January 13, 2008

Some R-Rated Relaxation Tales

Last year, in college, I took a course on spa management. It sounds all silly and easy, but it was actually a pretty intense class. We learned about the different treatments you can have, design requirements, marketing, etc. The final project was to do a consulting project for an actual spa! My group did market research for Banyan Tree, who wanted to open a new spa in Marrakech, Morocco. It was really interesting, and I learned a lot.

Since then, I’ve stayed interested in spas, so I try to visit on occasion. Unfortunately, they are expensive! During Spa Week, I tried out two spas. One was for a mesotherapy treatment at Squeeze Cream. It was a neat experience because it was a really nice spa, but I didn’t notice much of a difference in cellulite (though to be fair, I couldn’t expect much from one session), and the technique used in mesotherapy is very light, so it didn’t really work the muscles. Incidentally, after looking at the Squeeze Cream website, it seems that they don’t offer that treatment anymore.

The second place I visited is a tale that would really not be appropriate if I included pictures. Fortunately, none were taken of this experience. I went to Water Front Spa in the East Village and got the Thai massage. In case you’ve never had one, a Thai massage basically involves them twisting your body into different yoga-like positions, and then massaging you while you hold the stretch. It really gets your muscles relaxed, but also increases your flexibility. Two benefits in one! I had never had a Thai massage, so I was expecting to be put into like a gym studio kind of room, and had worn clingy but not restricting workout clothes.

Now, I have to admit, getting a massage always makes me a bit uncomfortable, because inevitable questions arises: what to wear? Butt naked or underwear? If underwear, thong or full-bottom? At Squeeze Cream, the masseuse brought me into the room and told me to disrobe completely and put on a little paper thong, so at least I knew what to do. At Water Front Spa, the masseuse didn’t really speak English, and when she brought me into the room she handed me a robe to wear that was full-length, almost like a dress. I figured that was covering enough, so I went commando and wore nothing but the robe. The room was not a studio at all; it was a normal, small massage room with a table and everything, so I figured maybe the Spa Week special wasn’t really a Thai massage or something, and thought I’d be just getting a normal massage. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a fatal error.

At first it started like a normal massage. It was all being done through the robe, which was a little weird, but it still felt good. About halfway through, we started getting into the Thai portion of the massage. While I lay on my stomach, she would pull my arm up and behind me to get a nice stretch going – it felt great! Then, she got behind me to do my legs, and the trouble began. She started by lifting one leg up and back, and then the other. After that initial stretch, she hopped up on the table, and I started to wonder. She took my legs, put one on each of her shoulders, and then rose up to a semi-standing position while my head/chest stayed on the table, giving me a good stretch/arch in the back. As she did this, the robe slipped down and started to fall to my waist, so I got a bit concerned – I was naked and definitely not covered with my legs in the air! And then… the masseuse moved forward on the table to catch my legs higher and give me a better stretch. Basically, my (naked) va-jay-jay ended up about 2 inches from her face! I was, of course, rather tense – wondering if I had inadvertently picked a “happy ending” massage parlor. Meanwhile, the masseuse was like “relax! You relax!” Um, okay… you try to relax when some strange woman’s breath is on your uncovered crotch! The rest of the massage went somewhat uneventfully, but there were a few more awkward parts, and it was definitely one of the more stressful/nerve-waracking massages I’d had. I spent most of the rest of the session debating how to politely decline a “happy ending” should one start happening. (In case you’re wondering, I had decided on a classy “No, thank you… just a massage is fine.”)

Despite that experience, I was feeling adventurous this afternoon. I had heard a lot about the cheap massage places in Chinatown, but wanted to avoid a “happy ending” experience, so after some online research, I selected the 88 Chinese Qi Gong Tui-Na (not actually in Chinatown, but still in that ultra-cheap price range). I had been forewarned online that it wasn’t a place for the shy – the cubicles are open. I just didn’t quite comprehend how open. I walked in and was a bit confused, because it was a very small space and there didn’t seem to be a good place to put my stuff. The masseuse stood in front of the cubicle watching me (I’m used to them telling you to undress and then leaving while you do so), so I felt a bit uncomfortable, but took off my top/bra. I half-turned around at that point, to see if she was still there, and she was, saying “pants! Take off your pants!” I did, but was a bit flustered by this whole watching me undress thing, so I left my underwear on. At first, I felt bad that I hadn’t just gone all the way, because whenever she would get down to my lower back/butt, she would push my underwear down in an irritated manner. She probably thought I was extremely shy after the whole undressing thing, but I really didn’t care – had just gotten nervous before. But then, when she started working on my legs, I was so glad I had left my underwear on, because the massage got a bit… intimate. Definitely not a “happy ending” or even R-rated, but when she would go for my inner thighs, there was a quite lot of inadvertent brushing against my private bits that made me happy there was some coverage! Call me a puritan, but I’m not a big fan of unexpected touching…

So it seems when I go for a massage I’m doomed to either come off as a total slut by not wearing underwear when I should (e.g. Water Front) or a prude by leaving it on (e.g. 88 Chinese). Really, there has to be a happy medium so I can actually get a relaxing massage instead of stressing about my choice of underwear!

In all honesty, though, today’s massage was great, and I’d definitely go back to 88 Chinese again. If you’re in the city, check it out. It’s an amazingly deep massage, and an incredible price ($42 for 60 minutes – unbeatable!). You don’t get all the frou-frou waterfalls or atmosphere of a more expensive place, but for that price, who cares? The massage is great and I’d rather save my money than pay a ton for the frills.


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