I just wanted to relax. That’s how I recently found myself in a massage parlor three hours from home during the time of coronavirus. After a solid four months of this quarantine-ish lifestyle due to Covid-19, every muscle had turned to stone. Each joint creaked. I needed some relief.
Please don’t hurt yourself by rolling your eyes too hard when I tell you that I am used to getting a massage every month for the last ten or so years. My therapist recommended it after I had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. But she calls it, “getting rubbed on,” which is very That’s What She Said.
Why massage? I am a survivor of sexual abuse and for years avoided touch. Massage has helped me rewire my brain, teaching me that touch is comforting and safe. Massage continues to help me learn how to calm my nervous system. Massage also gets those good hormones going in my brain, and allows me to connect my mind and body. Plus there’s a whole host of other benefits that you can look up on the internet.
The point is, I “get rubbed on” once a month, usually by the same awesome person. Obviously, massage has not been anyone’s first priority during the pandemic. Plus, my regular massage goddess is immuno-compromised. So I’ve avoided massage, except for once at my chiropractor’s office after masks became a 24/7 thing. They are not called “Chiropractor Spas” for a reason. Getting a massage at a chiropractor’s office is always a mistake. Unless you prefer pain, then go for it, I’m not going to yuck your yum.
There’s a reason that this massage happened three hours from home. As the spring turned to summer – and my muscles stiffened and I went unpampered – my partner and I have been going on a lot of outdoor adventures. Driving out far away from people and hiking and taking photos and stargazing and camping. Bringing our own food and whatever else will help us limit human contact.
Everywhere we have gone, I have cried. I have been crying for days and weeks and months because all of this is stressful. Being in a pandemic is stressful. Moving from racism to anti-racism as a white woman is stressful. Hurtling toward a national presidential election is stressful. Reading and talking and fighting online with other people – some of whom are family and friends – about these issues is stressful. In the last three weeks, my oldest graduated from high school and my ex-husband got remarried, and that is stressful. This doesn’t count all of the “normal” stuff that comes with living a life in America. But then again, nothing is normal right now, not even grocery shopping.
So while crying one morning during our latest trip, I thought, “I want a massage.” I knew it was risky. I was desperate.
I made an appointment at a random place in the nearest town for a same-day massage. We arrived a few hours later to a deserted massage parlor in a strip mall, called “Jade Asian Massage.” It was sparse and clean. Everyone wore masks. There were no other customers. We were greeted with hand sanitizer. Perfection.
I had to stop myself from throwing my clothes off and running into the next room, sectioned off with a floor-to-ceiling tapestry. Behind this curtain, there were two massage tables that were a little bit like coffins or canoes. The middle was scooped out, which is where we laid face down. The sides came up to the same height as my arms. I thought it would be stifling, but it was uniquely comforting, like being nestled in a cocoon.
There were no blankets, though, and there’s always a blanket. There was just a towel.
My partner and I looked at each other. “I’m not wearing underwear,” he said.
“Neither am I,” I answered. “And I usually wear underwear during a massage.”
I never once in my pre-coronavirus life ever imagined that I would wear a mask during a massage but not underwear. But here we are.
“Do we just lay here naked?” my partner asked.
“I think we get under this,” I said, picking up a folded white towel. As it opened, I held it up in front of me, relieved to see that it was almost as long as I was tall. I started to get undressed.
“Uh oh,” I heard my partner say.
I looked up to find him holding a hand towel, which was the towel that had been left on his table.
Ever the supportive partner, I pointed at him, laughed, shrugged, and laid face-down on my table, pulling the towel over my bottom and legs.
“If there’s any funny business,” he said as he settled in, “I’ll say ‘Bing Bong.’”
What’s “Bing Bong,” you ask? It’s our code that we adopted from a class that we took about anal sex. In my pre-coronavirus life, I took a lot of classes in several subjects. I love to take classes. Some of them were about sex, which is an infinitely fascinating subject. I highly recommend these types of classes, but only in-person with a bunch of other adults. Highly entertaining.
During this anal sex class, there were charts and graphs and objects and – thankfully – no live demonstration. The instructor told us that the sphincter – also known as the “leather donut” – is finicky. Before shoving stuff up there, place a (gloved) fingertip on the surface and politely “ring the doorbell.” The sphincter will relax if it’s okay to enter.
As the instructor used her hands to mime “ringing the doorbell” for us, she enthusiastically yelled, “BING BONG!” And now my partner and I yell “Bing Bong!” all the time.
The two massage ladies came in and, seeing my partner’s bottom covered by only a hand towel, proceeded to giggle uncontrollably. I gathered from the chatter that my partner’s towel was a mistake, and I found out later that it was replaced with a larger one.
At that moment, though, I did not care, as my massage lady had already started running her hands and arms over my back at the start of what turned out to be the best 90 minutes of my life since the mid-March quarantine began.
Up and down my back with lotion and oil. Up and down my back, farther down. Farther down, to the dimples above my butt. Farther down to the start of my crack. And farther still, mid-buttock, inches away from my leather donut, and down to my thighs.
I didn’t move. I wasn’t frozen in the trauma sense, just curious and fascinated. How far was this going to go? Plus – if you think about it – nobody ever rubs or kneads our butts. It turns out, it feels pretty good. And I could have stopped it in a moment, with a word, and it didn’t feel creepy at all.
Honestly, though? Since the pandemic started, I have been so bored. I was highly entertained as she kneaded my butt like it was slippery bread dough. Back and forth, into the sides of my hips. She even climbed onto the edges of the table, using her fists and elbows to bring relief to tight muscles.
It was – hands down (pun intended) – one of the best and most entertaining massages I have ever experienced. Plus it showed me that as a trauma survivor, I’ve come a long way. I mean, I used to pull my hands and arms away as a reflex when getting a manicure and now someone was fully rubbing my butt, gently and enthusiastically flapping my crack and threatening to expose my leather donut and all I could do was silently giggle.
Overall, butts are clean, especially when compared to a toilet or a cat’s mouth or a phone. As I’ve said since Covid-19 started, “I’d rather lick your butt than touch your phone.” You can quote me on that.