“Did you get a happy ending?”
That’s what everyone wants to know when I tell them I got a massage last week. A happy ending? I would have settled for a non-neurotic beginning.
After buying a $50 massage off Living Social months ago, I promptly forgot about it until a few weeks ago when they sent me an email telling me the offer would expire at the end of March. Not one to wash money down the tube, I made an appointment at Hela Spa in Chevy Chase for last Friday. I had to take a day off work since there were so few appointments available.
Now, there’s something you need to understand. I’m not a massage guy. Not that I don’t like massages, but for me it’s like chocolate: I won’t say no to it, I’m just not going to actively seek it out.
So when I got to Hela Spa, I really didn’t know the protocol of receiving a massage. Was there something I needed to do ahead of time? Should I talk to the masseuse in advance? I promised myself to temper the neuroticism and enjoy it.
Apparently, easier said than done.
I arrived at Hela Spa early and was led to a dark waiting room where soft music played over the speakers. After a few minutes, Erika came out and introduced herself as my masseuse. When I had originally made the appointment, they told me I would be with Antonio.
“Oh, um,” I awkwardly stammered, “can I have a woman instead?”
My friend Hiller swears by male masseuses, saying their hands are stronger and so you get a better massage. But I figured if I was going to have a stranger’s hands on me for an hour, I’d rather they belong to a woman. I may not be homophobic, but my sore muscles might be.
Erika was very soft-spoken. She led me to the massage room and closed the door. There was a second where it was quiet and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to do something or say anything, so I no sooner did she close the door than I blurted out, “Do I take off my clothes now?”
She seemed a bit surprised and, I’d like to think, amused, and responded, “Why don’t we sit down and you tell me what you’d like first.”
This was the beginning of my internal conversation I had with myself even as I spoke to Erika.
Duh. Way to go, dude, act like you’re with a prostitute. Get it together.
I told her that I’m a “marathon runner” (Why did you say “marathon”, you idiot, wouldn’t “runner” have been enough? You’ve only run two marathons, anyway) and so I’d like a sports massage.
She said she wasn’t a trained PT but would do the best she could and asked me to take off my clothes. “All the way, even my underwear?” I asked.
(“All the way”? What am I, 5 years old?)
The reason I said this was that I wanted to be perfectly clear. What if I misunderstood her directive and she came back in, I was completely naked, and she screamed in horror? That would, for lack of a better word, suck.
She informed me that it would be easier to work on my hips but added if I wasn’t comfortable it’d be fine. No, I replied, that would be fine.
(You’re not at a nudist colony, she’s a professional, stop making this weird.)
She left the room and I got undressed quicker than a teenager in the 60s.
When I got to my feet, I stopped. Should I take off my socks? Or leave them on? I wish I could explain my thought process better, but it went something like this: Taking socks off is a sign of intimacy and I’m not here to get my feet massaged. I should leave them on to make Erika feel more comfortable.
I jumped under the covers, completely naked except for my black socks and waited for Erika to come back. She walked in and said she’d start on my legs.
She took off the blanket from my left leg and paused. I wish I had seen her face when she said to me, “I’m going to take your socks off now.”
Erika then proceeded to give me an amazing massage, working the legs, then the back, the shoulders, and, yes, even my feet (They do feet! I had no idea). I tried to relax, but of course I kept thinking of things throughout the entire massage, like: I wonder if she likes me as a client. Should I chit-chat with her? Does she mind doing this? I don’t think I could ever do this, my hands would get tired. How much should I tip her? Is $20 enough?
By the time she massaged my head at the end of the hour, I decided to tip her $30. I hope that’s enough, I thought.
She finished promptly and told me to put my clothes back on. She met me outside and asked how it felt. “Great!” I said, hoping she didn’t mistake my enthusiasm for insincerity.
I settled my bill and left, my body relaxed while my mind raced. I decided that while I do like massages, the stress on my mind was too taxing and I would probably not go back anytime soon.
Still, I hope she liked me.