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No Thanks Kneaded
My previous column introduced the idea of offering holiday gift givers a What Not to Give list: an itemized accounting of stuff that would be unappreciated, unused and under the bed collecting dust.

Such a list would be helpful, yet unselfish. It would also provide the giver a peek into the psyche of someone they thought they knew.

"You mean you're allergic to wool?" "But I thought you loved elephant chotchkies!" And in my case: "Are you telling me that you're one those wackos who doesn't like massages?"

Well, yes. A massage is the lone item on my What Not to Give list, which I suppose makes it a statement, not a list.

After getting odd looks from massage lovers or, as I call them, massagynists, I took an informal poll of my female friends about the subject. It turns out that nearly all of them dislike massages, although that may have less to do with the actual procedure and more to do with reason we became friends in the first place. I'll have to find out if they feel the same way I do about Thin Mints (love), bears (fear) and Pilates (loathe and fear).

To a few, the negativity about massages is based on cost: a 50-minute massage averages $130. After that much kneading, I would expect to be handed a few loaves of French bread and a Cinnabon.

My oldest friend, Sue, said, "I don't like to spend the money on them. Would rather have a sweater." But to most of my non-massagynist friends, the issue is the technique itself. Annie, for example, is "a little weirded out at the thought of a total stranger digging their elbows into my partially clad body!"

Like me, my friend Amy received a gift card for a massage and immediately made an unsuccessful attempt to return it. However, unlike me, she did not then try to donate it, which demonstrates more class than typically befits a friend of mine.

Amy cannot bring herself to throw out the card because she is torn between the guilt associated with wasting money and the discomfort from "strangers looking at my pores."

Consequently, the only thing the card massages is her wallet, where it quietly expired on Feb. 27, 2002. [Note: I wonder what percentage of spa profits comes from expired massage gift certificates?]

My friend Kathryn's comment -- "Never had one and never likely to. It's bad enough moving my flab about with my own hands, let alone making another poor sod do it!" -- made me consider how many non-massagynist friends have had a massage. Turns out my dear friend Linda did, twice.

The experiences caused her to conclude, with the confidence and venom common among women our age, "I HATE them." She found massages to be a pain on several levels, particularly because the masseuses continually remarked about her tenseness.

"Hello, I was being manhandled ... and had to pay for the privilege." On one occasion, music was playing, the masseuse was taking softly, and "I have a hearing problem. For all I know, I signed up for hundreds of dollars worth of junk."

Although I received feedback from a couple of massage enthusiasts, the most surprising was my sister. She had her first one a couple of years ago and "after I got past the initial awkwardness and discomfort, I loved it. I have no inhibitions anymore. I'm too old for that crap."

Funny because I'm NOT too old for it and we're twins. Maybe I should find out how she feels about Thin Mints, bears and Pilates.

[November 4, 2009]

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