Faux Pas,  Glamorous Escapades

To Moan Or Not To Moan, That Was The Question

john_belushi everett

I’m a spa novice, so when Bill booked us for massages this weekend as a Valentine/birthday extravaganza I anticipated a memorable experience. Bill had told me to take full advantage of the facilities– to shower, to take a steam, to soak if there was a jacuzzi.
We checked in well ahead of our appointments and a woman led us down a short hall. She pointed at a candlelit room and said, “When you have changed into your robe, come rest in the Serenity Lounge where your therapist will meet you. You can enjoy our four teas, representing fire, water, earth and air.”

I raised my eyebrows at Bill, who nodded approvingly, and we padded down the hall and parted ways at the locker rooms.

The room had showers, toilets, a steam room and lockers. The counters were lined with immaculate rows of pastel-colored bath products: turquoise body wash, pea green shampoo, lilac conditioner and buttercup lotion. Investigating further, I found styling gel, razors, deodorant, brushes and combs. For a product whore like me it was heaven. I smelled every concoction and eyed the steam room.

I was about to enter it when I realized I had not asked Bill about proper locker room etiquette. I’d stripped down and put on my robe and had a towel in my hand, but I couldn’t decide how much of that should accompany me into the room and how much should remain outside. I thought back through all my years of schooling and all the traveling I’ve done, but it was Sex and the City that came to my rescue. I distinctly remembered a scene where all four girls were in a steam room with towels around their waists and their breasts exposed. So that’s what I did.

Later Bill and I met up in the Serenity Lounge.

“Are you wearing underwear under your robe?” I whispered.

“Nope,” he said gleefully.

“Me either,” I said, pleased that I’d gotten this part right. We snuggled closer and sipped our tea.

I had barely tried all four teas before a squatty man with an eerie resemblance to John Belushi came to the door and said, “Anne Glamore?” I followed him down a twisty hall until we arrived at a room and he said, “I geev you minute to change, theen I come een for the massage.”

I panicked. Bill had made the reservations, and I thought he knew me well enough to know that I’d want a female masseuse, or at least one that wasn’t quite so hairy. This guy looked like the perfect man for fixing your transmission, but not for stroking near your lady parts.

I dawdled as I took off my robe in case there had been a mix up and Squatty John was actually Bill’s masseuse. Bill had ordered a deep tissue massage which I understood requires a lot of muscle. Squatty John qualified. Surely a female or a gay man was headed to my room, ready to rub me with aromatic oils.

I got on the table and the door opened. Although I had removed my glasses and left them on the counter, I could see instantly that Squatty John and not his sister or effete co-worker would be my therapist. I squeezed my eyes shut and resolved to make the best of it.

Squatty John started by rubbing my back on either side of my spine. I tried to pretend that he was Rupert Everett and not to think about the zit scene in Animal House. I was only marginally successful. As he rhythmically kneaded my shoulders I relaxed a bit. I’m a big fan of feedback, so I started to murmur, “That feels great,” but I stopped myself. I didn’t want to sound like I was expecting more than the standard massage. I thought about moaning a little in appreciation, but the sound I contemplated might be construed as orgasmic. I considered an “ooh” or “mmm” but even that felt unfaithful to Bill.

And so the hour passed almost in silence. Once Squatty John said, “You want me to work your heep?” and I nodded. Later he told me he’d leave the room briefly while I turned over and covered myself up again. Even when he was hitting a nerve by my scar that’s been tingly since my surgery, I couldn’t force myself to say, “A little to the left,” because it sounded too much like sex, not a business transaction. The massage felt good but the personal interaction was awkward.

After a long time, Squatty John left the room again, saying, “I come back een a meenute.”

I was puzzled. Was it over, or was he readying for the grand finale? I couldn’t see a clock anywhere. Certainly a massage would have a definite end point, and so I lay on the table, perplexed but relaxed. Maybe he’d return with champagne and we’d toast to a massage well done. Perhaps he’d wrap me in rosemary scented towels before I was forced to face the outside world. I closed my eyes and sighed in delight.

The door opened. “Yer done,” Squatty John said sharply.


Squatty John led me back to the locker room where I showered, put on my robe and stood at the sink working styling get through my hair and faced yet another conundrum: should I re-dress in the bathroom stall and risk looking prudish, or bare all in the locker area as if I were used to women seeing both the huge scar on my back and my tiny breasts?

