For the three of you who've been wondering whatever happened to what's-her-name—the one who wrote that column—wonder no more: I've been in the witness protection program and changed my name to Emma Von Vestibule. Well, not really, but I have been changing my identity rather dramatically.
I have always been something of a word freak, making my living as a technical writer, copywriter or copy editor for a score and a half of years and, also, doing my own writing and volunteering as a writer and editor for several nonprofits over the years. In addition, I have to admit loving a good game of Scrabble now and then. For a long time, I was perfectly happy with this. That's how it is with freaks: They like to get their freak on.
But shortly after starting to work with a personal trainer at my local Y, I got increasingly antsy sitting at a desk all day—especially since I was mostly polishing someone else's words. I began an unscientific tally of the verbiage of my day-to-day activities and came up with—let's see, five, carry the one, times 233.4 equals—well, a helluva lot of words.
So, as Monty Python used to say, and now for something completely different: I decided to become a massage therapist. This, of course, is the next logical step for a copy editor to take. Actually, this choice becomes even stranger when you consider how a psychologist once summed me up: 'Somewhere inside you, there's a nun dying to get out'—and I'm not even Catholic. To clarify, you know the Annie Lennox song Pavement Cracks, in which she sings, 'Where is my comfort zone?' Well I know exactly where mine is: I have none.
So what's a socially awkward, prudish girl like me doing in a place like massage school? Confronting her body-image and personal-space issues real fast. Within two weeks of starting school, last July, I was completely naked in front of twenty-odd virtual strangers! Well, naked under a sheet.
But still: I had to trust these neophyte massage therapists not to accidentally expose me as they learned the fine art of undraping a single leg. And they had to trust that I wouldn't expose them, which was almost as terrifying. When we nervously imagined having our gluteus maximus muscles bared, one cheek at a time, some of the first wisdom that would be handed down from our instructors came our way: 'It's only a butt, people!'
It might only be a butt, but I was ill-disposed toward having to touch some guy's hair-covered one, and Ryan ( the name has been changed to protect the hirsute ) had an ass that was a few tufts shy of a chimp's hindquarters. I knew because I had seen him being massaged by one of my classmates on the next table over.
Having been told that we needed to work with everyone in the class at some point—a strategy meant to introduce us to all different body types—I carefully plotted to work with Ryan when we were scheduled to work on something less mortifying than a furry rump. But—d'oh!—after I'd finished working on Ryan's arm the day we were focusing on that appendage, the instructors decided that we should review the whole body before an upcoming performance test.
And there I was, slathering oil on this dude's fuzzy fanny. It was at that moment I first considered having a practice limited to women. But, having touched dozens of hairy tushies in the intervening months—men's and women's—I have accepted the wisdom of the it's-just-a-butt philosophy. Yes, massage therapy is a spiritual profession.
But my days of nudophobia and squeamishness about fleecy bottoms now seem like halcyon days, as we throw ourselves into the minutiae of where the splenius capitis muscle attaches and what the stressors and perpetuating factors are for the serratus anterior.
If I've temporarily left my love of words and writing to molder in some dusty corner of my brain, it's for the greater good of sore muscles everywhere. And someday, who knows? I may give The Nanny Diaries a run for their money with Confessions of a Massage Therapist.
© 2007 by Yvonne Zipter. One-time North American rights granted only. Yvonne Zipter may be contacted on e-mail via her Web site, www.yvonnezipter.com .