The therapist is trying to relieve a pain in my knee by methodically manipulating most of the muscles from my hips to my toes.

Eeek, please don't let him notice my cottontails. Photo: Herald Sun

For this purpose, I am lying face down and next to nude under a fluffy towel. 

Shortly into the session, the towel is peeled back and I feel something long and very hard, pressing into the crease where my buttock descends into my groin.

But before you minimize this screen, rest assured, the long, hard thing is only an elbow and the man with the hands has a provider number.

For what feels like some time, he continues to focus his attention on the disputed territory where buttock, thigh and groin could each stake a claim.

An area which, to be fair, doesn’t get protracted attention every day of the week. And when it does, it’s not covered by health insurance. He then plays a little more pizzicato with my knickers before firmly planting his elbow, like an explorer’s flag, into the middle of each cheek, in turn.  My expectation that therapy for my knee would be on my bare knee was, as it turns out, ingenuous.

As the therapy continues, I could sensibly be thinking about the hoped for benefits to my knee.  Instead, I am thinking about underpants. When I got dressed this morning, the therapy appointment had slipped my mind. I grabbed some knickers, any knickers. The problem is that somewhere in the back of my head is the silent conviction that while your CV says a certain amount about you, your underpants say more. 

What exactly your underpants say, is communicated in a complex and mysterious language in which few are completely fluent.  The mystery of this language is perhaps most clearly demonstrated when someone decides to wear no pants. Logically, this should say nothing about you. In fact, the converse is true.

In any event, I determine that the undergarment situation is tolerable.  Now perhaps I can just relax.  Instead, with my pants now holding on for dear life, I find I am thinking about the view.  A week ago I got a spray tan. 

I got it done wearing “comfortable briefs”. This means my legs will look they have been in the Maldives while my behind will look like it was stuck in Manchester. The effect must be to make my lower half look like a tub of Neapolitan ice cream in a family where everyone likes strawberry.

The therapist is a professional just trying to do his job. Why can’t I be professional too and stop worrying about these things? Clearly, what a patient is dressed or largely undressed in should not matter. But for some of us it does.This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the same with doctors and other health professionals, males and females. Undressing right can be as complicated as dressing right.

A striking example of this self-consciousness is the case of heavily pregnant women planning their personal grooming for the delivery room. Today it is not uncommon for pregnant women to be worried about their bikini line for D day. Notwithstanding that they have not laid eyes on said line for nearly 6 months.

Admittedly, in all of history, there has never been a more dangerous time to be a pubic hair than right now. But still, you’d think that codes of undress might be waived for the delivery room. Once in the cut and thrust of labour, worrying about personal grooming seems like worrying about your brand of lip balm on Everest. But rationality holds no dominion.

There is no time to further examine the semiotics of jocks today though. The knee’s on the improve and I’ve got a follow up appointment with that therapist. And I still need to find some undies that adequately reflect my personality, history, and values before I head off.

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    • Man Friday says:

      05:20am | 23/11/12

      During my single days, one of my favourite aspects of, ahem, ‘getting to know’ different girls was comparing the various grooming habits of that part of the body. Let’s face it - most female groins look pretty much the same, but the thing that sets them apart is the presentation.
      I never quite figured out why some girls let everything be as natured intended while others refused to allow even a single hair remain - plus everything in between. Fascinating stuff…

    • TChong says:

      05:21am | 23/11/12

      A home truth .
      Most health workers dont give a rats about what a patient wears.
      There are so many ( patients) that one individual is rarely remembered.
      Very few of us have a bod worth capturing in a painting or portrait.
      So, get over yourself- you are 1 of many.

    • Augustus Caesar says:

      10:32am | 23/11/12

      ...and where’s your sense of humour. TChong?
      Oh! I get it! You’re celibate & repress the Joys of the Body.

    • acotrel says:

      05:38am | 23/11/12

      Sex is great, enjoy it while you can - the capability doesn’t last forever.

    • Ex says:

      09:06am | 23/11/12

      Explains so much!

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:39am | 23/11/12

      I agree Ex - Congratulations on your recent marriage Acotrel!


    • sunny says:

      07:16am | 23/11/12

      Lucky you didn’t decide to go commando that day.

    • Philosopher says:

      10:43am | 23/11/12

      why on earth would Amy have dispatched her masseur with an elbow jab to the throat? She wasn’t that concerned about her knickers.

    • sunny says:

      01:02pm | 23/11/12

      and when asked about booking a follow-up appointment the ones going commando just say “I’ll be back.”

