Can I suggest some music to go with this post? Open a separate tab and open this link. You can watch it with the images later...
Okay? Ready? Turn it up. Yes, nice atmosphere. Mmmmmmm. Let me know how the timing works out.
In the US we live increasingly non-touching lives. Oddly, as we have become more "liberated" it seems like we are ever more anxious about our bodies and our personal space. When I was a kid, all the old men ran around without shirts, but now I rarely see that and I feel like I am being "gross" if I take mine off (even though I am still super hot). We worship the hairless teen six pack but only from afar, in safe two dimensions, on the billboards, magazine ads, and music videos. The hugs and squeezes I got from my teachers and all kinds of adults could cost a person their reputation and even job today. It has gotten so that I believe most Americans are very self conscious and weird about touching, though it is such an integral part of emotional well being. Thank God in Thailand this politically correct infection has not arrived. Men are exceptionally touchy feely, and though there are social taboos about going across genders, kids swarm me and most other adults for physical affection. It feels damn good.
My American touch adventures have included the following.
I have had Reiki performed(?) on me (I won it in a raffle- glad I didn't pay full fare); I have gone up to the front of a church for the "laying on of hands"(I was feeling damaged and thought it couldn't hurt-maybe it helped just a teeny bit); I have been punched in the face (I deserved it- I stole my best friend's girl for the prom); I have been poked and prodded by Western doctors (including once by my surgeon father-more odd for me than for him, I think); I have had my prostate checked(no comment); I have been touched tenderly by a mother and by lovers (again, no comment); Until yesterday, I had never had a professional massage. Sure, I got and gave the whole "Do you want a back rub?" thing in college, which was just a college way of asking if someone wanted to come and see your etchings (this caught on as a catchphrase when racy etchings in the 1930's, such as this one by Charles Martin, were popular)
Saying over and over, First time. First time. and holding up an index finger only seemed to make me come across like some misguided pervert, who I assumed she would assume, would assume all the wrong things about what was available and slap me across the face with one of her small but powerful hands. Of course Miss San was nothing less than an experienced professional and within seconds I was on my back with one set of her fingers jammed deep into my thigh and the other so high up and hard in my groin I was tempted to cry for the police. If momentarily earlier I was worried my lizard brain might betray me with an embarrassing raising of the flagpole, now I was worried that I might never walk again. So...So... tense, she mimicked. And laughed. I try not to envision prior to experiences, the better to be open to what actually occurs, but I know I was bound by the conventional scenario in my head to a kind of kneading motion, some karate chopping and slapping, softening me up like a far overripe and tough candidate for kobe beef. Thai massage, at least as practiced by San, is much more about putting fingers, elbows, and I think maybe once or twice a knee, into various points around the body, holding them there, and doing a sort of separating motion. The rubbing was mostly a sort of cross motion on tendons in places like the top of my foot. I did manage to finally relax and go with it, mostly, when I came to trust she was not going to genuinely rupture my skin and snatch out my soul in some version of Steven Segal's martial arts death move. She climbed up on the platform and flipped me this way and that, teaching me a few words of Thai (left side, right side), and sometimes singing a little, quietly. At one point I almost dozed off. Two hours streamed by in a way I could never have ascertained accurately. For some reason, San found it hilarious when I said I was a Kru Assassamak (teacher volunteer) and when I paid her, her $14 (yes, cheap there, but pretty pricey here), and I said, "San, no assassamak" she thought it was funny as hell. When I walked out, I did not feel like some have described, 'like jelly', and actually I was a little let down. I felt good. Alert. Sort of more "aligned" as I walked. But I wasn't...high for want of a better word. Or maybe I was on a sort of subtle secondary layer. When you wait for something for 51 years I supposed it is pretty unlikely to exceed expectations. I think I will probably try at least one different place just to get a perspective bearing.
On the other hand, rather than diminishing, the episode has lingered in my memory in an expansive sort of way, so I won't be surprised if I find myself back in the green room, no longer a massage nube, ready to cinch up my sarong and take it like a human.