Massages are a paid form of trust exercises (or torture).

For those of you who have seen me in person, you may have compared my size to that of a building - I am a towering person of 6’1 and have the build of a raging bull (that is neither a compliment nor an insult - just something I’ve literally been told to my face.)

Why am I talking about my body?

Let me explain.

I recently went for a massage that both destroyed and rejuvenated me all at once. But it was also the most awkward massage experience I’ve had in my life.

When it comes to massages, it's very common to have to extend my sessions by 15 minutes more than the originally planned time, usually because the masseurs underestimate my body. Because of this, they often don’t finish the whole routine on time within the original timing, and end up needing an extension. Then, after the massage they’ll always tell me how big and strong my body is.

The massage I went to recently in New York's Chinatown? The usual happened, except with two differences:

  • I had to extend by 30 minutes this time - understandable, as I had started hitting the gym in the last two weeks, so my body was extra-knotted and tough to work on.
  • The usual post-massage conversation took a very weird turn. It went like this:

Masseur: Sorry we had to extend. Your body is very big and strong.
Me: Guess I’ll have to hit the gym less!
*we both laugh*
Masseur: Really very big and strong.
*I laugh again*
Masseur: Girls must really like your body.
*now we both stand in silence*

If I had a camera following me a la The Office style, that would have been a perfect moment to look at it and look very confused, because 1) I was very confused, and 2) I didn't know what to say or where to look, and maintaining eye contact with him would have been weird.

There is no way to react to words like that from a complete stranger. And that’s the thing: massages are always done by complete strangers.

They have no idea who we are! We don't even know each other's names! Yet, we let them touch us all over, fully believing they will fix our bodies the right way! Even though they have no idea how we looked like before in the first place! We don't even know how our "right" bodies look like! Years of media manipulation have given us body issues, we don't even know where to begin! For all we know, the right body shape could be a hexagon!

But, somehow we've been led to believe these masseurs are body experts? How do they know what’s right for our bodies? Intuition? Science? Years of training? Or perhaps just the power of prayer? After all, they are very fond of saying “Treat your body like a temple.”

Interestingly, we don’t check for credentials before we get massages. All we do is take off our clothes, get on the mat and go, “Torture my body back to life for the next 60 minutes, I paid for this.”

We ask chiropractors for their certs. Even with food carts or stalls, we at least check their hygiene grades. But sure, men with aromatic oils? No need for papers, just grease us up!

Somehow, just walking into a massage parlor and paying that transactional value equates to trust. “Hi, we’ve only met for 5 seconds, but I’ve paid a fee. I now surrender my entire physical being to you, Almighty One with Magic Hands That Supposedly Poke All The Right Places."

With paid massages comes an instant level of trust so fast, your partner would feel betrayed. Think about it.

It takes a lot of trust to be intimate with someone, from taking off your clothes to nakedness, letting them touch you, and for the more suggestive, even oiling you up? When was the last time you let your partner oil your body like a wobbly wheel? Probably hardly ever - so in context, that makes you as heartless as the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz, except you're now well-greased post-massage.

I suppose my question at the end of the day is simply: where does this unprecedented level of trust with masseurs come from?! It doesn’t make sense at all.

That said, I would definitely recommend everyone find a size-appropriate masseuse who won’t make weird comments afterwards. Trust me, massages are great for your body.

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