Today my sister Zoe and I indulged in a mini-spa day together. We are the kind of people who are convinced that a new hairstyle and a tan can improve our lives tenfold, so we planned out an entire afternoon of pampering.
Our first stop was the tanning salon. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a tan person. I am the kind of white that blinds people, and when I try to self-tan, I turn orange. So to step into a tanning booth was to tempt a fate of the lobster-red variety. But I had never done it (my tanning method is to apply 45 SPF and sit out for ten minutes a day until I am the color of slightly off-white paper stock), and so I decided to bite the bullet and try to fool my genetic makeup. It was a stand-up booth that required me to strip and stand naked in a wide-legged straddle at the center of a tiny room lined with floor-to-ceiling bulbs. The music system was thrumming with some kind of generic trance-pop, and after a minute or so of standing there, I got bored and proceeded to amuse myself with some naked dancing while checking out the new, purplish hue of my skin under the ultraviolet lamps. When my five minutes were up I was buzzed from extreme Vitamin D exposure and warm to the touch.
Next, we went to a day spa/hair salon, where I had booked a massage and a haircut while Zoe decided to get some highlights. We are poor, so this wasn't a five-star establishment; everyone spoke Russian and the receptionist's eyes pointed in two different directions. A short, stocky man wearing blue hospital scrubs and black orthopedic sneakers approached us, and I snickered to Zoe "I bet that's my massage therapist." And guess what? It was!
His name was Leo, and he spoke with a thick accent.
"You lie down," he said as we entered the massage chamber. "I wash hands."
The period between when a masseuse leaves the room to allow you to undress and when they return is always stressful: What if they come back in before you're ready? Since I had never has a male masseur, I shed my dress and bra as if they were on fire and jumped beneath the provided burgundy towel. I was face-down when Leo came back in—I decided that the whole experience would be easier if we didn't make eye contact ... or, better yet, if I pretended he was Clive Owen.
The first thing he did was pull the towel down to my lower back.
"Okay to move down?" he asked.
He pulled down the towel, and I prayed that I was imagining that my crack felt a breeze.
He started at my head and moved down my back. It felt good, but I was acutely aware of where his hands were at all times, something I never would have felt with a woman. When he reached my lower back, his hands maneuvered just around the no-touch zones: He wasn't touching my ass, exactly, but he was close.
"This is OK?" he asked. I paused. Was he asking for permission to venture south, or inquiring about his technique?
"Um... the pressure is fine," I said. His hands moved expertly back towards the safety of my shoulder blades.
He wasn't unprofessional or pervy, but for the first twenty minutes or so I couldn't relax. If it was this weird to have a man massage me, I wondered, what must it be like for women with male gynecologists? I remember that episode of Doogie Howser when Doogie had to give Wanda a pelvic exam, and she was so embarassed, and at the time I thought, what's the big deal? I was twelve; I had no idea what a pelvic exam was. Anyway.
Other than the near-ass-touching, the most uncomfortable thing was his body brushing mine. When he leaned over, my open hand felt his flesh, and I inched it closer to my body, praying that I didn't inadvertently cup his crotch. The CD of that standard, vaguely Asian elevator music stopped abruptly halfway through, and for a good ten minutes—before he excused himself to restart it— the only sound was Leo rolling a lozenge around in his mouth and occasionally coughing. Clive Owen, I repeated to myself, shutting my eyes tight. Clive Owen sucking on a lozenge could be sexy, right?
It was actually a nice massage, once I was able to ascertain that Leo was not trying to feel me up and that I was not accidentally touching his penis. But the ten minutes of uncertainty convinced me that I am not evolved enough to sumbit my naked body to a man who isn't my husband.