* Google image search: “massage”. Scariest massage ever?
About a month ago, after Brooke and I had finally settled into Miami life (leased a car, relearned to drive, ultimately learned to drive with reckless abandon and the intent to kill), we sat down at a bar along the beach and had The Discussion. We’d touched on the topic from time to time, but we’d make a conscious effort to not have The Discussion until we were completely aware of our current circumstance, i.e. we now lived in Miami. So we ordered a couple of mojitos and I went first.
“Do you miss New York?”
It quickly became apparent that we fell on two very different sides of this fence. On the Pro-NY side sat Brooke, extolling such benefits as culture, seasons, intelligence, and a general expediency of everyday living. On the Pro-Miami side sat me, extolling boobs, beaches, and a quality of life so much less expensive that I’ve actually become accustomed to ordering an appetizer AND an entrée – a privilege previously reserved for special occasions or when your parents visited and took you to dinner.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t love New York. I have a huge sexy crush on New York. In fact, that’s part of the problem. I went on to flesh out this paradox thusly:
New York is like a the prettiest slut at the party. And you met her when you were a little vulnerable and awkward and didn’t quite get how your equipment works, and she taught you how to bang like a rock star. So of course, you fell in love. But then one day you couldn’t afford to take her out to the hottest new martini bar and she was like, “Whatever, loser,” and slept with your best friend. And took a video of it. And showed you the video the next time you guys hung out, all the while on the phone making plans to hook up with some bankers and lawyers later on that night. And while you’re crying “Why don’t you love me?!” New York is all, “Can you keep it down? I’m trying to get laid here.”
Eventually, you decide your relationship with New York isn’t healthy. That’s when you meet Brooklyn – the nicer, less whorey sister of New York. So maybe New York taught her how to give a blow job, but Brooklyn still likes to cook regional Mediterranean food and rent a movie. And everything would have been great, if not for the fact that New York was still there ALL THE TIME. I mean, you ran into that bitch everyday, and everyday she made you feel like shit, what with her phallic skyscrapers, overtly sexual subway tubes, and design stores selling “modern antiques” at real antique prices.
This is about where I lost control of the metaphor and Brooke seized the opportunity to sum up her argument by sipping her drink and pointing at a guy with a rooster on his shoulder riding by on his bicycle while everyone on the street stopped and clapped.
Flash forward to present time. Brooke and I are back in New York together for the first time since we left. We’ve been here for a week now, and are staying until Sunday. And while being away from New York has worked wonders for me (tan, healthy, flush), I can’t help but be immediately thrust back into my previous position when confronted with New York living. We’re staying in a tiny, expensive corporate apartment in over-crowded Nolita, walking down bustling streets, riding scorching hot subways, and, in my opinion, being oppressed in every sense of the word.
(Note to employers: Hi! Please don’t mistake my bitter grumblings for something like ungratefulness. I love the apartment. The other day, I walked outside and I swear I heard the “Sex and the City” theme song! It turns out there was just a “Sex and the City” tour passing by the apartment, but if my favorite tu-tu had been ironically splashed by a bus with my picture on the side, I probably wouldn’t have cared at all! So thanks.)
Of course, this isn’t how Brooke sees it. She thinks of us as liberated from the shackles of geographical redundancy. Puppy seems to agree, excitedly peeing on everything in sight with a look in his eye as though he understands he is urinating on hundreds of years of historic importance.
All of which is to say that we haven’t come to any concrete conclusion except that at some point (be it a year or five) we will be back living in New York. And the stress of that idea alone was enough to wind me up so tight that I resorted to getting a massage, leading to what might be the most awkward naked moment of my life (and that’s counting this incident).
At the beginning of the massage, the masseuse (who looked like a 47-year old Mid-Western mom, dressed in smart khakis and sneakers) asked if I had any trouble spots. While I considered saying, “My groin!” (hahaha), I instead complained about a crick in my neck I’d had for a few weeks (which doubles as therapy because any time I complain about it to Brooke she tells me to “Man up.”) She asked if I slept on my stomach, and I told her that in fact I did. She said after the massage she would show my some sleeping techniques to avoid neck pain, which I thought was odd considering I can barely perform specialized techniques when I’m awake, let alone when I’m asleep. But whatever – she’s the professional.
So after the massage, while I’m laying face up on the table, covered in a towel and half asleep with cucumbers over my eyes, she whispers that she’s going to find some pillows to show me those sleeping techniques we were talking about. I mumble something like, “Whatever,” and off she goes. A few minutes later she returns and takes the cucumbers off my eyes. I see her standing there with a pillow in each hand and immediately recognize that this situation is about to get awkward. She proceeds to lift my head up and place a pillow underneath it. Then she tells me to roll over on my side, facing her, and bend my knees towards my chest. She then lifts my arm and nestles the second pillow up against my chest.
To review: I’m naked . . . under a towel . . . in the fetal position . . . hugging a pillow . . . looking up at my masseuse.
“Now cuddle the pillow,” she says.
I comply, because what am I going to do, say no? And while I squeeze the pillow tight and say, “Yeah, this feels great,” I kind of rise up outside myself and am suddenly looking down on this situation from above and I decide that it is not an OK situation.
We stayed this way for five long, uncomfortable minutes, with the masseuse describing why this is the best way to sleep, me constantly trying to prop up my head to have a more normal conversation while she insistently tells me to relax, put my head down, and hug the pillow. After I promise her I will buy a “big, fluffy pillow” (the memory of saying “fluffy” makes me shudder), she leaves the room and I decide whether to cry here or when I get home. (I opt for home.)
The point being, if you’ve never had a frank conversation with a Midwestern mom masseuse while naked on a massage table curled up in the fetal position and cuddling a pillow, well then you’ve probably never been to New York. And at the end of that day, that’s kind of a shame.