I peeked at the woman beside me and saw a naked backside punctuated with a thong. Question answered.

I had no idea that an afternoon massage, which sounds so carefree, could be fraught with such obstacles. I learned a lot about proper relaxation, including the importance of a masseuse who inspires comfort and confidence, rather than thoughts of “Toga! Toga!” running through your head.

For the youngsters who don’t get the zit reference and want to be hip, check this out:


  • Kelly

    Seriously, Anne, were you spying on my last massage? Because you just described it perfectly. That’s not how a massage should be! I’m sorry, all you squatty, hairy masseurs out there, but I want a woman! Or a gay man! Or at least a masseur who isn’t so hairy!

  • Sonya

    The last time I had a massage was in Korea. While the masseuse was a woman, it was still hard to relax because there were 3 tables in that small room and someone on each of them!

  • Jenna

    There really should be an etiquette guide for the spa. I have been in your exact position before minus the male massage therapist. I could read it and know what I am supposed to do!

  • Aimee

    I’m a big fan of spas and a big fan of massages. I encourage you to go back or at least go somewhere and get a masseuse that makes you feel more comfortable. That’s the whole point and so much of the experience!

    I hope you two had fun! How thoughtful of him to plan everything.

  • Audrey

    Maybe I’m the odd one out here, but I personally prefer male massage dudes to female. In my experience, the males are less afraid to dig in and really work on the areas that need work. That said: the two maternity massages I’ve had were done by females and that was fine — they’d both had kids and understood what kind of “extra attention” a pregnant body needs. However, I agree: get a massage by someone you’re more comfortable with. The end goal should be to leave feeling more relaxed than when you arrived, not all knotted up because of nervousness!!

  • tiff

    I’ve only had one massage and that was pretty much my experience too. Except for me, the massage itself was ticklish and uncomfortable. Also, I didn’t know if I was supposed to take off all of my clothes or not, so I left my bra and underwear on and the sleezy massage guy that I had made what I took to be a snide comment about it. I left the place feeling slightly tramatized. I did have a facial another time that was much more enjoyable for me, but there was still the stress of when and where to take my clothes off, etc. I agree about the need for a spa ettiquette book- maybe there is already one out there that we just don’t know about? Maybe you could write one! How do people know these things?

  • BB

    I’m trying trying to contain my laughter (I’m at work). I had a similar experience (although he wasn’t squat and hairy – just the fact that he was male made me uncomforable enough) So much for a romantic, relaxing valentines treat…You didn’t mention anything about Bill’s experience….was a squat hairy woman involved??!

  • Haley

    The last masseuse I had was male, too. It did not occur to me until shortly before we(husband and I) went to the spa that I might feel a little uncomfortable with a man touching me like that. And I did. It was worse because he was kinda cute! However he could have been gay…. It wasn’t a horrible experience, per se. But I definitely know to specify *female* next time!

  • Alyce

    I went to a spa with some girlfriends to celebrate a birthday (the friend’s bday, not mine). We all had massages or pedicures or facials and had lunch by the pool and relaxed and blah blah blah it was nice.

    EXCEPT I have never had a massage before. And at a woman’s size 26/28, not at all comfortable with getting naked in the locker room or with the masseuse. Can you imagine my shock and horror when I was handed a mere XL bathrobe (I needed at least an XXXL) and asked to parade around a “serenity” room, aka waiting room? I left my clothes on while waiting for my appointment to begin.

    The good news is the guy I got (queer as a 3 dollar bill) was terrific. Very calm, reassuring. He told me what was going to happen so I knew what to expect; he even stepped out of the room so I could get on the table. He was also an expert at draping so I never really felt naked in front of him. He got a great tip. And the spa got a comment card about robe sizes.

  • Mandy

    My mom went to a really nice ritzy spa, very reputable, a few years ago and had a male massuese who at the end of her massage asked her if she wanted him to massage her breasts. Isn’t that awful!!! I would have slapped him for sure. I have never had a massage but even I know that can’t be right. That isn’t a standard part of massages is it? hehehe. If so I think I will never book an appointment for one 🙂

  • meep

    sorry to hear it was so traumatic.I’ve never had a massage where I had to remove more than my shirt so I wouldn’t have known what to do either. As for the zit reference, I count myself one of the aforementioned youngsters, the only time I saw that movie was for a class in college.