Allow for me to preface this post, and the rest of my life, with a tiny nugget of wisdom:
ALWAYS CONSULT YELP BEFORE GOING ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE.
Keys, wallet, phone, consult Yelp is now my version of “spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch.”
I have cried uncle: I’m not subjecting myself to any more alternative health or integrative medicine treatments. Among those that were scrapped include gua sha (“to scrape out fever,” and exactly what it sounds like) and the luk pra kob that I was planning on revisiting in light of last week’s FryDaddy debacle. But even if I hadn’t come down with a bad cold – irony! – I would have canceled everything that was left. Because what happened this past week was enough to turn me into a shut-in of Howard Hughes’ voracity.
Looking back on it, I should have realized it was a prostitution ring. There were a few signs. The location. The name. The seemingly racist snap-judgments that I silently navigated and diffused that, in retrospect, were probably true. I’m not saying that all Eastern European women with fake breasts and dead-eyes wearing lab coats are prostitutes. But some are. Same with some older Asian men. Same with some short tattooed girls (just look at alt porn!), botoxed New Jersey housewives, fifteen year old meth heads walking the streets in leopard-print miniskirts, art students. Some are hookers, some ain’t. It’s the same with every “type.” A few fit the stereo. (The prefix “stereo” means “solid” or “firm.” Which is appropriate in this case, actually. Firm. Like…erect.)
I went for tui na. In a Webster’s and Wiki approved nutshell, tui na is a traditional therapeutic massage technique that originated in China around 1700 BC. Practitioners use it to remedy aches, pains, assorted illnesses and medical conditions, and to ease the flow of “energy” throughout the body. It’s typically performed like Thai massage, with the patient or client being barefoot, but fully-clothed in something comfortable and loose-fitting. The recipient lays down on a table, floor, or on a mat, and the tui na practitioner diagnoses their condition and works on them via soft-tissue manipulation and assorted manual techniques.
Did you get the part when I wrote fully-clothed? Yeah. That’s important.
I’m not going to get into the benefits and constraints of tui na, I’ll save that for the actual manuscript that I’m balls-deep in writing. (I’ve puked up 172 pages, just shy of 43K words thus far.) It’s a legitimate massage modality that’s considered tantamount to chiropractic or acupuncture in its training and application, at least in areas of the world where it’s performed as a therapeutic service. Meaning not in a converted loft in the Chinatown/SoHo border of Manhattan.
So I went to this “medical spa” where the various women behind the front desk seemed awfully worn out. After a few minutes of standing there awkwardly, I was led into a tiny, windowless closet by an old man who instructed in broken English that I should take off my clothes and lay down. Like an asshole, I listened to him. It was only when he entered the room that I noticed, by actually opening my stupid eyes when I had my stupid face in the face-cradle, that there was some sort of odd, plastic bio-hazard bin underneath the table. Whatever. The lighting was like Saw, only slightly more romantic. The dude began by brushing my body with a hairbrush, which is weird, but then I started noticing something.
While I was face-down, my arms at my sides, the guy kept shoving his crotch into my hand.
Sure, I’m over-sensitive. It’s true, I watch true crime shows, I read women’s magazines, I’m prone to hyperbole. But I know what’s up. When a dude’s junk comes in contact with any part of my body, I’m aware of it. This is one of the benefits of being sober.
A single dick-to-hand thrust is about the limit I will give to a stranger, unless that stranger is named Aaron Rodgers or Maynard James Keenan. But two, three, four, countless dick-to-hand thrusts? That’s just too, too many. It stops being an accident, and starts being creepy.
To raise the creep factor considerably, I moved my hands closer and closer to my sides. Still, he thrusted, seemingly more vigorously in order to cover the distance, all while prodding my back with his limp, dead-fish hands. I even picked my head up at one point to make sure he was wearing pants. His jacket covered the erection that I was convinced I was feeling against my hand and wrist. You’re being ridiculous, the stupid part of my brain said in a quiet, scrolling ticker below my panic. This guy is just doing his job. It’s all in your head. You’re claustrophobic, it’s probably just the small room making you anxious and confused. Besides, it’s a cultural experience, you’re just framing what’s going on within a biased and homogenized social construct. Or something. He’s not doing what you think he’s doing. He can’t be.
So I laid there. Like an asshole. While this dude shoved his crotch at me and gave me a crappy backrub. Then he broke out the lotion.
Tui na does not incorporate lotion.
It is a lotionless modality.
But there I was, in striped boy-shorts, face down, freshly skin-brushed, hand-raped, and being slathered with lotion that smelled like a dollar store interpretation of Bath and Body Works’ “cucumber melon” line. Which is to say, like toxic chemicals, but for girls.
After he’d rubbed that shit on me, he busted out a clammy towel. Gross. But wait, what’s that he’s doing? Pulling my underwear off of my body so that he can rub my ass with the damp towel?!
Now, I’d love for the impression that I give on the Internet to be that of a woman who would bolt upright, nipple rings flashing, and punch the motherfucker in the neck while spewing language so foul it burned off his eyebrows, and then stalk out of the room and demand that the bitches at the front desk pay me to keep quiet.
I just laid there.
Like an asshole.
The only time I said anything was the dry-mouthed demand that he open the door, because I was hot. And scared, but I didn’t say that part.
So, just to put a cherry on it, he kneaded my buttocks for uncomfortably long, then rubbed my feet, and then said goodbye after probably getting the impression that there had been a serious miscommunication. I had gone there for a massage. That obviously meant many different things to both of us, none of which were congruent. I came home and took two showers so hot that my skin turned the color of Gatorade fruit punch, and then put my outfit, jacket, and purse in plastic bags for a reason only known to my subconscious.
Then I showered again.
So what’s the lesson you learned from this? Always Yelp before you go. But why? Because Yelp user Sarah B. had a similar experience last August, only he patted her crotch and asked if she wanted to be “touched there.” Same location. Same guy. No mention of the disgusting lotion or body grooming.
Needless to say, the past few weeks have sucked. Getting these treatments varied from needing to stifle my laughter to having to restrain myself from throwing up. I’ve learned some things, met some really interesting people, found a woman who I now consider to be my role model, decided to move out of Manhattan in twenty months or so, and I actually saved a shit-ton of money upon reevaluating school.
Which leads me to the issue of academia. Remember how the catalyst for all of this was the fact that I was going to get a MS in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine? Well, now I’m not. Show me three randomized double-blind studies that are recognized in the US that prove the efficacy of either TCM or acupuncture* and maybe, maybe, I’ll think about forking over buckets of cash for a MS degree and years of being the legitimate target of ridicule by actual doctors and learned skeptics alike. To embark on a career of possibly peddling placebos doesn’t jive with me ethically. So I decided to slightly change course.
I’m going to study massage therapy starting in April. If all goes well, I’ll be certified and practicing by next fall. Hopefully I’ll wind up in a clinical setting. Worst case scenario, I wind up in a cabana by a beach. I warn you in advance though, don’t ask me for a happy ending. Otherwise it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
*Note: Don’t show me any studies touting the placebo effect or how “sham” acupuncture can work, please. That one particularly loudly-touted study also cites five incidents of death, several punctured thoraxes, ans still no proven efficacy when it comes to acupuncture’s traditional application. And TCM…let’s just say manta rays, seahorses, rhinos, and bears, oh my!