I love a really good massage. There’s nothing quite like it. Kneading my needy muscles is the surefire quickest way to my heart.
That first squeeze on the top of the shoulders sends tingles down my arms and legs. My eyes close and as I exhale, my head goes light. My eyes roll back in my head and my eyelids flutter. I am snapped back to semi-awareness when the drool, dribbling from the corner of my mouth, tickles my skin as it rolls underneath my chin. I am out of the initial state of Nirvana but still have no control over the groans and sighs (and occasionally, smells) coming from me. They probably sound sexual (not the smells), but I don’t care. As the massage continues and ‘The Touch’ is instinctively applied where most needed, I linger in a state of suspended bliss – totally enjoying the moment, yet constantly dreading the inevitable commencement of the Karate Chop, which indicates that the End of Eden is nigh.
You can pretty much tell from first contact whether or not you’re in for the kind of massage I’m talking about. Whether or not your therapist, be they amateur or professional, has ‘The Touch’. I’m not sure it’s even something you can learn. Some of the best massages I have ever had have been from the most unlikely sources, like my 10 year old cousin. She is tiny (size 7 clothes) and has really fragile bones due to a serious genetic condition, yet her hands are drawn like magnets to the exact spots that are sore with no direction from me – often to spots I didn’t even know were sore, and then she works those muscles like they’re bread dough. My daughter has it too, although she’s not so generous with sharing it these days. I occasionally try bribery, but for the price she demands I might as well pay a professional. They might not have ‘The Touch’ like she does, but at least I won’t have to say “Keep going” every 60 seconds.
But do you really get what you pay for when it comes to massage? I know what I’m likely to receive when I engage the services of my teenage massage prodigy. The length of massage and compensation will be agreed upon, mostly to my own detriment due to basic supply and demand principles and the fact that my ability to negotiate is compromised by my need for immediate muscular manipulation. So I agree to ridiculous terms to then enjoy one, maybe two minutes of the aforementioned levels of ecstacy, and then she stops. I shrug my shoulders, or give a little cough, and if I’m lucky she restarts. But never for long. We might bunny hop along like this for a few more minutes, with the subtle shrugs and coughs upgraded to cries of “Keep going!” and “Come ooooooooonnnnnn!” but that first pause is the beginning of the end. I’ve lost her and there’s no coming back. And then she still expects to be paid. I really don’t know why either of us bother. Oh yes I do… Because when it’s good, it’s SO good!
Likewise, I know what I am going to get when I go to the Cairns nightmarkets for a massage. A “footspa” (correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t spas have jets?) in a washbowl lined with a plastic bag, filled with suspiciously yellow/brown tepid water while sitting on a deck chair (sometimes in the middle of the aisle of the markets). After being asked if I want a hard or soft massage**, an employee is picked from what seems like an army of Asian young adults. Rarely, if ever, do you get the same person twice and since I have, as I write this, got Pitch Perfect on in the background which has an Asian girl called Kimmy-Jin in it, we will group all employees with the name Kimmy for the purpose of easier reading. We start off with feet and calves. Moments later will come the first of the only two things Kimmy will say to me (which is weird as I normally don’t let people rub my bottom after only ever hearing them utter two words, but I do actually loathe being forced or feeling compelled to talk during a massage. It interferes with my drooling.). Without fail, within a few seconds, two words: “Pressure OK?” Every. Single. Time. No matter which Kimmy it is. After that shoehorn looking thing is stabbed into the sole of my foot a few times it’s time for the rest of the body to have its’ turn and we shuffle across the market aisle to another stall. I climb onto the rickety table, which seems to bow under my weight and should almost certainly buckle later when Kimmy springs onto the table and straddles me, positioning her feet precariously either side of my waist. She does so with the ease of a olympic gymnast mounting a pummel horse. It doesn’t buckle and Kimmys’ dismount is equally as impressive as her launch. She works her way through the routine that she and I both know by heart and then, once again, it’s that time: Karate chops. Then come the four final words I will hear from Kimmy: “Sank Yew Berry March”. Every. Single. Time.
Now, I know that there are people who will not patronise this type of establishment as the staff are not qualified therapists. This is true. From what I can gather they are mostly backpackers. But when my shoulders hurt and my daughter doesn’t want to know about it, I would pay just about anyone $15 to squeeze them, and if there’s some calf and hand action in there too, well that’s just a bonus!
On the other hand, I am not a fan of the mall-based massage that sees to be an emerging trend in shopping centres these days. They generally range from $60-$75 per hour and are no more qualified than the backpackers at the nightmarkets. I get that they have to pay more in rent to be in the mall, but as the discerning consumer I like to think I am, I would rather pay the same money and go to a professional and accredited massage therapist. Why would I pay a novice at an experts rate? Or pay premium price for a generic product? It’s kinda like paying $5 for a cup of coffee, but getting International Roast instead of cappuccino because the cafe is in the mall…
**HOT TIP: always say hard. They will give you someone with strong hands. A person with strong hands can be gentler if required. A person with weaker hands may not be able to do it harder. You’re welcome