From hot rocks to acupoints: A massage addict’s journey
All my life I’ve been a massage slut.
Instead of pledging fidelity to one practitioner or technique, I’ve been a total tramp. One day I’d be getting my gear off for a Balinese hot rocker (in Ubud, everybody must get stoned), and the next I’d be baring my Chinese acupoints like no-one’s business.
I blame my addiction on once having lived near the massage epicentre of Nimbin where the oils are always essential and the “body work” is usually accompanied by quartz healing feathers powered by reincarnated dolphin vibrations.
One sarong-wearing masseuse here used to insist that I meditate on my past life blockages in her private isolation tank before she’d begin wildly kneading the air slightly above my body. (Her hands-off approach did nothing for my shoulder spasms, but my word the nitrogen, oxygen and argon in her room were chilled out.)
Since then, I’ve sampled techniques from around the globe. I’ve had my hair pulled in Korean jjimjilbangs, been slapped and walked on in Turkish bath houses, and was once basted in curry paste beside an Indonesian river.
Now, after all this commitment-phobic massaging around, I’ve found myself settling down in the most unlikely of places: the weird, Asian-operated, makeshift massage station in the middle of my local shopping centre.
You’d think the complete lack of privacy would not be conducive to relaxation. But I find the white noise of hermetically sealed capitalism oddly soothing and soon forget that I am being pinched and jiggled only centimetres from complete strangers who could – but for some reason don’t – stare as they push their trollies past on their way to the $2 jewellery shop.
The full extent of my attachment to this no-frills set-up became clear last weekend when a well-meaning friend gave me a massage gift voucher at an über expensive day spa.
Talk about a disaster. The “therapist” involved was just so annoyingly fussy. When she wasn’t fiddling with the tinkly piano music player, she was obsessively moving little towels around to ensure that no more than five square centimetres of my body was nude at any one time.
“How’s that pressure?” she asked every second or so. “On par with that exerted by the average dressing gown,” would have been the honest answer.
The whole experience was so irritatingly stressful, I had to run straight back to the no-name place to unwind. “Holy shiatsu,” I said to my favourite unapologetic pummeller. “I think I’ve become a massage monogamist.”
She just gave me her usual sullen look and began jabbing me in the bum with her elbows.
It was so good to be home.
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