In just over 3 years as a massage therapist I have been fortunate to build a thriving practice with some really awesome clientele. Honestly, I never expected to be where I am in my career so soon. With a lot of hard work, dedication, and providing high quality service I no longer experience much of the negative aspects that come with being a self-employed massage therapist. It was not always this good. If you ask any massage therapist if they have had any awkward moment when it came to their job, hands down everyone will be able to tell you at least one story, and with me it is no different. I guess we all have to ‘pay our dues’.
Even with our profession gaining credibility in the health care field there will always be some jack-(or jill)-ass thinking they are clever throwing out their favorite happy ending joke while on the table, as if we have never heard that before. Though at this point most things don’t phase me. Lots of body hair? Just use more lotion. Body or foot odors? Rub some menthol under my nose and I’m good. Being a sports therapist I deal with many clients who come in very sweaty from cycling/running to the office. Just wipe them down first, and sweat kind of aids as a lubricant anyway. Random boners? Yeah, it happens, and yes it is a normal physiological response. Most therapists understand this and don’t think twice about it. Just please, for the love of God don’t make it weird.
On occasion I still will get a phone call where the person will be clearly asking for “special treatment” without actually saying it. Using phrases such as “Do you have draping options? I feel uncomfortable when I’m restricted”, meaning they just want to be fully nude, uncovered on the table. Women in the field are subjected to more offensive situations, mostly from male clientele, but male therapists get it too. I heard of a situation where a young male therapist was working on an older (probably 50’s) woman, and at a point during the massage she reached out an arm, palm up and proceeded by “cupping” the therapist. This happened in a medical office, that took some serious balls on her part, pun intended. It isn’t always sexual though, sometimes it is just funny, but still quite awkward. I decided to go with a more humorous post, and talk about a couple of my most hilariously awkward moments so far as a massage therapist.
Ah, back to where it all started, massage school. This happened when I was in my final term of school. One of the classes we had to complete was an 11 week Clinic course. This class was all about getting used to working on everyday clients, since up until this point all of us in class had mostly just worked on each other, or friends. The general public came in and received massages from students at a very cheap rate. For the most part it was easy. Everybody I worked on was pleasant, and they appreciated receiving a 60 minute massage for only $25, so how can you really complain about that no matter how good, or bad it is. One woman I will forever remember, because you never forget your ‘first’. Things started off as it normally does, she just wanted a full body relaxation style massage. For my regular clients they know I really don’t give this type of massage, but for a very short time (while in massage school) I actually had a little bit of skill in this since I practiced it more. After a short while I noticed she was starting to doze off. Working down to her feet, I started by using my thumbs to press into both of her arches. Then…BLAP! As soon as I pressed my thumbs into her feet she let out a short, very sharp and loud fart. It was like she blasted a foghorn telling me to stop. Needless to say it startled me and my hands jerked back off of her feet. I managed to control my inner 12 year old and kept my laughing under control so she didn’t hear, played it off as best I could. Good thing she was asleep because I don’t think she noticed, and then continued on with the massage.
Working from her feet up I reached her hamstring, started off with just warming up the tissue with my hands before any deeper pressure. I placed my elbow just above the back of her knee (and picture me leaning down over her leg, my face directed about 12″ from her butt). As I start to glide my forearm up her hamstring from her knee toward her hip it happens again. Only this time it was a long…slow…drawn out…rrriiiiIIIPPPP! Directed right at my face, getting louder as I inched closer to her hip. It was as if I was squeezing it out of her as you would squeeze a tube of toothpaste from the bottom up. Hence the name “Toothpaste Flatulator”. Yeah…I couldn’t control my laughing with this one, mostly because I heard both the therapist and client in the space next to me start busting up, I blame them. Fortunately they weren’t silent ones and smell wasn’t a factor, as we all know those are the most deadly.
One of the hardest parts about being a new therapist is actually getting people in your door to work on, no matter how much skill you may have. Everybody has to start somewhere. Unless you work out of a place that funnels you established clients there really aren’t too many places to advertise in order to get your name out there. Most resort to websites like Groupon, but that only attracts deal shoppers. I started off doing outcalls, meaning I would take my table to a persons house and perform the massage treatment there. I did not do this for very long. First off, the only place I could really advertise was on Craigslist in the Therapeutic section. That was my main mistake. For every real, normal person seeking a legit massage I got about 10 emails with nothing but a close-up shot of some dudes ‘junk’. Most wouldn’t even say anything, just the picture. You could even write ‘NON-SEXUAL’ 10 times in your ad and it wouldn’t matter, still a inbox full of dick pics. So future therapists new to the field, steer clear of anything to do with Craigslist, even if it is in a section that is specific to professional medical services.
One man I received an email from, a business traveler who was in and out of town was looking for a session. He lived in Portland and wanted a session for when he got home after a long flight. He seemed totally educated about massage and was all about the treatment when we spoke on the phone, so we scheduled it. After lugging my table up 3 flights of stairs to his apartment I knocked on the door. When he opened it to greet me, he was standing with pretty much all of his body behind the door, although it looked as if he was allowing me space to carry my table through. Once inside, I set my table down and turned around…and he is standing there completely nude! The only thing I could think of to say was “You do know there is nothing sexual about this right? It was clearly in my ad.” He acted as if he knew I was going to say that, and his response was “I understand that, I’m just a nudist.”
If that even was true, is it normal for nudists to invite people into their homes without telling them first? Needless to say I did not give the massage, immediately sold my table, and have worked out of an office setting ever since.