Yesterday, I did a 5-hour introductory massage course in Covent Garden, with a view to ingratiating myself with kin and well-behaved house guests over the cold Winter months.
On arrival it wasn’t that dissimilar in feel to the Speed Awareness one I did a few months back, but for being held in a tropically-heated basement, attendees clutching a towel and baby wipes.
The online blurb described a theory-weighted programme with some have-a-go hands action at the end.
In the flesh, soothing vegetarian music and amber lights made it 2 chromosomes short of a Gentle Touch sex workshop.
We were 16 souls, mostly paired: friends, office workmates, yoga mom and punky daughter- amongst which at least 3 individuals quietly desirous of unleashing lessons learned on a hottie, armed with some vanilla-scented candles and Michael Buble’s Best Hits.
Oh, and not forgetting (though trying to avoid making eye contact with) one peaceful, hand-locked couple a few wheatgrass shots down, on the cusp of asking if Spiritual Lovemaking would be covered before or after lunch.
I could have been partnered with the Keen Bean hellbent on getting his knuckle-fold just so, whilst grappling with premature expression syndrome.
Or the middle-aged Swinger Hopeful in the graphic personality shirt confusing his Eastern European gal pal with What’s My Line? mime artist moves around her shoulder area during Circle Friction.
Lady Luck dealt me instead a well-built Muscovite in a cycling shirt, reassuringly functional in approach, with the look of Putin’s kinder brother.
Our instructor- let’s call her Karen- was an affable Liverpudlian who started every sentence with ‘Obviously’ even having established that none of us knew a massage from a vulnerable Kellogg’s employee.
She sure as eggs wasn’t going to let preparation get in the way of proceedings, taking deep breaths in – looking at her instruction sheet as if at virgin news- before exhaling all the apparently irrelevant info on the out breath, in order to ‘freestyle’.
For friends-and-family casual pummeling tips it’s all about the moves, she affirmed. So sleeves were rolled up within 10 minutes and our clothed orgy was out of the starting blocks.
It’s quite weird laying hands on a stranger you probably gave the evil eye to on the Tube 20 minutes earlier. Weirder still how quickly it becomes normal.
Corny yes, but how many wars would be waged after a summit of back rubbing? Obama leaning into a bit of Merkel shoulder pinching?
Karen made it all look like hand ballet, flowing wrist actions easing supplicant ‘receivers’ into The Land of Grateful Surrender.
Now, I wouldn’t say I was hurting Vlad per se but he wasn’t moaning ‘more more’ either and it mightn’t be a stretch to imagine he was hoping I wasn’t the escort he’d booked for the evening based on my assault of his seated torso.
Thankfully, when he did give feedback he was solicitous for it to contain all the emotion of a shipping forecast- a code to which each of us adhered like George Alagiah (the heady couple excepted, with their all-too-audible whispers of ‘Ooh yeah, do it like that, that’s how I like it. Jesus…’)
When we progressed onto ‘Hands’ it felt like mine and Vlad’s relationship had moved to second base, forearm stroking proving more intimate than neck squeezing, via the slopping on of baby oil.
One student slightly hit the nail on the head by asking, ‘What’s the point of pulling fingers?’ but Karen hammered it down harder, a soft Paul McCartney fresh from a Youtube philosophy tutorial : ‘Basically, it’s just nice to be touched.’
‘Feet’ took it up an even steeper notch, after which my partner (the proverbial last man a few hours prior) started to look like a cocoa-dusted Ryan Gosling, from which the conclusion I’d be romantically drawn to a dog if it could see its way to a bit of light effleurage (with the paddy bit of its paws, question mark)
Feet, though: not for everyone- an oddly shameful body part never allowed wholly to dissociate from Odor Eaters…
The guard of the group is down at this stage.
Some personal information is being divulged behind me and eager Sam is laughing an awful lot, while Vlad and I are relieved to find ourselves walking the tightrope of warmth and coolth without wobbling.
We’ve made some technical improvements in a short amount of time. I’ve told him not to do the thing when he sticks his finger in my Achilles heel tendon; he’s discouraged my karate chops, moving them away from brutality toward punishment.
To be honest, I reckon that our therapeutic foray has the potential to turn into a more full-blooded education without substantial resistance from the majority, given an extra 24 hours in residence and a few carefully chosen refreshments* (*included).
But for the time-being we remember ourselves and there’s only half an hour left…how to close this bite-sized sensory adventure?
With what other than the sublime Indian Head Massage, possibly still illegal in Alabama.
Involving a litany of finger titillation so scrummy it’d be a wonder if a few weren’t left gasping ‘Jurassic Park’, it’s hard to joke down this smorgasbord of sensuality; temple-encircling, scalp tapping, dry shampooing- all there for the taking.
I may have been babbling ‘Keep pulling my hair’ or ‘say something in Russian’ as Karen was bringing us back into the room, back into the room with hand-outs and the offer to spend more tutored Sundays ducking the responsibility of ferrying kids to birthday parties.
A day spent well, no doubt. Its projected legacy beyond the inexpert grappling of those foolish enough to stray within my fervent reach?
The certainty that massage is a truly skilful skill and that even when asked to apply more pressure, you need to keep the best interests of your thumbs at heart.
Unless the person asking is a circumspect Russian with a wide neck; in which case best not to take any chances.