The ongoing pandemic has been catastrophic for many and much harder on some than on others. As for me, I have so much to be grateful for—including testing negative after seeing my granddaughter, who soon after tested positive. As a peripatetic traveler, to stay at home for six months is completely extraordinary, but I’m not unhappy. I walk, write, organize old photos, participate in webinars, chat with friends and, sometimes, on beautiful days, get in the car and drive somewhere nearby with beautiful walking paths. At night, I escape some of the news by watching comedy shows or French and Italian movies.
So, it’s with a bit of guilt that I divulge how touch-starved I feel without my monthly massages.
From Recommended Therapy to Aging Healthfully
Massage has been integral to my life since my early 20s, when—after four ankle surgeries and a year in an up-to-the-hips cast—it was a recommended therapy. From the first, I loved the quiet, the calm, the one-to-one attention and, mostly, the feel of hands on my skin. It’s not such a stretch to admit that when I created a post-teaching career as a freelance writer, I proactively decided to specialize in spas, and not just for the healthy food served. It was in part, for massages, my favorite perk. I appreciate both the “feel good” massages and prize the “do good” ones, because they helped me regain use of a broken ankle, heal a bad knee, and assuage other little issues. They calmed me through the years when my three daughters—and hundreds of my students—were living through the terrible teens. And, they taught me anti-aging techniques and helped me age healthfully.
Mostly, those hours were opportunities to meet very special, dedicated people, whom I may never have otherwise encountered. On the table, I have been introduced to a remarkable group of professionals—who became intimates within an hour—and who give what I consider interactive treatments. Some have taught me wellness skills: from how to write the alphabet with my toes, to make circles—almost lomi-lomi style—on my abdomen (to avoid constipation), and to best stretch. Their innumerable lifestyle hints range from what foods to eat to what beauty products to buy; many have been incorporated into my routine. Occasionally, a masseur or masseuse has even thanked me, for being so “receptive.”
At some point, decades ago and after years of traveling to new spas, I conceded that what I once considered an “unaffordable luxury” was actually integral to my overall wellbeing.
Creating My Monthly Massage Budget
At some point, decades ago and after years of traveling to new spas where the masseurs or masseuses were professional strangers, I conceded that what I once considered an “unaffordable luxury” was actually integral to my overall wellbeing. To fit the cost into my monthly budget, I took funds from Peter to pay Paul and accepted the fact that I was fully able to be my own house cleaner, colorist, and hair stylist—but not my own masseuse. I also decided that if the price of a massage meant cooking more and going to restaurants less, it’s well worth the price tag.
So, it’s fair to say that now, while I’m keeping a social distance from everyone—and only taking risks by seeing my children, grandchildren, and few others—that I’ve very much missed my masseuse.
I received my first massage from Andrea, some years ago, at a little, local, house-turned-spa. This petite woman, who was about the age of my youngest daughter, was working as a part-time massage therapist while building a clientele as an esthetician. After many hundreds of massages, I knew what I liked; and, her massage was—as is said about the three bears—not too hard, not too soft, but “just right.” Anyway, it suits me very well. After that massage, I booked a series. At some point, I gave Andrea my business card and suggested, “If you are ever willing to work privately, please call me.” She did.
On Outdoor Massages & Masks
For the past few years, she’s been coming to my home about once a month, and we’ve become friends. Sometimes, we have a drink or bite to eat, together, and, if she’s going shopping on her way, here, she always asks if I need something. We’ve also made some adaptions to make it a bit easier for us both; she keeps an extra table, head rest and electric blanket warmer, here, which she still has to carry up the stairs. I supply and launder a separate set of sheets and a blanket; so, she doesn’t have to bring those and I never touch sheets that others have used. Last summer, she suggested doing the massage on my deck, having no idea that outdoor massages were my favorite thing and that I’d written about that pleasure. (A masseur at Golden Door was happy to give me a daily massage, outside, where he set up the table on a hillside terrace. It was heaven. At Harbour Village in Bonaire, I was on the rooftop with a view of the sea. In the British Virgin Islands, on an outside covered porch, waves lapped on the shore just a couple of footsteps away from the cottage that, unfortunately, no longer exists as a resort. But, I digress. My deck is also quite wonderful, with views of boats in the harbor.)
Still, during this Covid-19 crisis, even after some folks started returning towards regularity, I was too afraid—and she was too careful—to consider a session, especially while her mom was in the hospital and she had been able to visit her. That was scary. As time passed, we discussed it again, concentrating on how to take the fewest risks. Of course, we’d both wear masks. And we determined that it would be best if I stayed face down, so we would not face one another. And we decided to do it outside, where the breeze makes it safer. (Naturally, it poured that night; so, we stayed in the living room and opened doors for the air flow.)
Knowing that my head might be in the cradle for a good part of an hour—and that I had not had any body treatments for the last half year—I asked her to include a mini-back facial. So, she exfoliated my back and, at my suggestion, used about a dozen hot, moistened, and wrung-dry washcloths—a protocol that I had experienced (and loved) during facials by Babor (a skincare line at some spas). They did the trick, and the cloths wiped away every speck of the sand-textured product.
While still with my face in the headrest, she massaged my scalp (one of her specialties), shoulders and back, lower legs and feet. Then, I turned on one side, facing away from her while she worked from head to toe, first on one side and then, the other. (It reminded me of the four-handed massage at Casa Sierra Nevada, in San Miguel de Allende, where masseuses worked standing at the side of the table. Though, during that very special service, while one did one side of my body, her partner mirrored the movements on the other.)
As a wellness protocol, it might have been somewhat different from the traditional; yet, it felt very wonderful, completely satisfying, and safe. From a mental health point of view, it was an essential step towards restoration of my own normalcy; I’ve decided not to wait a month for the next one.