I have a hunch that the stamps in my passport have contributed most of my insights, and prompted most of my questions.
Firstly, I gotta say that all of my clients are brave and beautiful people. Secondly, throughout this piece I am using the term “bodyworker” to include health and wellness professionals such as licensed massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapy assistants, etc. I’m not talking about the folks who use mallets to bang out dents in car bodies, although there are some similarities.
I’ve been a practicing bodyworker for over 10 years as a licensed massage therapist, and have run my own show for the past 3 of those. I’ve easily worked on thousands of bodies and have pretty much seen it all. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your bodywork session, while not being a dick to your bodyworker:
Look, if you book a bodywork session at a flossy hotel spa and you don’t show up or cancel accordingly, they will most likely charge your credit card for the full amount plus some silly fees. I can’t. Something about zoning and licensing.
If you are my first client of the day, that means I probably left a beautiful man with a lovely penis sleeping in our bed. I rode my single speed bicycle to work, carried it up 25 steps, set up my studio with coconut oil, essential oils, fresh linens, hot towels, and nature sounds, and then sat at my desk waiting for you to show up. Then you didn’t. Then I waited a polite 5-10 minutes before trying to call or text you, which you probably didn’t answer. Don’t do that.
As far as cancellations go, I try to work with you. Please understand that you may have to wait a bit to fit back into the schedule. If you must cancel last minute, try to do it the night before so I can have awesome morning sex. It’s also helpful if you have a list of times and dates that work for you. Texting and email work great.
Show Up on Time
Many bodyworkers schedule by the hour or 90 minutes. This includes the time it takes to get comfy, have some nice bodywork and take a little time getting up. It may also include the time required to fill out an intake form if you’re a new client, and settling up with your bodyworker after the session. If you are late or dilly-dally getting comfortable, your session will be shorter. You don’t get to complain.
If you think you’re going to be late (flat tire, escaped prisoner, dog ate cement...I’ve heard it all) please call or text your bodyworker as soon as you can. If they don’t have another client right afterward, they may be accommodating. This includes adding time to your session. I try to, which is why I’m going to Heaven. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I need to return calls/emails/texts, sometimes I need to hork down some food. Sometimes I need to poop. Whatever the case, please try to be prompt and don’t be a repeat offender.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
I’m going to assume you showed up to get some bodywork. Maybe you have lots of stress. Perhaps you’re rehabbing from an injury. You might even just be starved for touch. These are all fine reasons.
I ask all of my clients, “What’s going on in your body right now?” Check in with yourself and let me know. Your body will most likely tell me, even if you don’t know or are in total denial. If something sucks, speak up. Breathe. If you’re normally a talkative person, try shutting up. I’m not your shrink or your bartender. I will most likely reply to chatter with therapeutic affirmative murmurs or one-liners. I’m not being snobby, I’m just busy and it’s so awesome to see what happens when someone gets out of their head and allows their body to relax and receive.
Let me move you around and let yourself surrender. I know what I’m doing and I don’t need you to hold your 8-13 lb. head up while I’m working on your neck. Kinda defeats the purpose.
Take It Off, Turn It Off
This means watches, necklaces, bracelets. I can work around your rings. Please put them away in a safe place like your purse or pocket. You will get the most benefit from being completely disrobed. You will always be draped (shoptalk for being covered in sheets and blankets) except for the body part I am working on. You can leave your underpants on if you’re more comfortable that way.
Please don’t be shy. I’ve literally seen it all. Growths, scars (including mastectomy and breast augmentation/reduction ones). If you have prostheses or braces, it helps if you remove those, too. I worked on a Paralympic bicyclist whose one leg was bigger than both of mine put together. I have a client who has thalidomide birth defects, and has flippers instead of hands. I worked the hell out of them. I can work around pumps, ports, implants, colostomy bags...you name it. If you are a breastfeeding mama, I can put down a towel in case you leak.
Also, put your damn phone on silent. I won’t let you answer it unless you’re a really cute expectant grandparent with a daughter in active labor.
Some Thoughts on Hygiene, Hair and Fat
Probably my most frequently asked question besides, “Don’t your hands get tired?” (yes, but not any more than those who pound on a keyboard all day long) is, “Isn’t it gross to work on really hairy/smelly/fat people?” I will tell you that I’d rather work on a hairy back than one that was freshly shaved 2 days ago.
I don’t care if you forgot to shave your legs/back/face.
