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What I Learned on the Massage Table

I used to say that a trip to the grocery store sans children was just like a trip to the spa.  I spoke this analogy before ever having gone to a spa.

I hereby retract that statement.  There are some serious benefits to shopping alone, but not nearly as many benefits as the soft music, scents, royal treatment, and transporting qualities of going to the spa.


“Ma’am, we have you all set here with locker number five. There’s a jewelry box in the locker where you can secure your jewelry. We just ask that you don’t take the jewelry box home.”

Deal. I wont’t steal the jewelry box.

“Here’s your robe, you may undress to your level of comfortability, and when you’re ready, step out into the Women’s Retreat where Oscar will meet you.”

Oscar. Oscar was my massage therapist. Oscar had nice hands. Nice voice. Nice green tea lotion.

I kept asking myself, checking my emotional barometer: Am I okay with this right now? All of this … greatness?  A stranger touching me? A man who doesn’t belong to me, I don’t belong to him, and I don’t even know his last name? How ’bout now? Still okay?

Tricia, he’s a trained professional. Think of him as a doctor.
And also, just enjoy this, you crazy overthinker.

I am lying face down on the heated table, and I am discreetly and modestly covered in layers of sheets. My face is smashed into this pillow that lets me breathe and rest on my face at the same time. I’m pretty sure my face looks like that joke that begins with, “Hi, my name is Chubby.” But I’m facing the floor. So I’m okay with whatever distortion is happening to my cheeks and lips.

“Take two deep breaths.”  I breathe in the scent of the green tea. Minty goodness.

And this reminds me of the time Robb and I got a couples’ massage. It’s an intimate thing to get a massage in the first place, and yet another to have your spouse in the room, both of you disrobed on separate beds, with two other adults in the room. Again with the constant assessments of the emotional barometer.

Robb’s massage therapist began the aroma therapy and boldly commanded him, “Eeeeen-haaaale.” And we both got the giggles by such an odd command. So then we were lying there, together and apart and very much not alone, giggling and snorting over a word that would now be part of our marital vocabulary. Months later: “Hey, babe? Smell my perfume. Eeeeen-haaaaaale.”

Anyway, Oscar did amazing things to the muscles that carry a writer’s tension. In my dreamy state, I was pretty sure he had to be part octopus for all the action happening to my tense muscles. No person can do all of that with just two hands, right? Trained professional.

I paid attention to his masterful technique, in part so I wouldn’t fall asleep, but also in greater part because Robb once told me I gave the worst massages of anyone he could imagine. I was shocked. It reminded me of when Phoebe asked Monica, “Oh! Get off! Ow! Why are you doing that to me?! As a masseuse and a human being, I am begging you never to do that to anyone.” We had been married for more years than fingers on one hand, and now he tells me? Now I learn that he’s been miserably tolerating this? Well.

I will learn from Oscar. I’ll be good at this someday.

Of course, no event seems to happen without incident for me. When Oscar finished and I went back to the dressing room, found my locker #5, my clothes were there, my purse, my glasses, my shoes, my book… oddly, not my bra.

Where the freaking smack hashtag could it be?

Did I wear it into the massage room under my robe? Oh, great day… did I leave it in the massage room? Please, God, don’t make me have to walk out of here and ask for someone to find my bra. Please let me find it. I’m begging you, from whom all blessings flow. Please bless me with my bra as soon as possible.

I found it in the corner of the dressing room, on the other side of the chair and ottoman, tossed aside on the floor. Nice, Trish. Way to act like someone needing to pick up your bra and cast it out of the way in a public place isn’t totally weird and awkward for everyone involved.

For crying out loud.


Here’s what I learned from my day at the spa: the gift of touch is significantly absent in my life. When I jacked my ankle those few months ago, I nearly cried when the nurse touched my ankle. Not because it hurt; because she touched me. Her hands on my foot, her skin against mine. To receive touch without any expectation to give, this is missing.

Please touch someone you love.  Rub his shoulders during the commercial breaks of the football game.  Let her rest her head in your lap while you watch The Voice.  Twirl her hair through your fingers.  Massage her scalp. Massage his hands, one finger at a time, one knuckle at a time. Touch someone who likes to be touched by you. And don’t ask for anything in return. It’s a grace all its own.

Thank you, Oscar.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. It is crazy how your posts can make me snort with laughter and then just burst into tears! I can see the whole finding of the bra thing; sometimes I have to double check to make sure I have all my items of clothing on when I leave my room if I get distracted.

    If there is one thing I miss probably more than anything, it is my husband’s touch. Even just a gentle touch that meant “you are mine” with no expectation of anything in return. The first time I got a massage was almost a year after his death. I cried, starting with a trickling tear and ending in a full-blown break down. My masseuse was very kind, and overall it was a wonderful experience. I am thankful that the option for a massage is still available but it is second best.

  2. Well, that’s it. I finally must reply on this thing, which you know I do not like to do. I do not have FB now and you have a new physical address, so here goes.

    First of all, I have an empty spot inside of me. That spot desires to be filled every evening after I have put the kids to bed. I type ‘tr’ in my browser, and it leads me to your link. If there is no new entry, I brood and search around. Lucky for me, you almost always write. And I count on that. I need the human connection, the writing connection, the consistency. I have an empty spot (we don’t have tv, by the way…maybe that makes me sound less desperate). Anyway, first and foremost, continued thanks for writing. I need that type of friend.

    Second, your “TRULY SOMETHING” piece is more poignant than I can say. Any comment I have will defile its perfection. That thought is so aptly titled that I find myself shuddering at the precision of it. Truly something, truly something, truly something.

    I found “I itch to be touched” rather brilliant as well.

    Lastly, and what prompts me to write now is the memory of my mother touching my hair, not in a very romantic sense of the word, but in a rather practical, personal sense of the word. How I have missed that over these past twenty eight years! You cannot just ask someone to touch your head! I JUST told my husband about the gift he gives me by doing so. When I think about how I felt before marrying him, I immediately identify with your words. I am not saying this well. My point: when I read what you wrote here, I am filled with the joy a reader feels when she finds herself, her own thoughts written on a page. It is a sort of an elation to find that we are not alone. To have the unspoken shine before us. I have known deep sadness and desire. The kind you just have to put up with until God says, “Surprise!” Thank your for unveiling this very real part of life. I never knew it was okay to talk about. Touch. Just so very important.

    Love you,

  3. I miss touch so much! Sometimes I want to cry I miss it so much. I used to work as a receptionist for a massage therapy center and I was told people sometimes cry when getting a massage because they have a lack of touch in their lives and it releases bottled emotions. I fully understand that now. I’d probably be one of those crying.

  4. You are an amazing writer!

  5. This absence of healthy touch is huge in the life of most singles attempting to lead a God-pleasing life. After my Achilles injuries (yes, plural), I found one of the best things about physical therapy aside from the healing was being touched regularly and appropriately. It is a grace.

  6. Beautiful.

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