Massage anyone?

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Years ago, I was getting a massage and made small talk with the therapist. I asked where she was from and where else she worked. She called me a stalker and told me to mind my own business. Just kidding. She told me she learned massage therapy out west and spent the last 10 years at an exclusive resort in Colorado. Being a nosy journalist, I asked her if anyone famous ever came in and she looked around as if someone might be listening and then whispered, “Kevin Costner.”
I was thinking exactly what you’re thinking so I asked the obvious follow-up, “Partially clothed under the big towel or… ya know?” She giggled which answered my question and, no, I didn’t ask how his backside looked. Shame on you. I was thinking of naked people on tables. Wait, let me rephrase that. I was thinking of people pampering themselves when I sat down to write this column. My editor told me the theme of May’s issue is pampering and indulging so what better way to do both than to pay a stranger to rub hot oil on you. Wait, that came out wrong, too. You know, I’m starting to wonder if you can even talk about this topic without it sounding like a late-night movie on Cinemax.
Being a poor boy from Troy, the thought of getting a massage or anything “spa-related” was foreign to me. I made it through the first 35 years of my life without ever stepping foot in a spa. Then one day I did a favor for a buddy who was rich and as a way of saying “thank you” he gave me a gift certificate for a massage at one of the area’s nicer spas. I thought about re-gifting it or not going but I knew my friend was a frequent visitor to this establishment so he’d find out.
I went and the entire thing was a disaster. First up, I had no clue what the protocol was so I showed up dressed like Julius Caesar from Rome; Italy—not the one near Turning Stone. White sash, cloves of green in my hair, the works. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your Amazon Prime card. OK, so maybe I exaggerate a bit but I was clueless on how much clothing to wear or not wear for one of these things. The massage therapist told me to take off my tux and stay awhile.
It’s strange having a stranger put their hands on you the first time. When the therapist has to say “stop jumping,” you know this isn’t going well. Eventually, I tried to relax but I didn’t enjoy myself because I didn’t know there were different kinds of massages. When she asked me, “deep tissue?” I thought to myself, “Geez, I don’t know. I guess I do have deep tissue under my skin so, yeah, deep tissue!”—not realizing that deep tissue massage meant she was going to grind down on my muscles until blood formed in my eyes. I believe this is how fracking was invented—a massage therapist pushed down too hard on someone.
After the massage, I limped out as if I’d just been mugged and vowed to never do something that stupid again. When my friend asked me how it was I told him the truth and he wanted to strangle me. He insisted I go back and ask for a Swedish. I assumed that meant a big blonde guy named Sven would be knocking me around but I got an Italian woman from Schenectady and quickly learned massage can be enjoyable. That Christmas and the next few after, I gave my friend a gift certificate to the spa and he gave me one right back. It was odd exchanging the exact same gift but we both looked forward to it.
We are lucky in the Capital Region to have a number of great places to pamper yourself. I don’t want to start naming them because I’ll leave someone out and someday if I do go there for a massage they’ll give me Bruno the ex-con as my therapist as payback. The one indulgence I have not been able to pull the trigger on yet is what the ladies call a “mani and pedi.” I’m not sure what my hang-up is really—it’s just a smaller version of a massage focused on your hands and feet. Although if I’m being honest, I guess my biggest fear is that I fall asleep in the chair and wake up with zebra striped nails with bedazzle jewels glued on. I’m not totally opposed to that look, I just don’t have the confidence to pull it off. Or do I (wink)? I
n closing let me encourage you, especially the guys out there, to give the spa a try. It’s not as macho as shooting a deer in the woods after drinking a 12-pack of Bud but you sure feel relaxed after. Oh, by the way, she did tell me what Costner’s butt looked like but I’ll never tell.
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at johngray@fox23news.com.

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