“Call her, you won’t regret it!” read the text message.
The “her” in question was Anu, a masseuse schooled in the art of post-partum massage. New moms all over the tri-state area swore by her for themselves and their infants.
This is going to be great! I enthused, envisioning myself blissfully floating on a comfy massage table while a white-coated professional soothed my aches away. My back and shoulders really needed some platonic lovin'.
On the day of, I excitedly opened the front door to be greeted by a squat, no-nonsense woman, sans folding massage table. She bustled in and immediately demanded to be shown to my pantry. Er, okay.
“Vhere is mush-tard oil?”
“What? I have olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil…truffle oil…?” I helpfully suggested.
“No. Mush-tard. Good for the strength” she exclaimed, pounding her chest with vigour.
Huh? Was she going to use it as a base to diffuse lavender essence? After much searching through the depths of my cabinets, we finally happened upon a small bottle of totally sealed mustard oil (Where did this oil come from? Who had brought it? We'll never know.)
Warming it for a few seconds in the microwave, she shot me a quick glance.
“Naked. On floor.”
Yeeeah, no. She must not know how this works. I slip off my robe and lie down on a comfortable surface, all undergarments intact. If I actually tried to get a massage without my nursing bra on, it would be madness! They might fall off me. And what is all this floor bull? Does she know how much a new mom's boobs hurt even lying facedown on a soft mattress?!
We negotiated. Bra? “No nuthing.” Lie down on the bed? “No, floor only.” A soothing essential oil blend? “No.” Right, she said that already.
There I stood shivering in the middle of the nursery, feeling like I had just lost the world's least fun strip-poker game. I suppose the fact that I managed to keep my undies on was a small victory.
Having prepared her materials, the masseuse turned to me. "Hot HIGH," she said, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Oh! I was disarmed for a moment. A most unexpected compliment from this stony-faced matron?
No. A direction to blast the heat in the room.
I timidly lay down on our makeshift massage mat (a yoga mat lined with one of the old towels we use for Hudson), too scared to close my eyes (anytime someone's about to touch you and they take the time to ferociously push their sleeves up to their elbows, be worried.) She poured the oil into my belly-button, and I calmed. She MUST know what she's doing. The actual massage will be fabulous, right? I waited for the soothing magic her hands were sure to finally bring.
Tears sprung to my eyes. What the hell was this?! It was like she had a personal vendetta against my uterus and was determined to make it groan in pain. As her incredibly strong, calloused hands scraped their way across my body, I vowed she wouldn’t be allowed near my baby.
"Um, can you do it with less pressure? It's hurting me," I croaked.
Of course. Why did I even ask?
Sixty excruciating minutes later, the utterly non-sexual, female Christian Grey declared we were done. Why did she not look satisfied?
“Stomach dark. Not good. I DO!”
What? Please...please don’t come near me again, especially not my stomach, I begged inwardly, too frightened to move in case one of her muscular arms shot out to hold me in place. I didn’t think I could handle being pummeled any further.
There was no point in arguing. I was to stay put until she was happy with my belly, the color of which was the very least of my problems with this particular body part. She disappeared into the kitchen for some time, no doubt perplexing my mother with her culinary requests for chickpea flour and yet more oil. Returning with a doughy mixture of the two, she proceeded to scrub my belly with this dough, pausing every so often wonder at the difference it was making to my skin color.
“See?” She proudly held up a darkened dough ball for me to examine. It was amazing. My stomach, which since the delivery had been a few shades darker than the rest of me, was returning to its normal skin tone!
This was wonderful…almost worth going through an hour of pain and discomfort! When she was satisfied she looked at me and queried, “Head?” before grabbing my skull in between her palms and vigourously rubbing our seemingly never-ending supply of mustard oil into it. I closed my eyes and tried to distract myself with quadratic equations (No, not solving them...wondering what they were, did I ever learn them in school? How come we were always told that we would need these math skills and I've never used them? Have you? Kiss my x, you liars).
Finally, reeking of fried food, greased up, and exhausted, we were finished. Remember that Kim Kardashian shoot that almost broke the internet? The one where she was drenched in oil? Yeah, she probably got that look from me. It was like, the same, except for the lack of makeup, a very rounded belly instead of toned abs, and in lieu of champagne we had breast-milk dripping everywhere. You're welcome, world (and Kim K).
I couldn’t wait to jump into the shower and wash this crap off me. I couldn't possibly get any less attractive; thank God Andy was at the office. My skin, the rag that used to be a decent pair of Victoria's Secrets, and my towel were all stained an unseemly shade of dirty yellow (dog pee on old snow kind of yellow). Sigh, it was not to be.
The masseuse glared at me disapprovingly.
“No. No bath.”
What?! Apparently one is supposed to let the oil's "strength" sink into the skin for an undetermined period of time. At this rate I’d never be able to scrub the stench off me. Hmm, this might be the best ever form of birth control. As I reluctantly put on my robe, wondering if I should just stand on the yoga mat for 20 minutes until I could shower, since I couldn't bear to contaminate any other surface of my apartment, the door opened and in walked Andy.
Hit by the heat of the room and the mustardy fumes, he took in the strange tableau before him and whispered a bemused "Hello" to the masseuse.
She held his gaze and declared slowly,
“I. Do. You. Now.”