Not often do I believe that getting the shit beat out of you is a good thing, but I have learned to make an exception. Generally speaking, I’m in a lot of pain, living with and generally accepting of, a pain level 5. When it gets to around 8, it’s almost unbearable, at which point I have to address it. Two weekends ago, at George’s wedding in Chicago, I vacillated between a 7 and 9, outwardly complaining a lot. Standing up only exacerbated it; sitting down actually made it worse. Putting on some weight the previous two weeks, albeit I would find out later only three lbs, amplified my discomfort; those three pounds felt much more. (Apparently, I didn’t get the memo you’re supposed to lose weight for the wedding.)
So last week, one night after work right before I was to leave for Los Angeles for Tad’s wedding, I decided to get the shit beat out of me. Since moving to Marin County in July, I’ve been going to a Thai masseuse – Kinnaree Thai Massage in Mill Valley. I’d never been to one before, though it was recommended by friends and the one I frequent is located right above my chiropractor (Dr. Barbara Reitz, who is also amazing). My first experience was one of extreme pain, but I felt significantly better for it. I would not know the real meaning of extreme pain until last week’s session.
I was greeted by an old woman at the front desk, maybe 70? Short and round, with a very pleasant smile, she didn’t look very imposing. And I couldn’t understand a word she said, but since I knew the drill, I knew what she was saying. Sixty minutes later, she would give new meaning to Nebraska farm boy strong, or in this case Thai rice girl strong. (This is screaming hashtags: #thairicepaddystrong, #nebraskagotnothingonthailand) She contorted my body in ways I thought not possible. I felt like a super-hero figurine, its limbs being pulled in and out of its sockets as mine were, the elderly woman playing the part of the cruel five year old boy. She stepped on then dug into my muscles, the pain excruciating. She bore her fingers into my face unlocking my jaw. She opened up my neck and shoulders, my lower back and hips, all the while I’m screaming in agony to which she would make breathing – inhale/exhale – noises, instructing me to do so, and loudly smile when I did. “Nice!” Apparently, her English was getting better. (At that moment I was transported to the time when I jumped out of a plane, not understanding the little man strapped to me until we were some fifteen thousand feet up in the air when he yelled “1-2-3. Jump!” pushing me out of the plane. As I screamed, I was brought back to the immediate present.) “Mama hurt you bad. You feel better.” Twice I told her I was run over by a car while walking. She laughed a cute old woman laugh, quite obviously not understanding me. And then I screamed. “Sweet mother of mercy!” And she again instructed me to breathe. “Neck very bad. I hurt neck. You feel good… Later not now.” Her truth hurt.
The hot towel towards the end of the session soothed my aching muscles, as did the lotion she spread on me, smelling distinctly of Ben-Gay. Before the old woman left, she smiled while saying “Your body pain very too much. Come back. Mama hurt you.”
“Damn skippy, I’m going back to mama!” I thought in my head as I too smiled and one last time told her that I had been run over by a car. She laughed again as she walked away to leave the room. Apparently getting run over by a car is the punch line to jokes in Thailand.
Having decided that I will now be going only to her, I asked the young woman at the front desk the name of the woman who beat me up. “She is Jit. She our teacher.” In my mind realization became truth, “Of course she is; that explains everything.”
I walked out smelling like Ben-gay, beaming ear-to-ear, a slight spring to my step, my neck and lower back feeling better than it had in years. I was ready to brave another flight to another wedding excited for a night to celebrate and dance.
Ben-gay never smelled so good.
That night I lost three pounds by the next morning.