The other day I went to a health spa and got a vacuum massage. In case you think I’m a rich girl who regularly pays people to pamper me in bizarre ways, let me assure you of two things. First, I was offered a complimentary session. Second, I had no idea I was about to be vacuumed.
The woman who called to set up the appointment never once used the word vacuum. If she had, I would have laughed out loud and declined the offer. She probably knew that, which is why she called it some kind of glamorous-sounding body treatment instead.
It wasn’t until I showed up for my appointment that I learned the truth. Thinking I was there for something related to exfoliation, I had envisioned loofah sponges scrubbing away dead skin cells while soothing music serenaded my soul. Imagine my surprise when the paperwork I was given read “vacuum massage release form.”
Convinced they had given me the wrong form, I explained that I was not there for a vacuum massage. The technician assured me I was, and I assured her I wasn’t. I didn’t want to make a scene, and she probably didn’t want me to either, so after a while I stopped arguing and starting filling out the paperwork.
After answering all the questions, which were surprisingly similar to the release forms you have to sign before undergoing reconstructive surgery on your spleen, I followed her through a frosted glass door into a suite of spa-like rooms. It was a lovely atmosphere and I told her so. But I also told her I wasn’t going to sign the form until I knew exactly what was involved.
She understood, bless her heart, and proceeded to explain in a very gentle and professional manner what I could expect. First, I would put on a skin-tight body suit that covered everything except my hands, feet and head. Next, I would lie on the massage table and relax while she used the big machine in the corner of the room to administer the treatment.
After she explained the process in detail it was clear there was not a single loofah involved. I had to admit I was disappointed. Even so, curiosity had taken hold of me by then so I decided to go through with it.
Since I obviously lived long enough afterwards to relay this story, they won’t be filing my release form in the “something went wrong but she can’t sue us” folder. Nothing went wrong that I can tell. My skin is still intact and seems to have settled back down to doing its’ usual job.
Whether the treatment did any of the things it was intended to do, I will never know. All I know is that since I had the courage to get a vacuum massage (albeit accidentally), I can look myself in the mirror without seeing a coward. Oh wait… is that a hickie on my neck?
Note: this story appeared as a newspaper column in the Mail Tribune. Read it here.
If you want to read more massage adventures, check out Driving Under the Influence of a Massage.