Whether you’re an uninhibited veteran or a skittish first-timer, there are physical secrets you can’t hide from me, your massage therapist. The good news is they’re pretty much universal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shaped like an apple, a pear, or a bottle of pomegranate juice. Leave your underwear on, if it makes you more comfortable. The truth will still come out.
1. No one’s face is symmetrical. I’d love to clamber onto the shoulders of Michelangelo’s David to see what he looks like from the angle I enjoy from the head of my massage table. From that vantage point, we’re all Picassos, our eyes and nostrils more chaotically placed than you might imagine. I guess morgue workers have similar access to these sorts of upside-down facial realities, but I’ll stick with live flesh.
2. Nothing is immune to gravity. Breasts fall, bellies lose their elasticity, and those of us lucky enough to survive our first three or four decades have more dewlaps than an iguana. Rather than attempting to outfox the natural progression of time with painful, expensive procedures and injections, revel in the elegance of biology.
3. Sight is not the only sense that matters. The softest, most wonderful-feeling flesh I ever touched belonged to an 80-year-old competitive swimmer…who finished last in every race he entered. He seemed happy enough, hopping onto the table for a complimentary sports massage after every heat. He took care of himself, and it showed…in a nonvisual way. Other favorite clients smell really good or laugh like delighted hyenas when we discover a muscle they’d forgotten they had.
4. Scars are badges of experience. This includes the stupid ones, like that circular exhaust pipe burn on your calf, a souvenir of an aborted day trip in Bali, when dressed in shorts and flip-flops you rented a scooter you didn’t know how to operate and took it for a spin. Every picture tells a story…every scar suggests there’s a story waiting to be told.
5. A deep breath is truly beautifying. Whether you’re releasing the countless pesky irritants of an average day or passing through a doorway to profound emotional release, you look great doing it.
6. Ditto good posture. Not everyone is capable of this. Working with a first-time client, I sometimes think, “Oh, you poor thing, I bet you played college football” or “I bet your job required you to stand in high heels eight hours a day for some twenty-odd years. These hands-on insights allow me to tell teenagers to stop slumping without fretting that I’ve become an old fusspot. (Did I just straighten your spine? Hooray! I’m magic!)
7. Your embarrassment is endearing. Farting is natural, especially when your abdomen’s being probed in a therapeutic way. And knowing that most boners are beyond their owner’s control, I refrain from taking them personally, unless you start agitating for a “complete release,” also known as a “happy ending.” (I hate to ruin your fairy tale, pal, but that’s not where our story’s going…today or ever.)
8. Silicone breasts and patchy hair plugs do not inspire tenderness, but the motivations and insecurities behind them do. Don’t be ashamed if you clicked on this article, secretly hoping for scientific proof of a miracle berry with the power to erase cellulite, acne, and all evidence of sun damage. Deep down, we’re all children, longing to believe.
9. Your brain is a much better liar than your body. We tell each other—and ourselves—all sorts of whoppers in our desire to save face, minimize our true feelings, or shirk responsibility. Our mouth may pay these untruths lip service, but there’s a puckered forehead, stiff buttocks, and bunched-up trapezius that would beg to differ.
10. Your body craves affection. Past experience, the difficulty of daily interactions, and suspected ulterior motives can convince us that others are best kept at arm’s length, but simple, compassionate touch is a gift your body will gladly receive. I know you’re only here because you screwed up your neck, but as long as you’re paying for it, there’s no shame in savoring every aspect of the experience.
By Ayun Halliday