My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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a massage in Venice

Coming home from USC on Thursday, i thought my arm was going to fall off. The pain eminating from my back was brutal and i could barely see for the headache that it produced. I didn’t know any massage therapists in LA but i had seen a place or two on Lincoln that advertised massage. As i drove past one of them, i caught the number in neon and called it. A ?Korean? woman answered and i asked if they had availability. She asked when and i said 10 minutes and she said sure. When i entered the building, my headache was wrecking me so i pretty much ignored a lot of obvious signs. Being stared at. The gate between the front room and back room. Having to pay upfront. The price being surprisingly high for non-shishi massage joint. Being asked on the form if i was single or married. Being asked if i wanted to take a shower. Being escorted to a room without getting to meet the massage therapist first.

I lied down under the sheet. The massage therapist started massaging me over the sheet which is odd but ::shrug:: i couldn’t be picking in the pain i was in. I’m trying to explain to her that my shoulder wants to fall off; she doesn’t speak much English but i point and she digs in so i just relax. She pounds away at it. Not the world’s best (or frankly trained) massage, but ::shrug:: Anything would make that knot better and she had the pressure thing down. Plus, she did a bunch of it with her heels using the handle bars on the ceiling. At one point, she asks me if i want a front massage too. Uhh… i stumble. Then she asks me if i’m Christian. At this point, i realize why my presence was so odd. I respond quickly with a YES! to the Christian question and proceeded to blush crimson into the massage table. I continued to play stupid and she continued to work out my dreadful knot from hell (successfully) until the hour was up.

When she finished and i got dressed, there was a lot of awkwardness but i just continued to bumble around and tipped her (well). She was very thankful and made it very very clear that i’m welcome back whenever. I said thank you and blushed and left.

I can’t help but wonder what actually goes on there. I was telling this story to some friends and one of them pointed me to this SF Chronicle series on sex trafficking and i wanted to die. I really hope that the nice woman who got rid of that knot doesn’t have to go through days like the story depicts.

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11 comments to a massage in Venice

  • LOL,

    Its pretty clear whats NOT being taught in certian PhD programs. Very funny story. Would it have been less embarrassing if you had left? Was the knot that bad or the message that good?

    Siddiq

  • What a great story. Desperate times call for desperate measures? LOL. Even the brainest of people fall short sometimes.

  • Joe

    Being Christian saved you! 🙂

    (was going to write a cheesy Ted Haggard joke, but decided against it)

  • My mother is a complementary therapist (sadly she works in West London, UK — no good for you!).

    She does Swedish/Holistic/Deep-tissue massage (ie what you and me think of as ‘massage’), Indian head massage (back, neck and shoulders) and reflexology (pressure points on your feet that correspond to parts of your body).

    I know from talking to her about her business that people in her industry don’t promote themselves as offering ‘massage’ because of the conitations the word has, and frankly the amount of sex-related business that goes on under that term.

    I’m sure these terms apply internationally and as such if you’re ever looking for ‘genuine’ professionals in this area the terms to look for are either ‘complementary therepy’ or one of the specific types of massage listed above.

    I personally like Indian Head Massage because it concentrates on the areas prone to issues from computer use. In fact it’s quite normal to ask someone performing Indian Head Massage to concentrate on your neck, shoulders and back and maybe even also work on your lower arms and wrists (which can stop carple tunnel syndrome and RSI).

    My mother is ITEC qualified (a UK qualification) for which she had to complete 6 months of medical study to gain a diploma in anatomy and physiology and then further study in each of her massage specialisms.

    I think the National Center for Complementrary and Alternative Medicine lists similarly qualified practitioners in the USA. Having someone perform massage on you who is not qualified can actually make the problem worse, especially if you have trapped nerves etc. Unless they’re manipulating your skeleton or spine (like an osteopath) they probably shouldn’t be using their feet either – but don’t quote me on that.

    Someone who is a professional in this area should have their qualification certificates on the wall of their treatment center and should really be wearing some-kind of medical uniform – although a number of ‘up-market’ complementary therapy and spa centers in London have their staff wear plain black clothing and I know that’s common elsewhere.

    Sorry, this comment is getting a bit long but the final thing I want to say is anyone who works on a computer regularly should definitely have regular massages – at least one a month. I can’t tell you how much better you feel after one, and finding someone who will work on your wrists and fingers to prevent RSI or carpel tunnel is probably worth the $100-$150 an hour of therapy might cost.

    danah, give me a shout off-line if you want me to put you in touch with my mother who might be able to recommend what kind of therapy you should be looking for.

  • hi. lari. ous.

    well, at least she worked out that knot in your back.

  • metoo

    LOL. Pretty much the same thing happened to me once in San Francisco. Though in my case the ‘masseuse’ didn’t ask if I was Christian. What finally tipped me off for certain–after I got increasingly confused/suspicious–was when she took off her shirt.

    (And, um, full disclosure: despite my repeated awkward mumbling of “I just want a massage” to her broken english responses, the ‘massage’ turned into a hand job. I then tipped her and got out of there as fast as I could.)

  • Bertil

    Can’t help thinking of that scene in the Barbarian Invasions (The sequel to The Decline of the American Empire). . .
    I’m mostly sorry for one thing: how are you arm, back and head now?

  • Best massage on the west side is the Massage Therapy Center on Sawtelle: ttp://www.massagenow.com/gcindex

    But you should come to a Board Mtg soon! 🙂

  • Check out the California Healing Arts College on Santa Monica Blvd, just West of Bundy — http://www.chac.edu/ — very ethical, good people. Students learning their trade. Prices are great, too, and there’s a killer Tokyo-style sushi place right there. Yum!

  • Charlotta

    yoga and massage are actually one of the best relaxation tools! But massage should be performed by a skillful practitioner, the best – by registered massage therapist (they go to school for 2 years and know every muscle and all the techniques), unless, of course, you want a “sensual massage”, which is completely different! 😉

  • Well, there is a big difference between “massage girls” and real professional therapeutic services in Swedish massage. It’s very sad that this great profession , which helps people cope with pains and stress, is given a bad name because of “massage girls”…