I’m feeling poorly. For the past couple of weeks I’ve lost my appetite, had nausea, “eggy burps” and frequent diarrhoea. My muscles ache and I’ve felt weary. At lunchtime today, I accompanied two doctors to our favourite restaurant/open shack, but did not want to eat. The cook/manager is seven months pregnant and her friend was giving her a massage. So when she got up to prepare food for my colleagues, I stepped up to the plate.
I sat on the edge of a wooden bed, smirking to my friends, with the Thai masseuse behind me. Suddenly, she whacked me on each shoulder with a karate chop. Well, it was more like a slap than a chop. Perhaps this was meant to put my body on alert, so she could detect where the tension was based. It didn’t take long for her to find the knots in my trapezius on both sides. She dug in her thumbs until I squealed, squandering any street cred I had ever accumulated in the village.
Women in labour here have no strong analgesia, no epidurals, no Nitrous Oxide. They endure labour in silence. Contrast this with my wimpish behaviour having a therapeutic massage to ease my muscular aches. I buttoned my lip, grinned and bore it like a man. But it did hurt.
I’m sure my verbal ejaculation caused her to dig and prod less deeply. She finished with my trapezius, and moved up to my neck. Then she twanged my para spinal muscles and moved on to the area around my shoulder blades.
The whole massage lasted less than a few minutes. The cook served my friends’ meals and I joined them at the table. My back felt wonderful, loose, warm and relaxed, if a bit sore. She was obviously no amateur. I was impressed.
Of course, I’ve always shied away from massage in Asia. My daughter, Ruby, and I had a foot massage in Guelin, in China last year. The best part about it was when she stopped. The relief was heavenly. But Thai massage has connotations. Thirty years ago, I met someone who went for a massage in an insalubrious establishment in Bangkok. He wisely enquired about the price and expressed surprise that the “special massage” cost less than the “body massage”. His masseuse explained that this was because, “Body massage is where I massage you WITH my body.” He didn’t last long, but he was happy.