I love my wife.
…which is the only reason that I allowed myself to experience a three-hour ‘couples massage’ at a spa in French Polynesia. Really.
Ironically, it took place just a few hours after a three-and-a-half hour ATV ride, which was pretty much one of the manliest couples things I’ve ever done. Rugged mountain riding. Through creeks. Peering over the edge of mountains. In some pouring rain too. The closest thing to being in a biker gang that my ‘biker chick’ and I will likely ever experience.
After such an experience, it would only figure that I’d do what I’ve previously done during two free ‘couples massage’ opportunities in the past. Which is to go to the spa people, explain to them that a man like me doesn’t allow people to touch him in strange places, and then wheel and deal for a double-time experience for my wife…while I go back to the room and watch ESPN.
But not this time. Call it love. Call it curiosity. Call it whatever you want. But I decided I’d enter the dark underbelly of the spa world and see if I could live to tell about it.
Before I get into this expose piece, let me first just explain that I’m the anti-massage guy: the one who bolts out of his seat, ready to fight, whenever any kind soul comes up behind me and starts to rub my back/neck/shoulders. (Usually this ends our friendship. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay. I just absolutely don’t like people touching my back and shoulders.)
And so we entered the spa at the Hilton Resort in Moorea, French Polynesia, the hotel where we were staying. There we met two kind French-speaking, barely-English-speaking young ladies who would be our massage therapists/masseuses/hygienists/torturers. We filled out forms that asked us to circle the places where we were tight (for me, pretty much my whole body) and where we would not like to be touched (for me, pretty much my whole body). I explained to Laly, my person, that I was extremely sensitive around my neck/back/shoulders and my thighs.
In hindsight, I would have said, “Laly, if you ever touch the back of my calves in a high-pressure way, you will never get a Christmas card from me.” But my foresight was not as good as my hindsight.
I also checked on my sheet that I understood that my massage could end prematurely due to any “inappropriate guest behavior.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but figured that—in a pinch—I could get myself kicked out if I just yelled out ‘OW—QUIT IT!’ enough times.
I was taken to a dressing room (for masculinity purposes, I’ll call it ‘the locker room’), where I was allowed a few last requests, and then shown the towel that I would wrap around myself over my shorts. This was a very lonely few minutes for me, wondering if I’d ever be able to re-enter the world with my head held high as a post-massage veteran.
After my pre-game ritual was over, I emerged from the locker room, where Laly showed me to our dark candlelit funeralesque spa room (which probably has a fancier name that I pride myself in not knowing), where Lisa was already lying facedown on her examining table. Soft music played, something along the lines of Sade with a drum machine.
Oh, so I should mention that part of my agreement to do this deal was that Lisa would always be right next to me, ready to defend me and my honor in the event of any kind of abuse or maltreatment. (In a streetfight with two French Polynesian massage therapists, my money would be on Lisa every time.)
I was invited to lie facedown on my table, putting my head into the head-holder, which had a hole in it to breathe and to stare at the floor. (A TV on the floor, I think, would have made the time go faster.) At this point, Laly began to rub down my body with papaya stuff, which had a real sandpapery quality to it (except that no sandpaper I’ve used has ever smelled like papaya), and apparently Laly got extra points for rubbing it in extra hard. At this point, I realized that on my pr