Saturday, February 28, 2009

The One Where Charlie Gets Rubbed By A Guy

It started innocently enough.

It'd been a very long day. I'm heading back to the US in a few days, and my Mom wanted me to bring back some wall-hangings for her. So after 3+ hours at the Panjiayuan antique market, haggling and negotiating and fighting and arguing, I was beat.

And when in Beijing and tired, only one thing will do - a nice foot massage!

For those not familiar with this heavenly blessing, a good Chinese foot massage lasts 90 minutes and really involves a good back and shoulder massage, followed by a lengthy deep-tissue rub of both feet, followed by the legs. During this, at a decent spa, you'll gnosh on gratis snacks and tea. One of the better spas in Beijing, Oriental Taipan, conveniently has a location just 2 blocks from my apartment.

And so off I went. It started off innocently enough. I went in, indicated I'd like a foot massage, was shown to a room, ordered some snacks, ordered my usual foot-massage girl (#22 - she does a good job), and settled in for 90 minutes of pampering.

When there was a knock at the door I barely even glanced up, knowing it'd be Ol' #22. I'd already taken off my shoes and socks and had reclined my chair into a position of total relaxation. I didn't even look up as #22 carried in the standard vat of hot tea to soak my feet. She took the customary seat, placed my feet in the steaming tea and started washing down my feet.

This was the first hint that something wasn't right. #22's touch seemed different than usual. Stronger and more... hrmmm... manly, almost? I forced myself to open my eyes and sit up enough to glance down and see what was amiss... maybe she was wearing gloves or something?


Now, not that there's anything wrong with it, but this wasn't what I had in mind. I quickly hit the buzzer for the hostess. She came in and I explained that, no offense to the guy at my feet, but where the heck was #22?!! She explained that #22 was no longer with the spa and, unfortunately, all the other female masseuses were with customers. Only guys were available, and I should be psyched, since they have stronger hands and give a better massage.

At this point I was already calf-deep in hot tea, so I figured in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound and shrugged. Besides, I reasoned with myself, who had it worse? Me or the poor bastard who had to rub my tired dogs?

To paraphrase Lilly Allen, "A guy rubbed me down, and I liked it." #34's touch was strong and firm. He worked on muscles I didn't know I had. In fact, even now, days later, I have a bruise on my shoulder from where he went after a muscle-knot like a dog on a bone.

Really, my only complaint would be that during the 3rd act of the massage (Act 1: Shoulders/arms; Act 2: Feet; Act 3: legs), his leg massage went decidedly north. Like... to the waist. He got my thighs and enough of my pelvis that he was getting close to Melvin & The Boys. Never made contact, thank God, but I was sweating it... I figure he was about a quarter-inch from an international incident.

He was less shy when getting the back of my thighs, kneading my butt like pizza dough.

So I guess its true what they say - once you go masseur, you never go back. Next time I visit Oriental Taipan, I'll be asking for #34 by name... er... number, and revisiting the forbidden fruit of the man-massage.