows me around the room and explains, in general terms, what is what. I don’t understand much of what she says because I’m too busy hoping that she changed the cover on the massage table since the last customer and his surprise erections.

Julie then leaves me to get naked. In fairness, she explains that I may get as naked as I am comfortable with, but that undergarments can inhibit the effectiveness of the massage on important muscle groups. I notice she does not mention WHICH important muscle groups.

While she’s gone, I poke around like a dog in a strange new room about to get a massage for the first time. I must admit that the atmosphere is soothing, what with the meditative music, all the framed certificates on the wall, and the fact that I don’t have to wear pants.

And I start to wonder—not about Julie, per se, but about other, more hypothetical licensed professionals on whom I am not about to confer my physique. Why do we trust pieces of paper on the wall just because they are framed? I mean, they could say literally anything, like

01 April 1988

and so long as it is not set in Comic Sans or accentuated with clip art, I will just think it’s foreign and quite official indeed.

Before Julie busts me staring pantsless at the walls, I climb onto the table and veil my nethers with the provided towel. And I spend several moments finding the least awkward position to nestle my face in the face cradle. It’s like a hemorrhoid ring. For faces.

smush faceGranted—GRANTED—I don’t have any ideas on improving the luxury and comfort of the apparatus. But for all the funds politicians want to take from education, at least some of it needs to go into face smusher R&D.

Soon, Julie knocks. The sounds I make through the face smusher must sound like “come in,” because she does. And though I am a man of seven hundred words a week, I have very few to describe the massage. All my misgivings melt away like dissent under a benevolent dictator.

Julie converses, sure enough, but unlike the dentist, she doesn’t expect essay responses. She uses her powers to educate me about caring for my muscle groups. Rather than mash my knots, she works through their layers. I didn’t even know muscles had layers! So not only will I walk out of here more relaxed, I will walk out of here more knowledgeable about my own body. That kind of knowledge is pure freedom, children. Like going pantsless for the brain.


This Fool’s Gold originally appeared on The KC Post.

(Featured massage image copyright JohnCrider/CC. No Pants Day copyright Victoria Pickering/CC. Smush face copyright Jeff Hill/CC.)


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