Let’s be honest. I don’t like massages.
But I wanted to give the spa one last try. There I stood, a nervous wreck, in the middle of the world’s massage capital.
Essential oils, hot stones and exfoliation rubs, scrubs and cling-wrap treatments do nothing for me, in fact, when I hear those words I run in the opposite direction. I can be in pain from stumbling up the Himalayan hills for days and a massage would be the last thing on my mind upon return. I worm my way out of spa treatments and pass on spa gift vouchers. Heck, I even cut my hair myself – a DIY-YouTube video taught me how to cut my hair in layers.
The video lied. My hair has been uneven for a decade and I am a hairdresser’s worst nightmare.
See, I’m just not a spa girl.
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” they say. But I’ve tried it, quite a few times. I’ve had my fair share of foot treatments, pedicures and facials; junior treatments. Mud baths, foreign stretches and balancing energy levels are too advanced for my nerves.
‘It’ll be fun,’ they say.
A female voice came from behind the counter, “Welcome! You want massage?”
“Yes please,” I answered with forced certainty.
The massage parlour was dark; the smell of tobacco and incense clashed in the air while a Thai pop song blared over the radio.
“Come, sit here” the woman said as she prepared a bowl of water.
I approached the chair with nerves and a bit of hope and eased my feet into the mixture of lukewarm water, leaves and oils.
“Where are you from?” she asked while vigorously scrubbing and washing my feet.
"South ouch Africa” I squeaked after her nail punctured my toe.
I always wonder why there is no ‘are you ticklish’ question in those forms you fill out before your massage. It should be there for the therapists’ own safety; one look at my feet and my toes curl up.
My foot flexed in a dangerous karate-kick and my masseuse was mere inches away from a bloody nose.
There is nothing funny about being ticklish, it is pure torture. I yank my feet away pre-treatment, mid-treatment and post-treatment. I’m a real danger, my feet are a force to be reckoned with and mind over matter has no meaning when it comes to my degree of ticklishness.
Did I mention I’m not friends with facials either. I am even more anxious when I can’t see what’s going on.
Under the warm soothing towel I open my eyes and stare into the darkness of nothing. I tense up from head to toe and long for the ceiling. If there is no towel my eyes awkwardly follow the masseuse, peripheral vision to the max.
You can imagine my level of tense when a facial and foot treatment happen at the exact same time; one person at my feet, one standing over my face and one ticking time bomb of bundle of nerves on the torture table.
Reflexology leave me with nothing but giggles, tickles, pins and needles. The one time I almost stumbled head first into a swimming pool because it felt like I was walking on cactuses.
A head massage feels like a plague of grasshoppers jumping around my hair as fingers pause, touch and engage. I want to shout ‘uhmm I don’t think there should be a hole in my skull’ but I let them carry on because someone told me it would be fun.
My therapist motioned me to a rock-hard medieval torture bed with a paper-thin mattress.
Pillowless, eyes to the ceiling and flat on my back the massage started. I could hear every nerve shout ‘don’t do it’.
Puzzled thoughts ran through my mind as the masseuse’s hands clap-clap to the left and clap-clap to the right like a Spanish castanet; no bueno senorita, don’t play drums with my shoulders, please. Every now and then I pulled away out of agony and she responded with a laugh and her catchphrase, ‘okay sorry, sorry’.
Fun you say, ja, okay. Fun is a noun wrapped up in enjoyment, amusement or light-hearted pleasure but here I am paying to be a human wrapped up in pain and agony; a poster-child for misery.
Every now and then I hear via the pampering grapevine of amazing-massage-this; life-changing-treatment-that. Some say they hear angelic choirs and choruses of hallelujahs while others rejoice in the magic of touch.
The only thing I hear are screeching cats meowing to ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’ in an orchestrated symphony of pain.
“But try it,” they say, “It will be fun”.
Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook, Twitter or on Instagram!
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