On a random Thursday, it started with a weird "crick" in my neck. You know, the kind where you wake up and immediate regret something that you don't know you did in your sleep? Yeah, that was me. In reality, it probably started 5 days earlier when I had a "crick" in my shoulder and didn't really do much about it, so true to form, my body decided to call in the cavalry and immobilize my neck to get my attention.
I love massage, and I don't do it nearly enough. This is one of those areas of "self care" that I'm still working on. I generally only pursue massage if I'm in real pain, or need to recover from something. And once I'm on that table or chair, I realize that I REALLY need to do this more often. So, it seems fitting that on this random Thursday, unable to move my neck to the right, I did a quick local Google search of "Massage near me." Naturally, nobody had a same-day appointment, and I didn't even want to bother my normal therapist with an "emergency" as I knew my meeting schedule for the day was also going to make scheduling a chore.
Low and behold though, after sending a chat bot message to a local place I've wanted to try, I got the message that they could get me in for my 30 minute request at the precise time I was looking for (meaning in between dropping my dogs off at the vet and picking them up.) Success! I booked and excitedly awaited my dog drop off + traffic light karma dance for it to all line up perfectly.
The time had come and I zoomed over to the massage suite and got checked in. Let me tell you, for a strip mall massage parlor, this place is GORGEOUS. They've really nailed the ambiance and nature vibe. The door chime was a bit off, but alas I was anxious to get naked and get on that table for my masseuse - Jen - to work her magic. She didn't really introduce herself, so I only know her name from the email. It may not have even been the same person, but alas, I was going to get some relief! As we stood in the private room (which, was only a curtained door...maybe a bit suspicious) I let her know about my severe pain in my neck and the tightness in my shoulder (yes, still.) She didn't say much, but left me to get settled.
When she returned, she didn't say anything - I still didn't actually know her name. It was a bit cold in the room, and she adjusted the sheet a bit abrasively and pulled it nearly down to fully exposing my butt. "Ok, I thought, we'll just go with it..." Now, in most massages, even when I say "bring it, I need you to work those muscles," it generally starts with a bit of a full body "warm up." Not here, and not with Jen. There was no oil, there was no soft hand warm-up. Nope, Jen went full "I'm going to annihilate any back muscle you have" from the first time her hands touched my skin. "Ok, I thought, we'll just go with it..." I can't say that it "hurt" per-say, it was just a bit shocking. Not wanting to be a wuss in what was obviously her mission to "fix me," I lay quiet. Well, truth be told, there were a few seconds where I actually couldn't breathe a full, complete breath.
After what was likely "Jen's version of a warm up" she adjusted my arms to hang off the sides of the table. I then felt her knee up by my armpit, and her other knee down by my waist. Yes, Jen had proceeded to climb up on the table so that she could apply her entire body weight as pressure to my back. The pressure was so much I think I squeaked a little bit - in shock or in pain...I don't really know. I heard my spine doing little pops and - for sure - I thought that I would be leaving this table with a broken rib. The worst part was, I DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING. I think I was just in a complete realm of shock and awe. I was also laying there dreading what I knew was to come...the OTHER SIDE. In what is likely the ONLY similarity of this massage to any others I've had - Jen did each side. So, I knew when she walked over to the other side of the table, that there would most definitely be a climb-on-the-table moment and Jen did not disappoint. She climbed up and over me and proceeded to beat the shit out of my right side - the side I went in for due to pain. And again, I questioned if I was going to be able to walk out of the place.
I can't tell you why I didn't speak up - I obviously have some work to do on my "I just want to be nice and not offend anyone" attitude here, because if you've read my blogs, seen my FB posts or interacted with me at all on a "real" level, then you know I'm not one to hold back. I think I was just so shocked at this massage - not to mention I was simply dying inside laughing at the moment I got to tell people about it - that I just let Jen keep going on her mission. And keep going she did...
After the "climbing" stage, we moved into what I thought would be a more traditional portion of the massage - I mean, at this point she couldn't do any MORE pressure than CLIMBING on me. AND, I heard the famous sound of massage oil being pumped. Let's clarify that, I heard the sound of about 20 pumps into her hand, then felt the ocean of massage oil that she sloshed across my back. Now, I thought this would mean she couldn't apply pressure, but friends, let me tell you - where she lacked in ability to pressurize, she made up for it in SPEED.
If you've ever wondered what it feels like to go - without your car - through a drive through car wash, I'm here to tell you as I have experienced the body car wash that was Jen at iSpa. She rigorously assaulted my slippery back with gusto - often hitting the back of my head, bumping other body parts and getting REALLY close to my butt crack. At this point I think my body was in a fight or flight mode, so there were points that I tensed up anticipating her next move. There were spots at the base of my spine that when she pushed and beat, I was sure there were going to be bruises (and today, I can tell you, there are many.)
It was no longer quiet in the room though. Because for Jen, this was obviously a full body work out, as her breathing was becoming more and more labored. She sounded as though she was running a marathon. When she finally asked (albeit well over halfway into this torture session) if I was "OK?" I wanted to ask if SHE was ok given her out-of-breath sounds. A few minutes - which felt like eternity - later she abruptly left the room. No notice, no indication. I lay there, trying to do some deep, relaxing breathing that I'd not been able to do this entire time, not knowing if I should get up or not. Jen returned, and I heard what I thought was a steamy towel. You know the sound...it's kind of a whooshing. As she waived it over my back I finally let my body relax a bit thinking - we're in the home stretch. Well.
Remember the car wash scenario? I shit you not when I said I know every aspect of that experience. This wasn't your normal hot-towel-remove-ocean-of-oil scenario. Oh no. This was obviously an attempt to remove my top layer of epidermis hot towel experience. Jen proceeded to rub and scratch and assault me with the towel, making sure to get every possible drop of oil off of my skin and continue destroying any semblance of back muscles I had left. Once the towel assault was done, it seemed like we were, actually, in the home stretch. NOW is when she used softer hands, all over my body, and ended with a slight head/scalp scraping. She ended with a "feel better?" and all I could say was "yes, thanks!"
Jen wrapped up my medieval torture session and I quickly paid and left - wincing as I got in the car for the tender spots I knew were to come. Did my neck feel better? A little bit. I think my shoulder muscle is still retreated in fear so I'll let you know how that feels in a few days when the bruises and soreness subside. I went home and Googled the iSpa again just to see what the reviews said. I scrolled, mouth agape, as I read 5-star review after 5-star review about how amazing this place is. One reviewer even wrote "I want a good massage with a lot of pressure and most places don't come close - but iSpa was awesome and really worked out my tension." Yeah, and probably a few ribs too, John. Good for them - though I won't be leaving a review as I don't want to negate their success with my $55, 30 minute car wash.
I write about this experience in humor as it is truly one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. I remember my very first massage was extremely painful (and honestly turned me off from massage for a long time,) but this was just funny as a small, Asian American women climbed all over me to "relieve" my pain all while I lay there confused as to what in the hell was happening.
However, in this experience, I had a tiny, tiny glimpse at what it would be like to be in a very vulnerable position, shocked and truly a bit scared, without being able to find my voice to say "no" as someone touched my body in a way that I wasn't fully comfortable with. It reminded me of the world we live in where we worry more about being "polite" to complete strangers than speaking up for something that just doesn't seem right. This is in NO way meant to say that my experience was assault or even close to that of so many who suffer assault and abuse, but there was that little flicker of question in my mind that I just simply ignored. It's definitely something to think about as I make a note to never visit this location again.