The other night, I was hanging at home watching Al Madrigal’s comedy special, and he mentioned hurting his neck while sleeping.
“As a man,” he said, “You have very few massage options.”
I braced myself. Massage comes up in comedy from time to time, frequently in borderline offensive ways. I tend not to get riled up over these things, but I do raise my eyebrows at whomever is watching with me and huff a little or cluck disapprovingly if it is actually offensive. I thought Madrigal was pretty funny. I was watching with my husband, who knows the comedian tangentially, just enough to follow his career and root for his success, so I lowered my eyebrows a little from the get-go, and his jokes were novel — he outlined the bad deal that is trading massage with his wife, the downsides to mall chair massage, the excessive time commitment involved in a “real” spa, and the perils of strip mall massage. Here’s the clip if you’re interested.
I think jokes are funniest when they resonate with your experience or beliefs; the bit about limited massage options most likely caught laughs because lots of people share the feeling that a good massage is not always an option. As such, here’s what I want people to know after watching: Whatever your gender, wherever you are, you have more massage options than you think.
The trading with the wife thing was funny and relatable and a story I hear all the time. The other options are all pretty viable. I don’t practice much chair massage, but people I know who use chairs keep their “doughnuts” clean by changing cradle covers for each client just as you would with a table and by wiping down the chair. Not as germy as you might think. As far as strip malls go, we don’t really have them where I live, but I’ve had lots of interactions with massage therapists around the country, some of whom practice in strip malls. Some of these are franchise locations, some are private practice (The Times posted a little peek into strip mall healing fairly recently). There are lots of great professionals working in all kinds of buildings. Some don’t have a brick and mortar location at all, choosing instead to practice out of their homes or to travel to yours. There are many tools available to point you toward quality and legitimacy; location alone is pretty flimsy. You can figure out who’s legit by checking directories — AMTA or AMBP, for example — or looking up massage therapists online just as you would any other business.
As for the “real spa” experience described in the bit, I have to say that four hours in a cucumber-water Utopian environment sounds pretty good to me, but I recognize that not everyone has the time. I giggled when Madrigal pointed to his neck and declared, “I want the Jiffy Lube of neck fixing!”
Here, perhaps, is the biggest secret of all: A really great massage therapist, whether using a massage chair or table, working in a strip mall office or a fancy spa, in the span of four hours or a mere 30 minutes, will listen to you and work on what you want to work on.
I tend not to use the word “fix” very much (for reasons that warrant a whole other post), but this totally resonated with me. Sometimes you just want to work out that one thing. I am not a large-scale operation, a chain of franchises, or a speedy mechanic, but I’m a good listener and a skilled massage therapist, and I can be your Jiffy Lube of Neck Fixing. If you’ve only got 45 minutes and you slept funny and woke up with your head cocked to one side, unable to move it back to where it belongs, we can spend every one of your precious minutes warming and softening that neck of yours, easing your head back toward its upright position. We’ll do that whether you come to my yoga studio room on its industrial little block or to the spa where I work part-time in the land of magazines and snacks and herbal tea. I can focus on the issue at hand, zoom in on the neck (or shoulder or feet) and get you in and out in the amount of time you have with attentiveness and care, regardless of locale. You have a lot of massage options.