January 14, 2003 ~ Pampered
This Puritan girl did something rather sensualist today. Of course, I never would have done it for myself, had I not received a gift certificate. I got a professional massage. For the first time ever. The students of the MFA program had given the gift certificate to me as thanks for what I do for them during the residencies.
Quite honestly, the things that they said about me and thanked me for were gift enough. "You are incredibly calm." "Thank you for your endless patience." "You are a wonder of peace and centeredness!" "Thank you for your compassion and selflessness." "I know that you will be humble and say 'I'm just doing my job', but you go above and beyond your job." "You are a breath of fresh air to the program." "I am so glad they found you for this job!" It is wonderful to feel needed and appreciated as I do in this position. I feel that I am making a difference for people, and that is important to me.
The massage was a completely new experience for me, and I didn't quite know what to expect. I'm not used to being pampered. It was a sixty-minute aromatherapy massage, so the first thing that she asked me was what oils I would like for her to use. I decided on a mix of sandalwood and spruce, and she left the room to mix the oils while I undressed and slipped under the flannel sheet and blanket on the massage table. It was very warm. I had thoughts of buying some flannel sheets for our bed at home. I had showered beforehand, for I figured that would be polite, and the feel of my clean skin and hair against those warm, soft blankets would have put me to sleep very quickly.
She came back in and soon the room was filled with woody scents from the infuser. She started with my head, teasing my hair and thoroughly working my scalp. Then she started in with the oil, my back, my shoulders and neck, my arms, then my legs and feet, then she had me turn over and she did everything all over again. With everything, I kept thinking, "Just keep doing that the entire time and I'll be perfectly content," but then she would move on to something else, and I would want her to do that forever. Especially my head, hands, and feet. There is nothing more relaxing to me than having those areas massaged.
I kept wanting to ask her questions, though. Don't your hands get sore? Do people ever give you problems (or have problems during a massage) since massage breaks several social codes? (For example, nudity, touch between strangers, and the sexual connotations that our society builds around both of those things?) I mean, she was very professional, but I doubt that all customers are. But I didn't ask her anything, because I myself have no idea about massage etiquette, and I figured that asking her a bunch of questions about giving massages may not be appropriate.
It was very relaxing, and I feel wonderful, now (and smell very tree-like. Heh.) The tension and busy-ness of the last few weeks really did melt away. It was a great end to the residency.
I had a few thoughts about the experience, though. For one, I think medical exams should be run much like a massage session. Seriously. They should have soft, relaxing piano music playing in the examination room. Low lighting at first to keep the patient relaxed, and the lights should be on a dimmer switch so that when the doctor needs to examine you the light can be turned up. There should be a stuffed chair in the corner for sitting and talking to the doctor. There should be little rugs on the floor for your bare feet instead of cold linoleum. The exam table should be covered in warm flannel sheets with a blanket, instead of vinyl and crinkly, slick paper. Of course, if that were the case, I'm sure that health care would be even more expensive, which is the last thing that we need, but it certainly would make the patient feel more at ease and better cared for.
I also thought about touch, and how much we lack it in our culture. I'm not pointing any fingers; I know that I am just as much to blame for it as anyone else. But touch has been so sexualized in our culture, so that it is taboo, and that is sad. Hugs are relegated only to the closest of friends. Touching someone on the arm can be misconstrued as a romantic gesture rather than a sign of compassion or support. I want to change that, but I don't see how. It was nice to be touched in a caring, healing, compassionate way by a stranger. Yet in my own life I sometimes shy away from even touching close friends, because it is so taboo, and can so often be mistaken for something else entirely. I love hugging friends, but often shy away from it. I love taking someone's hand, but sometimes hesitate because they may misunderstand. I would love to give more back-rubs. Even maintaining eye-contact (which I do all the time) unnerves some people. Morgan is the only person with whom I really feel completely open to express myself via touch. It shouldn't be that way. It's ridiculous. Regular communication through touch is very good for you.
Speaking of good friends, we had Sebastian and Ryan over for dinner tonight, for phat Thai. It was a great evening, very relaxing with good conversation. And, upon parting, hugs were indeed dispersed.