    • subotic says:

      08:09am | 23/11/12

      What Freud would say about your underwear

      What would Freud say about someone with the surname CRUTCHFIELD who posts a massive amount of topics that center around the genitalia region?

    • Haxton Waag says:

      09:56am | 23/11/12


      It might be significant if they had chosen the name themselves.

    • che says:

      10:47am | 23/11/12

      There is a word for that but I can’t remember, like your butcher being called Mr. Chops.

    • Tory Maguire

      Tory Maguire says:

      11:09am | 23/11/12

      Nominative determinism…

    • TRBNGR says:

      01:52pm | 23/11/12

      I see your Normative determinism and raise you ‘aptronyms’.

    • ibast says:

      08:17am | 23/11/12

      I’ve never been comfortable with massage.  I just can’t relax with strangers touching me.  Besides I just don’t get a lot of the stuff they do. Despite this, on a holiday a couple of years ago, my partner convinced me to give it a go with her.

      The first thing they did was make us strip off and put on disposable paper underwear.

      That’s it for massages for me.

    • che says:

      08:18am | 23/11/12

      Love this article, such a complex issue! Had one of these moments myself just last week at the hospital. Wasn’‘t as concerned with what they were actually doing, more the fact that it was unexpected and my ‘preparations’ hadn’t been quite up to standard.

    • Sarah says:

      08:18am | 23/11/12

      Neurotic woman alert. Or is this typical of the big issues for all women (“OMG do I look amazeballs or not lol”) and thus Freud was right?

    • Philosopher says:

      09:32am | 23/11/12

      ha ha, what a great comment! ‘amazeballs’

    • che says:

      09:36am | 23/11/12

      Maybe the article was meant to be humorous Sarah? I certainly read it and had a chuckle.

    • Peter says:

      08:30am | 23/11/12

      “The effect must be to make my lower half look like a tub of Neapolitan ice cream in a family where everyone likes strawberry.”

      That would be a very strange house indeed ....

    • scott says:

      08:36am | 23/11/12

      “But before you minimize this screen, rest assured, the long, hard thing is only an elbow and the man with the hands has a provider number. “

      Some rub-n-tug operators have provider numbers too.  In fact, I have claimed this on my health insurance many times in the past.

    • Philosopher says:

      09:48am | 23/11/12

      always healthy to release the ol’ valves every now and then.

    • Alan says:

      08:46am | 23/11/12

      Thanks for the morning giggle Amy, though I’m sure your butt passed inspection.
      It’s a wonder the elbow to the cheeks didn’t take your mind off your underwear as that can give you an ouchie ouch sensation ...Good to hear the knee is on the improve.

    • Philosopher says:

      08:47am | 23/11/12

      The embarrassment a man faces when being professionally massaged by a woman has nothing to do with worrying about his underwear. Let’s just leave it at that.

    • Haxton Waag says:

      09:53am | 23/11/12

      In a less prudish society, an erection would be seen not as a cause for embarrassment, but as a natural, involuntary reaction to the presence of an attractive woman ... perhaps even seen as a compliment.

    • HappyG says:

      10:15am | 23/11/12

      Just how stretchy it is !!!

    • Philosopher says:

      10:15am | 23/11/12

      I’ll try that one next time: ‘I thank you… and my buddy here thanks you as well.’

    • Economist says:

      11:42am | 23/11/12

      It can also be an involuntary reaction for your need to take a leak. So ladies don’t read too much into it.

    • Philosopher says:

      12:09pm | 23/11/12

      you have a real romantic streak in you Economist.
      Wife: *smiling naughtily* ‘hmm, feeling frisky?’
      Husband: ‘nah, need to take a slash. Ol beers coming up to say hello…’

    • CC says:

      08:54am | 23/11/12

      Amy, its your ITB - make sure you stretch that especially after running.  Most common cause of acute knee pain after exercise.  One of the least known about (by novice runners/gym junkies) fascia muscles and one of the most neglected.  Lying on your side, use a foam roller (kind of like a pool noodle only a bit firmer) and roll up and down the length of the out-side of your thigh from right up near the pelvis area down to knee- it will hurt a bit if tight but this is one of the most effective ITB stretches you can do. 

      Stretching is so important, if you think about every other animal (watch a cat, or a bird for example) what is the first thing they do when they get up from sleeping?  Stretch!

    • Sigmund says:

      09:02am | 23/11/12

      What would Freud say?  I think you’ll find he’d label someone worried about their jocks while getting a remedial massage as “anal retentive”.

