Massages are meant to be a wonderfully relaxing experience, but not if you’re me. Unfortunately, the promise of luxury causes me to forget my regular propensity to forget how to human. At first, a massage sounds like a fabulous idea. I trot eagerly into the spa at the appointed hour and am shown to a room. But suddenly, the imminence of nudity and proneness and silence renders me completely incapable of remaining in control of my mind and body and my usual high risk of awkwardness suddenly sky rockets, creating certainty that I will do something unusual, unexpected and uncomfortable.
The trigger is the instruction to disrobe and lie face down on the bed. The resultant capitulation into complete clown can be broken down into three distinct dilemmas (that in reality are whirling and colliding in my head as I panic, exacerbating the difficulty in any attempt to ‘act normal’). Let us observe these dilemmas in turn.
Internal Narrative of Dilemma 1: Shit, I’m being asked to disrobe. How ‘nakey’ do I get? Do they want bra off or do they want to do the modest unclip of bra so when I roll over there’s less ‘flashage’? I could ask but that might sound like I’m anxious and/or can’t undress myself and now they’ve left the room anyway. OH GOD THERE’S A PAIR OF DISPOSABLE KNICKERS. These never fit. It’s so dark in here I can’t get them out of the tiny packet. Surely it’s a fire hazard to attempt to disrobe and apply unfamiliar undergarments by candle light? “Are you done in there?” “Not quite!” Shit shit shit I’ve been in here too long, they’ll be wondering if I’m stuck (this has happened before). Ok, knickers are out of tiny packet and a rough assessment indicates they’ll possibly cover the good bits. Not like that time that I nearly had them in a respectable position and then tore them. Like, literally ripped them a new one. I had no idea what to do with a torn pair of disposable panties so I panicked and put my jocks back on and the torn pair over the top. I can’t explain this decision. And all I could then think about for the entire massage was how the therapist would be spending the entire massage wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Ok. Ridiculous pants on. Now to mount this table….
Internal Narrative of Dilemma 2: Now I’m naked in ridiculous pants and I’m looking at a very neatly towel-wrapped massage table. I can never work out exactly what they want me to do. I have ruled out just getting on up sans modesty throw: my naked self, shining like a moon through the candle-lit darkness would be far too alarming for the already perplexed therapist. So I have to do something with the towel. Early on, I tried to loosely wrap it around my body before climbing onto the table but, no matter how loosely I wrapped myself, by the time the therapist tried to access flesh it had turned into a tightly wrapped kebab and their attempt to remove my wrap would necessitate my raising and lowering my shoulders, torso and legs so that it looked like I was performing a particularly disjointed attempt at a nude worm. And then there was that time that this failed and I just had to get up, unwrap, and clamber back up under the disappointed and confused gaze of the therapist. Either way, soon will cometh the half-time roll, where I am expected to somehow demurely and modestly rotate my nude (again let me remind you that nudity sets me to auto-awkward) heft in the manner of an animal – perhaps a walrus? – on a spit, without undue flashing, without falling off a narrow bench and whilst covered in a slippery slick of massage oil. For now, I do the superhero – swirling the towel around my shoulders like a cape so that it covers only my back. One does have to hold this at the neck so that makes clambering up that touch harder…
Internal Narrative of Dilemma 3: Why oh why is the bed always too high! I acknowledge I am somewhat shorter than the average bear (in fact, I am close to the average height of the shortest bear) but the table always seems to be set to (my) chest height. It is so hard to clamber when nude (I feel the knowledge of being naked limits me physically) and towels have such little purchase. I should have checked the brakes were on first. One time they weren’t and the thrust of my mount caused me to sail – elegantly and spectacularly – across the room on my table, and crash into a counter of beauty accoutrements, the inertia of my impact causing crashing, rattling, flying hot wax and the great distress, alarm and – once again – disappointment of my therapist.
Ok I’m up. Head in hole. Now I wait in the darkness, and the relaxation can begin… while I worry about everything I can do to embarrass myself while lying here doing nothing.