I'm a Massage Therapist and This Is What I'm Thinking When You're on My Table
This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.
So you're here for your massage appointment. You check in, drink a glass of lemon or cucumber water, and your massage therapist greets you. You're led down a dimly lit hallway to your treatment room. You disrobe and lie under the sheets.
But what does your massage therapist really think about having you as a client?
I, a massage therapist (not "masseuse" or "masseur," thank you very much), am speaking anonymously so I can be completely honest and address any insecurities you may have about getting a professional massage.
Female clients always apologize to me when they haven't shaved their legs. That's totally unnecessary. I really don't care. What really impresses me, though, is when a pregnant lady has smooth legs. Wow! When I was pregnant, I couldn't bend over, much less lift a leg!
However, for any men reading this: If you wax, it's actually painful when you're stubbly. Sometimes your hair will stab me under my fingernails. Ow!
What do we think if we have an obese or rail-thin client? It really doesn't matter. One body type isn't more difficult than the other. The only time I'm a little uncomfortable is when a very thin person wants really deep pressure; then, it kind of hurts the elbows a bit.
Do we see cellulite? We all have it, so no biggie. What about scars? The only thing that concerns me about that is if it's OK to massage over them. The other massage therapists I've spoken to have told me that they never see skin — only muscle tissue and knots.
Please shower, or at least be slightly clean. I've had clients come in all sweaty and say, "I just ran a marathon! Phew!" Phew, indeed. Sweaty skin is kind of gross to me.
And your feet! Don't run around barefoot with grime caked on them without wiping them down if possible. If I can smell your feet while sitting at your head, a quick trip to the bathroom to give them a wipe down with a wet paper towel can really help.
Most people get it right when receiving a massage: lie down, close eyes, relax. But some people need a few tips.
For instance, don't "help" the therapist by lifting your arm, leg, or head. That just tells us you're not relaxing, and we don't need the help. I think that most people just want to be polite, but here is not the place. This is your time.
Also, put your clothes on the chair or hanger we provided. Some people throw their clothes on the floor and we accidentally step on them, or worse, trip on them.
If possible, try not to moan or grunt. It's kind of awkward. However, if you fall asleep, I take that as a compliment. Never apologize for that.
But one thing I must say — and this is very, very important — is to speak up when you need something! I can't express this enough. Usually massage therapists ask how the massage is so far, and we try to read body language, but we're not psychic. If the pressure hurts, say so. If it's not deep enough? Say so. Are you cold? Do you need to pee? Speak up! We want to give you the best experience possible, so we need to be on the same page to achieve that.
Bottom line: Bad tips piss us off. In a general sense, less than $10 for an hour session is a bad tip. Twenty percent of whatever the standard price is — not what you paid for your Groupon deal — is very kind and very appreciated.
I don't know if people realize that many massage therapists are paid hourly, so we don't make a lot. That tip is how we pay our bills and feed our family. Don't just pay for the massage and lie to the receptionist that you took care of me already — that has really happened to me, many times. And if that happens, we put it down in our notes that you stiffed us. Many times, therapists will refuse to work on someone that is disrespectful to us.
On the other hand, a really good tipper gets the royal treatment. We go over our time (if possible), and add nice little extras like a longer foot massage, more hot towels, or aromatherapy, just to show our appreciation. Plus, word gets around when you tip well, so people will want to give you great service.
Unfortunately, most massage therapists will experience this at some point. I used to massage the husband of a regular couple's massage client and he would have his erection prominently bounce up and down the whole session. Erections happen — we all know this — but this guy did it every. Single. Time. And it didn't matter where I was massaging him. Another guy I massaged would get a boner and then lower the sheet so the tip peeked out — and was before I'd even touched him.
Male massage therapists are constantly under heavy scrutiny. One male MT told me with every session he has with a female client, part of him is nervous that she is going to perceive something sexual. Male MTs also have a harder time getting booked. Many female clients are afraid of sexual advances or feel more insecure about their bodies with a male MT, and some male clients are afraid they'll "seem gay."
Unfortunately, there have been cases of massage therapists being inappropriate, which makes it harder for the rest of us. Even when I tell people what I do for a living, some men will raise their eyebrows and go, "Oh, really?" We're not prostitutes, guys.
Massage therapy has so many benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, helping injuries heal faster, among countless others. Overall, getting a massage can be an excellent way to take care of and reconnect with your body. And if you keep all of the above in mind, it can be an even better experience.