Message In The Massage

In the 80’s, my friends in Sydney shared titillating stories of their experiences in massage parlours. Back then, getting a massage wasn’t mainstream and definitely not in the main streets. How did they know where to go? Google Maps didn’t exist then, they couldn’t simply Google for Best Thai Massage. They were more lascivious, I was envious. For them, a full body massage meant one thing, a happy ending. Before that, I thought happy endings only happened in fairytale stories. Sure, happy endings meant their massage ended happily. But of course, right? Why wouldn’t anyone be happy after a session by a qualified masseuse?

My first full body massage was in Phuket. My mother went along but she settled for a foot massage only. The Thai woman was rough and harsh I remember. She treated me like how Murray, my son’s puppy, would treat a rag doll. Teeth gnashing, jerking me aggressively left and right as if I was meat for playing prior to devouring. And then the unexpected thing happened. She climbed on me like a 10th dan Judo black belt and proceeded to treat me like a sparring partner. When I had my back stomped on and limbs twisted and pulled, I promised myself that would be the first and last full body massage for me. That was a clear message to myself. There would be no happy ending. My mother and wife were on either side of me. They would be suffering just as badly, I reasoned.

Today, the massage landscape has totally transformed. From Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur to countries in the Baltic Sea, massage parlours are mainstream, in main streets and side streets. It has become a huge industry, in every corner of every shopping mall. The message is clear, massage is the new gold rush. The massage therapy industry is worth a staggering US$18 billion in 2018 in the US alone with over 350,000 massage therapists at work. In Australia it’s worth $4 billion employing 37,400 people. Globally, the numbers would be mind blowing. The message is abundantly clear here. The industry is ripe for a major global chain to conquer. A Grab or Uber equivalent, book an appointment on an online app for an in-store session or a house call?

Benefits of Massage Therapy are numerous.

1. Stress relief

2. Relaxation

3. Pain relief

4. Pain management against muscle stiffness, soreness, spasms

5. Injury recovery or part of rehabilitation program

6. Self indulgence or feel good reasons

7. Health and wellness

8. Pre-natal and pregnancy

In the 80’s, mainstream medical practitioners were suspicious of massage. No doubt, my friends’ spouses were also. Which was why they shared their experiences quietly and privately. Today, massage therapists see themselves as part of the health care industry. Some private health insurance companies today provide cover for costs of massage therapies.

I must confess here. I broke a promise not to have another full body message, unintentionally though. I visited her to relief my neck pain, a common complaint for today’s office workers. Soon, neck pain will be the most common ailment for everyone who owns a smartphone. We are forever looking down at our phones with a crunched up neck, instead of looking straight ahead.

Anyway, she was an expert masseuse from mainland China. A sister brought me to the woman’s parlour, her prepaid vouchers were expiring soon, help me use them up, she said. Sure! I love freebies. A free massage, why not?!

A friend who lives in Hong Kong castigated me again. Why don’t you give rather than receive, he advises. If no one gives, there is nothing to receive. It starts with the giver. Be the giver instead of the receiver.

Sure, I understand this, totally. But consider this, my friend. The receiver gives the giver a chance to give. Without someone to receive a gift, there can be no giver.

Anyway, back to the free neck massage. The China woman was good! And then she said, you are “heaty” inside. You need to drink more water. Better still, you need a good full body Gua Sha. That will reduce your heat. Gua Sha will help remove stagnant energy or Chi thereby reducing inflammation, promoting healing. How did she know I was suffering from internal heat, I wondered. Can she read my sex life too? Anyway, for sheer indulgence, a free full body Gua Sha cannot be declined. She who must give, I shall receive humbly. Here is my photo taken after. A happy ending, I was happy it ended. Urghhling!