As I mentioned last time, I worked my face off that summer. I once worked a whopping 22 shifts straight before taking a day off. I was working as a hostess in a restaurant that was, at the time, one of THE most popular places in Philadelphia. How popular, you ask? 500 covers (or people, for the laymen) every Saturday night. That means we’d have to get 500 people in and out in a timely, orderly fashion, and in such a way as to keep the amount of customer bitching and complaining to a minimum (“Our reservation was for 7, and it is 7:05! This is unacceptable! You’ve ruined everything!). With that being said, part of our hostess duties included literally running around, bussing tables as need be or carrying a dining chair up to the second level for a party of five that was initially slotted to sit on the first level. All while wearing high heels. Because being a reasonably attractive representation of the restaurant was also part of our hostess duties.
So perhaps needless to say, when I finished my 22 shifts, my body needed some rest and relaxation. I had the spontaneous thought that I’d treat myself to a massage. I called up a rather fancy place near my apartment and told them I wanted a massage. I told the woman on the other end of the phone that I realized my request was super last minute so I was willing to take whatever they had available. She was able to fit me in and just before we hung up, she said, “Ok, great. We’ll see you at 1pm and you’ll be with Andre.”
My heart sank. Andre. A man. A man that I don’t know. A man that I don’t know was going to rub my mostly nude body. I don’t want to do that.
Just as quickly as I had that knee-jerk reaction did I tell myself to shake it off. “First of all, he’s probably gay,” I told myself. A statement based on nothing other than my need to make myself feel less worried about it. “And so what if he’s not gay. Get over yourself. You’re not THAT cute.” I had to take a moment to put myself in my place. Really, Raina? What do you think is going to happen? You’re so cute that this man is going to not be able to resist his primal urges? Abandon all sense of propriety and professionalism because you’re just soooo pretty? Bitch, please. You haven’t even washed your hair in two days.
I was still nervous but, if only out of self-shaming, I decided to keep the appointment and at 12:45, I was in the fluffy, white robe and matching slippers waiting for Andre to come get me for my massage.
“Raina?” Here he was, Andre. Well, shit. Pretty sure he wasn’t gay, at least not in any obvious way that I could tell. He was medium height and medium build. He wasn’t a bad looking guy by any means, just not my cup of tea. I took a deep breath and said, “That’s me!” What was an attempt to sound cool and unaffected instead made me sound like a high pitched, cheerleadery type. Never what I’m going for.
In the massage room, he gave me the usual run down: asked if I had any injuries, what specifically had brought me in, what my preference in pressure was, blee blah blah. Then he left me alone in the room to disrobe and get myself situated on the table. In the minute or two I had to myself, I took a couple of deep breaths and reminded myself that there was nothing to be nervous about and chastised myself for being such an awkward weirdo.
Andre had come back in the room and started gearing up to give me my massage. He was on the other side of the room, doing whatever a masseuse does to get ready for business. Mixing up his lotions and oils, I assumed. I was laying on my back, face up, trying to be less conscious about the fact that the only thing separating this dude I didn’t know from my partial nudity was a pastel colored sheet. “Your name is Raina? That’s a pretty name…for a pretty girl.”
There is it.
Ugh. Ok, no, it’s fine. Means nothing. Granted, maybe not the most pro thing he could have said but it wasn’t terrible. I’m sure he was just making conversation. But the awkward weirdo within me was officially anything but relaxed. I was incredibly self conscious, more so than usual. I couldn’t close my eyes for fear that he may misinterpret that as some kind of sign (though, a sign of what, I have no idea). So instead, I just stared at the ceiling in that same uncomfortable-but-try-to-look-totally-comfortable way that you do at the gynecologist. Or at the dentist.
Most of the actual massage was a blur. Mainly because I was focused on everything else happening around me. At one point, he was pulling my arm back behind my head to stretch my shoulder (I guess). When he pulled on my arm, my body would slide slightly in the direction he was pulling me. And I could tell, from the sensation, that while my body was moving, the sheet that was separating Andre from a mostly naked Me wasn’t moving. I glanced down and saw that I was in moderate danger of slipping a nip. So I dug my heels into the table in an attempt to counteract his pulling. Not long after that, while rubbing my neck, he apologized for getting oil in my hair. I told him it was fine and he responded with, “Aw, but it looked so nice.”
It’s not just me, right? This dude is a total creeper. Or at the very least, has zero self awareness.
It just got more ridiculous from there. Later, while I was still on my back (which, in retrospect, was a really long time), he draped a towel across my chest and then pulled the sheet away, revealing my stomach. Just so we’re clear, I’m laying on a table, topless, with only a towel across my uptown lady bits and the sheet covering my hips and legs. What the hell? To this day, I don’t know if that is really a massage thing or if Andre was taking liberties. Because, even in my super skinny 20s, there were no muscles in my stomach. Certainly none that needed to be massaged.
By the grace of God, the “massage” eventually came to an end, he thanked me, I thanked him (why, Raina?), and I went back to the locker room. While getting changed, I debated whether or not to say something to the desk girl when I checked out. But what would I say, really? I mean, I know what I could have said; that dude was arguably inappropriate, made me extremely uncomfortable, and I’m not paying for this shit. But I said none of that. I said nothing at all except, “Good, thank you!” when she asked how everything was. I paid the $100 for that shitty massage. AND I TIPPED HIM. I still judge myself for that one.
At the time, I was afraid that I was just blowing things out of proportion, that I was being too sensitive, and/or that there would be some kind of confrontation where I would have to recount the whole experience for a member of management in front of Andre. And I’ll be honest, good, bad, or indifferent, I didn’t want to jam him up. I didn’t want anyone getting fired because I was maybe just being a big baby and didn’t know how to take a compliment. Of course, NOW I know how insane and not cool that was. Even if he didn’t mean anything by it.
I debated on calling after the fact, but as more time passed, the dumber I felt about even talking about it. So I didn’t call to complain, I just swore I’d never go back. Until two years later, when I got a $200 gift certificate from my coworkers for my 30th birthday. When I called to make an appointment (again, on short notice), they offered me a male. At which time, I politely declined, saying I’d rather wait for a female to come available in the coming weeks because I’d had an unpleasant experience with a male masseuse there. Five minutes after hanging up the phone, I got a phone call from the manager. She apologized and was horrified and assured me that he didn’t work there anymore and offered me an appointment right away with a female.
The funny part? I never said his name. Yet she knew exactly who I was talking about. I guess it wasn’t just me, then. How ‘bout them apples?