The Massage

The foam roller, in my opinion, is not an acceptable option for a massage — especially when I feel like I’ve slid down a rocky hill in a metal shopping cart. After running, squatting, squeezing my glutes, and sitting in chairs, I would like a massage and, at 10 p.m. on a Sunday, if I need one — or if I’m feeling amorous — my options are a foam roller or my husband. I pick my husband every time, but when does he get a massage? Not as often as he should, so I’ve decided that today is the day that I will learn everything I can about therapeutic/sports massage from just one random YouTube video. To find this video, I run a highly complex key-word search that involves the terms “how to give a back massage,” and I settle on the first thing that pops up.

Happy with my selection, I run downstairs and tell my husband — while he’s eating breakfast — to hurry up, take off his shirt, and lie down on the floor of my office upstairs. He looks confused, but also excited. A little too excited maybe. So, I believe the responsible thing to do is to tell him I’m going to watch an instructional therapeutic massage video and attempt to try the maneuvers out on him. While he does appear to be somewhat alarmed, he still manages to change into a tropical print bathing suit, which somehow holds together with just some Velcro and string.

When I start the video, I see that I’ll need massage oil, which I don’t have, but I do have “extra dry skin” lotion that has been sitting in a cold cabinet beneath the bathroom sink.

“What are you getting?” my husband calls out.

“Lotion!” I shout back.

The cat, upon hearing the commotion, wanders in and now pokes his nose into my husband’s very exposed sides. The curious look on the cat’s face only adds an extra creepy element to the whole situation. My husband and I exchange a glance that says, “Does he have to be here, too?” But we know we won’t be able to get rid of him. He’s staying and he’s watching — even brushing up against my husband in order to be a part of the action. Inevitably, a few stray cat hairs stick to the skin, so I delicately scrape them away with my fingertips, which causes my husband to flinch. (Picking away at cat hairs, by the way, is not relaxing — or even demonstrated in the video. There is also no cat in the video, either, for reasons that are only obvious to me now.)

The cat observes the massage. Part of my husband’s tropical bathing suit can be seen here as well. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy.

After rubbing in the cream, the next thing I’m supposed to do is use “swimming motions” to ease the back tension, but I’m not moving as quickly as the man in the video. I’m not sure if speed is the goal here, but maybe it is — with enough practice. At one point, I’m supposed to stand on my husband’s feet as well, but this action only results in loud screaming. Perhaps standing on someone’s feet may not be as relaxing as the instructor makes it look.

After nearly five or six agonizing minutes of “swimming motions” and at least five applications of skin cream, I think I’ve got the hang of this massage well enough to not have to pay close attention to the video anymore. So when I hear a loud, slapping sound, I assume that the instructor has finished the massage by hitting his partner on the rear end. I’ve heard of this technique and had seen it performed when Rick Steves visited Baden Baden and received a massage in one very risqué PBS episode of Rick Steves’ Europe. Such a technique, I decide, must not take years of training. It comes naturally perhaps after 20 years of marriage, so I just deliver what I consider to be a firm, yet stimulating slap over the gluteals. The look on my husband’s face though, clearly indicates that this is not the ending he had in mind.

“Did the man in the video really smack his partner at the end?” my husband asks. He obviously heard it too.

I don’t know, for sure. I was just going by sounds I heard, so I replay the video and, while there is a slapping noise in the background, the instructor is not slapping his partner at all. Perhaps a loud, mysterious sharp noise is not necessarily the sound of one hand slapping, but rather a signal that the session has ended. Or, maybe a cat has somehow managed to sneak in and slap someone or something in an attempt to get a massage. Who knows?

In any case, it’s clear that I have a lot to learn. Otherwise, I’ll be sending my husband straight into the arms of a foam roller late, late at night.