As far as smelly people go, we all have our own distinct musk. Some people smell like breakfast. I work on a couple who smell like spices. Most feet are a little pungent. I don’t mind. If you want to shower before you show up, that’s cool. Please don’t do me any favors by drenching yourself in Axe body spray, and please don’t show up in full hair and makeup and expect me to leave you unscathed. My sessions include the feet, hands, head and face. You will be lying prone for at least a half hour and will most likely have a little imprint of the face cradle when you get up. Wear it proudly as a badge of honor.
I work on all shapes and sizes, and I work within the connective tissue. I am truly only interested in what’s inside your earthsuit. I even have extenders to make my table wider so larger clients are more comfortable. It is no harder for me to massage a fat person than a not-as-fat person. In fact, in my experience, it’s the gristly Crossfit soccer moms who can’t relax that are the hardest to work on.
Don't Be Creepy
I wish I didn’t have to expound on this, and I don’t encounter it that often, but here goes. I’m not going to give you a “happy ending.” I’m not going to tie you up and dominate you. I’m not going to let you keep me as a captive audience while you talk dirty to me. I AM going to end the session so quickly and I might throw your clothes out my 2nd story window.
I legitimately believe that there is a place for therapeutic bodywork in the sex work/BDSM industry, but I don’t do it. They also get paid waaaaay more than I do. If you touch me, I will call the cops. Remember, I have your contact info.
Also, even though I’m rubbing my hands all over your semi-naked, oiled body, it doesn’t mean I’m in love with you. I’m not going to see a movie with you, we can’t go get coffee sometime, I’m not going to be Facebook friends with you. I’m sure you’re a lovely person, but I don’t date clients. I don’t date ex-clients. I gotta man, and he’s probably the last person in my life that gets any bodywork.
Don’t be sexist, and don’t be a homophobe. There was a time after I escaped an abusive relationship, where I sought out male massage therapists on purpose so that I could be comfortable receiving touch from a man. Ninety-nine percent of male bodyworkers are not trying to sneak a peek or turn you into a homogay. If you feel like you’ve been assaulted by a bodyworker, call the cops and/or report the bodyworker to the state licensing board. Lastly, please don’t make comments about what I look like and don’t ask me if I know the Lord. None of your session is about me.
I am Not a Doctor
Most bodyworkers are in training for 6 months to 2 years. I am not a doctor. I have a pretty good understanding of anatomy and physiology and how the body works, but I have no idea what that weird mole on your back is or why you can’t feel your toes.
I can do my best to promote relaxation, help you achieve tensional balance, and get you in touch with your body/mind spirit. I can’t “fix” you. I’ve heard a lot of bodyworkers talking out the side of their necks about symptoms, diseases and diagnoses. Not me. On that note: please don’t bring your contagions into my studio, and please disclose those that you may have that are not symptomatic. If you have the flu, think you do, or are caring for someone who is, do everyone a favor and go home. I have a cast iron constitution, but I don’t need your cooties.
Result May Vary
Receiving bodywork is not the same as getting an oil change on your car. Every session is going to be different. Every bodyworker has their own flow. You might even feel worse after a bodywork session than you did going in. It helps if you’re hydrated, ready to receive and can take it really easy afterward.
I usually cry when I get bodywork. I’m usually good for nothing after, and often wake up feeling like I got hit by a truck the next morning. A couple of days later, I feel ah-mazing. That said, I’m a big believer that bodywork should feel good while you’re receiving. A little intense, sure, but if you’re clenching your teeth and holding your breath while your bodyworker grinds away at you, then you’re both doing it wrong. Always remember to breathe, and speak up if you need more or less pressure. Don’t write off bodywork if you get a shitty session. Try it again, or try someone else.
To Tip or Not To Tip
I believe that tipping should be based on generosity and excellence in services received. I don’t believe it is obligatory, but it is a lovely gesture. In many large spas, bodyworkers receive an hourly wage and live for tips. I have some clients who don’t tip at all, and some that tip so generously it makes me feel guilty for a sec.
However: if you buy a gift certificate for someone for bodywork, it’s nice to add the tip so your recipient can just float away after their session. If you use Groupon, please make sure to tip and do it on the amount that is normally charged. Merchants make 25% of their regular rate on those wretched coupons.
OK, I believe that is all. I love my job, I love my clients (not IN love, mind you!). I honestly feel that bodywork can save the world. Happy healing to you all!