Teacher: How Should I Feel About This Massage?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

A friend and I stopped by a U. District bar after a hard day of classes. It turns out this place was packed with soccer fans, as the “pub” had an English “football” game on the “telly.” As far as I could tell, Chelsea United was playing the Manchester Yankees, or something like that. We hung out there for an hour or so, and neither team scored. However, grown men did squeal like Miley Cyrus fanatics whenever the ball was kicked in the general direction of either goal. I realize the university’s job is to open my mind to new ideas, from postmodern geography to feminist economics. Yet once I leave the campus, is there anything wrong with catching a baseball game on the tube?

Flea ‘n the Crown

Dear Flea:

Go get my pipe, Dr. Watson, I think we’ve just spotted a clue that this reader is harboring hidden hostility! I’m talking, of course, about the disdainful quotation marks in your story, Flea ‘n. So those blokes in the newsboy caps throwing back a few pints with their mates—did they somehow offend you? Did you have something against the royal-looking crest things over the bar? Or the acoustic Irish jam the first Wednesday of every month?

Instead of rebuking you for these negative thoughts, though, let me instead offer you this handhold up to some common ground: You’re right that squealing can indeed be annoying. But don’t you ever want to lose yourself in the group? Indulge in a little mob-based joy? Sure you do! Now imagine sharing this joy with those as discerning as yourself. Chaps a little too sophisticated for the banality of American sports. Merry fellows who wouldn’t see your attachment to a football club thousands of miles away as an absurd affectation. “I fell in love with them when I was backpacking through Norwich,” you could murmur to them without fear of ridicule. “Up where the tourists never go. The people were just incredible.” The squealing is the pleasure of this shared discernment bursting its bounds like a ecstatically flooding river.

But you know, it really doesn’t bother me as I lurk in the back of the pub, nursing my second pint of mead. I’m feeling the real pulse of the match. The deep strategic rhythm that the crowd at the bar is probably missing. I smile affectionately at their squealing. To me it’s the harmless music of a choir of eager beginners.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I haven’t lived here that long. The massage I received the other day on Capitol Hill was my first ever. I mean my first naked, candlelit, full-body massage. Complete with inane yet genuinely soothing New Age music. I’m left with loose shoulders and many questions. Is it weird to feel weird about getting a massage from someone of the opposite sex? And is it even weirder to prefer someone of the same sex? How much chitchat is expected during and after? Should I feel guilty about being able to afford a massage? Can people who give massages afford to get massages? And what’s with all the massage in this town anyway?

As Relaxed as I’ve Ever Been, Yet Still Pretty Tense

Dear Pretty Tense,

Can you remember the difference between a masseuse and a masseur? No, you can’t. No one can. No one can remember the price of a first-class stamp either. That’s why we use two stamps and say “massage therapist.” Our mail doesn’t come back and we avoid that impossible masseuse/ur swamp. Appending “therapist” also extends the proper respect to these highly trained professionals. And you should rest easy about whether or not their income level puts them in the massagee class. We can safely assume they have some kind of exchange arrangement with their fellow therapists.

See, all you need to relax is a little more knowledge about massage. I personally like to use that pre-massage chitchat to show that I realize there’s a whole universe beyond the basic Swedish rubdowns so popular with the masses. “Do you agree,” I’ll ask, “that the Shiatsu versus Derivative Shiatsu debate is totally missing the virtues of a Qi Gong approach? And what are your feelings about transverse friction? Is it better than light petrissage or effleurage when treating subcutaneous adipose tissue?” I’m sure they appreciate dealing with someone who’s a bit more advanced than usual. When the massage itself starts, I like to space out and stare at the anatomical charts. I’ve always wondered if the color they choose for the muscles on those charts is based on the color of raw beef, or if that’s the real color of muscles for mammals. Not pigs, though, I guess.

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