Last week I woke up with a crick in my neck. Or maybe it was in my shoulder or trapezii. I’m not sure—but it was something in my upper third. I couldn’t pinpoint the origin of my suffering; I just knew it kept me from break dancing or rolling my neck when I told someone off. I tried to regain mobility by stretching and pulling and complaining—but, to no avail. It was time for Happy Feet.
Happy Feet is a massage place we like to visit when we fancy a proper mauling. Its name is deceptive, as they specialize in total body massage—not just feet. You can opt for hour-long packages that divide time between your feet and body in a number of ways. I always do the 30/30, because, while I do enjoy a good foot and lower leg rub, enough is enough.
At Happy Feet, they don’t play. The masseuses aren’t tickle specialists—they’re there to work you OVER. The place could just as easily be called “Happy Feet Come At A Price.”
Spa music fills the air of the dimly lit rooms, where two very cushioned, low half-beds await aching bodies. The masseuses don’t speak a lick of English, which is fine by me, because talking won’t loosen my muscles or discipline my chakras. The masseuses do, however, seem to understand, “Ouch” and “I’ve been injured.”
Let me back up a minute. I love massages. If I ever “come into some money,” it’s something I’ll do every week, rain or shine. So when I heard about this place, from someone whose opinion of massages I usually trust—but she told me you stay clothed—I was extremely skeptical. I wondered how they could successfully massage a clothed body. Well, trust me, they CAN.
So last Saturday, I go in, remove my shoes and socks, lie down and wait for my masseuse. She brings in a bucket of piping hot water with some kind of herbal tea in it, and places my feet inside. She asks (with her eyes) if it’s tolerable. Let me tell you—this is when the glorious torture begins—because it is barely tolerable. I want to say, “Ouch! Hot! You’re disfiguring me!” but I realize it actually feels pretty dang good. Enduring water that’s just this side of boiling is my first victory.
Side Note: I take my role as “good client” very seriously. Not just client, but patient and guest, as well. I want to be a bright part of a masseuse or doctor’s day. In other words, I buff, scrub, scour, shave and prep like it’s a first date. But I not only want to be a joy to work on and with, I also want to be as agreeable and participatory as possible, hoping to be a client they look forward to seeing. Basically, I want to be their gift for the day—and I can’t be a gift if I’m flinching and crying at every turn. (Which brings me back to why tolerating the simmering water is a victory.)
Once she has me settled, she comes around and situates herself above my head. She rubs oil on her fingers and starts pressing into my
forehead fivehead … and pressing into my facial structure … and pressing into my cranium. This pressing action feels phenomenal. Don’t ask me why. It never feels good when I’m pressed for information or pressed for time, but this pressing is mesmerizing. I think she’s reading my Third Eye Chakra, and figuring out what my body needs—and mapping out a course of action for the remainder of the hour. I’m a little nervous about her findings because I have no idea if I can even trust my chakra to tell the truth.
She spends a good deal of time rubbing my head and face and possibly forcing bad energy out through my ears. Oh, does that ear massage feel good. Again, it’s borderline aggressive, but I miss it when I’m not there. I’ve tried replicating it on myself but I just end up pulling away and saying, “Don’t touch me.”
Next, she gets into some serious neck and shoulder action. Let me just say that all of it feels great, and all of it hurts. I can’t iterate this enough. It’s a solid hour of toeing the line between delight and distress. She lays my head to the side and works all along my sternocleidomastoid (or “neck” for those of you who failed anatomy) and traces it down to any and all knots. She works and works and it’s painfully sublime.
Then she takes my arm and lays it beside me, rotating it so my palm is up. She starts at my shoulder and with both hands, presses down with most of her weight. She moves an inch and presses down again, moves an inch, presses, and so on—all the way to my wrist. It’s slightly nerve-racking the way she puts so much weight behind her work, but it honestly feels amazing to be strategically crushed. It’s sort of like I’m getting my skeletal frame rearranged, bone by baby bone. Enchanting, right?
Once she gets to my wrist, she starts the hand rub. Yes, please. She spends a lot of time on my hands and fingers, even audibly snapping out bad energy through my fingertips, one by one (at least that’s what it sounds like.) She laces her fingers through mine like we might take a walk on the beach, but then pulls my hand as if she’s trying to detach it from the ligaments that connect it to my wrist. Ohhh, does it feel wrong … and so very nice. She repeats this process on both sides.
Next, it’s happy feet time—and she is thorough (emphasis on the second half of that word.) This part hurts, tickles and delights. It’s 30 minutes of blissful uncertainty that ends up altogether fantastic. If you’ve never had your toes worked on methodically and in-di-vi-du-ally, let me tell you that it feels like a baby goat is nibbling on them. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Feet time is also when she tends to my calves and shins. The work she does here goes from total euphoria to certain bruising—within minutes. It starts out like, “Whoa, Mamma Mia, that feels so good,” then quickly escalates into, “Oh my freakin’ ouch, why are you mauling me and why did I shave for you?!?!!” It’s hard to explain, but I feel like she uses my calf muscle as her own personal stress ball.
Stroking is great—gripping and kneading is absolutely unnecessary. She doesn’t seem to differentiate between me and a fully grown linebacker. I’m 5’6 and small boned, not 6’5 and suiting up for Monday Night Football.
Side Note: I say all this, but you need to know that the whole time I’m deep-breathing through the kneading, I’m mentally scheduling my next appointment with her.
After plenty of feet time, she pulls out the bed ottoman and has me turn over to my stomach. Then she goes to work on my booty. Every time I’m there, I secretly wonder if I accidentally signed up for a 30 minute body/30 minute booty package, because an inordinate amount of time is spent on the glutes. I’m not complaining, just stating facts: Happy Feet loves da’booty.
Side Note: Or maybe they just love my booty. If you’ve been there and can’t corroborate the booty story, then that’s super creepy and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be special in that way. Maybe I need to stop preparing like it’s a date.
She spends the final minutes working on my back, shoulders, neck and head. She leaves no muscle
unharmed untouched. I’ve even wondered if she’s actually massaging my liver. That’s the organ in your lower back, right? Like maybe earlier, my chakra blabbed about me drinking beer the night before and she sees it as her duty to massage my liver? I don’t know—just thinking out loud here.
Side Note: Never mind. I just Googled the human body and it’s not my liver she’s after—it’s my kidneys—and I don’t want to know why.
She finishes strong, putting every last ounce of energy into the final stretch—kneading, pressing, leaning into her strokes with all her body weight … so much so that when she stops and says, “OK Lady, all done,” I’m really, really not sure if I remember who I came with or how we got there.
I sit up to get my bearings, before reaching up and realizing my hair looks like Einstein after a bender. I look at Jocelyn, who is pulling her hair into a ponytail and looking utterly dazed and confused, and ask, “What was that?!”
She is unsure.
Without a doubt, every appointment at Happy Feet is a perfect storm of pain, bliss and bewilderment—and I’m absolutely going back next week.