    • Haxton Waag says:

      09:55am | 23/11/12


      I hate the term “anal retentive.” In popular discourse, it has only ever been used to put others down.

    • Evalee says:

      09:05am | 23/11/12

      Is it OK to let out a small moan of pleasure or grunt whilst having a remedial massage?  I don’t want the therapist to think I am looking for a happy ending raspberry

    • Wilma J Craig says:

      09:56am | 23/11/12

      I think you are confusing Masseur with “Massage Parlour Employee”!!
      Real masseirs, male or female, don’t provide those “Extra Services”
      Male & female Massage Parlour Employees do!!
      I understand they are very expensive &, sorry, you can’t claim their “service” on your Private Health Insurance or Medicare!!
      Your GP can give you a referral to a masseur but not to the boys & girls of the night!!!

    • Evalee says:

      11:34am | 23/11/12

      Thaks for the laughs peeps.  Having a very bad day and your comments have made me smile from ear to ear.

      No moans or grunts tho’...hehe

    • Caedrel says:

      11:44am | 23/11/12

      Wilma, see Scott’s post @08:36am - apparently some of the “boys and girls of the night” do indeed have provider numbers 9and presumably give you an invoice you can claim from your Health Provider”...

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:26am | 23/11/12

      Ok, tell me I am not he only one strangely aroused??

      No?? ....OK, it might just be me then…..

    • ausspud says:

      11:32am | 23/11/12

      I was too,but I did’nt want to be the first to admit it.

    • Robin says:

      12:29pm | 23/11/12

      ***Sheepishly also raises his hand****

    • Philosopher says:

      12:49pm | 23/11/12

      I was imagining Miranda Kerr was the author, describing being massaged by Natalie Portman. Try it!

    • bullwinkle says:

      09:26am | 23/11/12

      Sorry to be facetious, but I just scrolled up to check the name of the author and nearly sprayed a mouthful of tea all over the keyboard!!

    • Rebecca says:

      09:31am | 23/11/12

      I never have that problem as I don’t buy ugly underwear in the first place.

    • ibast says:

      10:18am | 23/11/12

      What I saw didn’t impress me much.

    • Philosopher says:

      10:22am | 23/11/12

      Very interesting…

      *quickly* from a sociological point of view, of course smile

    • Rebecca says:

      11:39am | 23/11/12

      You’ve seen my underwear, ibast?

    • ibast says:

      12:22pm | 23/11/12

      I must say they are comfy

    • Audra Blue says:

      12:47pm | 23/11/12

      I’m the same Rebecca.  I buy the same type of undies each time.  I found a 3 pack of satin undies with cream coloured lace (2 black, one flesh toned) from Big W and I bought a dozen packs of them.  Now I don’t have to spend time wondering which pair to wear.  Takes the stress out of dressing.

    • Philosopher says:

      01:19pm | 23/11/12

      ... any more comments, ladies? Keep em coming.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:41pm | 23/11/12

      but slower next time…..


    • Rebecca says:

      01:54pm | 23/11/12

      Of course, just for you, Philosopher!

      I’d like to describe an image for you to imagine - think of an old, wrinkled, obese man with hair sprouting from every possible body part. He’s wearing his budgie smugglers to the beach and stands right in front of you with his junk making an uncomfortable bulge right in front of your face while his big belly makes a muffin top over his too-tight swimmers.


    • Robin says:

      02:08pm | 23/11/12

      Rebecca, obviously you have been down to my beach!  Dammit, I knew those glass walls were a bad idea

    • Philosopher says:

      02:15pm | 23/11/12

      thanks Rebecca. But I’m sure Tony Abbott will keep in shape, even into his dotage wink

      PS you have a cruel streak. ha ha?

    • Haxton Waag says:

      09:45am | 23/11/12

      Elbows are hard, but not long.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      10:30am | 23/11/12

      Well, now there’s a new name for it!!!

    • HH says:

      10:45am | 23/11/12

      Sounds like you had a #susanalbumparty of your own their Amy.

    • HH says:

      11:08am | 23/11/12

      - That should say
      *there (not their)

    • ausspud says:

      11:49am | 23/11/12

      You’ll be fine,as long as you did’nt fart or were wearing a pear of incontinence undies.

    • ausspud says:

      12:03pm | 23/11/12

      Um,Pair makes more sense.

    • Robin says:

      12:31pm | 23/11/12

      I dunno ausspud, your post brought to mind a certain shape and it did make sense, sort of

    • Swamp Thing says:

      03:46pm | 23/11/12

      More of that ‘50 shades’ nonsense is it?


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