I don’t like massages. Aside from a few occasions when massages helped me feel more relaxed and invigorated, for me, getting a massage is the equivalent of going on a very, very bad, long blind date.

I first got a massage during my “Blossom” days; my mom thought it would help relax me. I was about 16 and the masseuse was really sweet and very skilled. However, whenever the phone rang, I would get up and answer it. The masseuse was too kind and frankly not assertive enough to tell me to turn the bloody phone off. So many sessions involved me getting up, sometimes more than once, during the massage itself. This was ridiculous; I know. But it was not until a few years later that I realized how naive I was about the process, which I know now is a commitment to be present and mindful about your body and relaxation. I stopped getting massages because it seemed like a waste of time. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the phone calls from friends and agents I was missing. I simply did not have the time to take an hour out of my life. Or so I thought…

I am very frugal, and never wanted to spend money on massages, but as I got older and started working again, I tried to book massages at hotels and such. When I was pregnant, I had some prenatal massages, which was a feat of physics and acrobatics as I maneuvered my belly around a table with a hole in it. I have also booked massages on romantic weekend getaways, but the experience of not enjoying massage can pretty much ruin the day, even on a romantic weekend getaway. I want to be the kind of person who can just mellow out and enjoy the massage experience. But I am not that person. Clearly. Massage has been proven to be good for your blood pressure, stress level, anxiety, and general state of well-being. I just can’t seem to get into it.

Here are my issues with massage.

  1. It requires interaction with a stranger. I know you don’t have to speak to the massage therapist, but this is a situation where I am having to interact with a human I otherwise would not interact with.  If you have ever watched “Curb your Enthusiasm,” you know that there is a particular personality (which Larry David portrays very accurately) of people who are not so keen on getting to know strangers. With all due respect to all of the nice strangers in the world, I am not terribly comfortable interacting with strangers, let alone physically. And in the context of a massage, even if you know you don’t need to talk to them, there they are. Right there. And for those of us – especially women – who are “supposed to” make people feel comfortable, massage situations feel like times I am supposed to make someone feel comfortable. I know, it makes no sense; I’m just telling you what’s going on for me!
  2. There’s an obligation of small talk/expectation of silence. I know you don’t have to speak to a massage therapist, and you can even tell them that you want quiet time, but even that conversation creates a tremendous amount of anxiety in me. I feel tension in my chest and it makes my neck and hands start tingling when I think about having that conversation. I’m the kind of person who talks a lot and it feels very unnatural for me to not talk to someone who is right up in my space.
  3. Touch.  I am a very affectionate person in certain situations, with people I love. But in general, I often do not like to be touched, so having a stranger touch me literally makes my skin crawl. Slow touch is the worst, and fast touch is less uncomfortable but also doesn’t feel very relaxing.
  4. Touch.  Did I mention that I don’t like being touched? There is a certain set of neurological things that happen to certain people when they are touched and don’t want to be: I have all of those responses. Sometimes it feels like tingling. Sometimes it feels like I cannot sit or lie still, and sometimes the only way to make that feeling go away is to move in jerky motions. I am well aware that this does not sound normal, but I’m just being totally honest here.

When people see that I am a type A personality or that I am high-strung, they assume that what I need to do is to learn to relax, and often recommend massage. But for me, it’s really not that simple. In conclusion, I have finally come to terms with the fact that if I am a person who tends to not like talking to strangers, tends to not like being quiet when I feel like I should talk, and doesn’t really like being touched (which I think I may have mentioned once or twice), massage is probably never ever ever going to be the way that I relax.

Thankfully, I have learned the art of enjoying the romantic weekend getaway other ways. Hiking, biking, napping, and watching Marvel movies seems to do the trick, and I have started using a free app on my phone for guided meditation; I’ve even dipped a toe back into yoga after a decade of not doing it. These relax me a lot. Do they work better than any massage could? I’m not sure. But they are working for me. And after all, life is about finding what works for you, right?