I think it’s important to note right off the bat that I’ve never been a very big massage person. It wasn’t part of my common vernacular growing up. I never got them after sporting events, never got them even when I ran half-marathons. I just never had a frame of reference for them. But after all the things that I had voluntarily done to myself already, I was happy to find something that I could pay someone else to do to me that required absolutely no effort on my own. But if I’m being honest, the first time that someone described what Kiki was going to do to my body, I laughed a little inside and I’m sure looked scared on the outside. But after the way things had turned out with the saunas and cold tubs, I figured I didn’t have that much to lose. If it was awful, I had a story to tell. If it was great, I’d have a new option for feeling better. And if it was just meh, it was still a woman putting her hands all over me. Ted Williams only hit .400 in his best season ever. I’m starting somewhere above .600 and I don’t even have to swing a bat to get there.
Quite frankly, that mixture of fear and amusement is a pretty common theme in my life. I have to break here to tell you the awful truth about my reaction to pain. I laugh. The more it hurts the more I laugh. I have no idea how my wires got so screwed up but here we are. I once had a wart on my knee; I guess it’s still there for reasons you’ll soon understand. I happened to be staying with my folks for a weekend. My wife and child had joined me. My mother saw me picking at said wart and decided she had just the thing to take that ugly old barnacle right off of my knee cap. She disappeared into her medicine closet (seriously, it’s an entire set of shelves in their bathroom which is covered from beginning to end in all manner of cure-alls) and came back with something that looked an awful lot like an inhaler. I guess a part of me figured maybe this was the beginning of my Mother’s long downhill slope into alzheimers. That was not the case. She had brought out a device that was supposed to freeze the wart directly off of my knee in real time. Now you’re definitely thinking freezing a wart off an adult body is an easy thing to do, yes? Oh god no. That’s not the case at all. As I mentioned above, when I feel pain, I laugh. And when I laugh, my whole body moves. I know, insert fat guy joke here. But it’s not the jiggly bounce you’re perhaps imagining, pervert. It’s more of a writhing, pained look accompanying fits and bouts of laughter.
So what actually happened is this. My mother pressed that jim dandy of a misery device up against the skin and the slow agonizing burn spread across my knee cap like a portugese man of war settling an old score. The only problem with my laughter is that it’s contagious; you know, like crabs! You don’t want to do it but you really can’t stop yourself. I’m a pretty but somewhat slutty girl who’s decided it’s time to go home now and you’re just enough to do for the night. My laughter turns into the laughter of those around me. My loving mother guffaws with that god awful gizmo pressed up against my skin. And with her laughter, comes the not so subtle movement of shoulders. And as her shoulders move, so does the device in hand. At this point, each new contact point hits a differing spot on my knee. Which is a fresh hell of blinding pain which causes more laughter and so on and so forth. I ended up looking like an abused child with welts all over my knee but no actual service done to the wart itself. I’m not sure what any of this says about me, but whatever they eventually determine is wrong with me, it’ll probably hard to spell and even harder to cure.
Anyway, back to Kiki. The way PEMF massage thing was explained to me is this: Kiki’s going to stand on a conduction plate. From the conduction plate she’ll draw electricity and shoot it through my body like a mortal combat character. And that electrical surge is supposed to break up the facia that surrounds the muscle and in turn allows said muscles “to come back to life.” I didn’t know muscles could die without the rest of my body following suit. I mean, I’m a lawyer by trade, so I guess I already know the soul and spirit can die without killing off the host.
I’m sure you have questions. I did too. I’ll attempt to address them before you have to actually ask them. First, you may very reasonably be asking yourself what exactly a condition plate is? There’s a simple and short answer. it conducts electricity. And it looks like a plate. Isn’t it weird when the name for a thing defines itself – like waterfall. You’re not dumb for asking these questions. I certainly had to myself. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re spectacularly dumb in your own way but don’t get down about it just over this.
The second question is even more pragmatic: Huh? Believe it or not, it’s pretty straightforward from here. The conduction plate sits on the floor and is hooked to a box that takes electricity out of the wall socket and then somehow passes it directly into the plate at a much lower and usable voltage. Once the electricity passes into the plate, our erstwhile massage steps up on to the plate and harnesses the POWER OF THE UNIVERSE AS ONLY A GOD CAN. I’m joking a little. She does allow the electricity to flow through her body and uses her hands to focus the energy. More simply, she lays her hands on certain spots on your body and let’s the electricity do the majority of the heavy lifting. It doesn’t hurt a bit at first and quite frankly feels a whole lot like a reflex test in a doctors office. But, you know, with a lady shooting electricity into your body and making up words like psoas to scare you.
The science on this one is pretty straight forward. This is a recharge for the entire body. It lights up the cells and gets things moving all around the body. According to Bryant A. Meyers, author of PEMF – The Fifth Element of Health, PEMF works by “improving adenosine triphosphate [ATP] production, increasing oxygenation, enhancing circulation, promoting hydration, facilitating detoxification.” So what does mean in plain English>? Think of it this way. PEMF uses good electrical frequencies to focus healing which in turn promotes health and wellness. Simple right? Ideally, every single cell in your body should have a negative charge on the wall of the cell. To keep all this going, things like potassium and magnesium have to be contained in the cells, while calcium and sodium ideally stay outside the cell wall. There’s a lot going on with the cells at all times but the charge is one of the more important matters that’s dealt with every second of every day inside your body. And listen, this isn’t exactly news. I mean we’ve all come across folks who get an unbelievable amount of relief from using a TENS unit. It sends electrical signals to muscles to tell them to just relax a bit. It theoretically causes the blood to move around the body.
And frankly maybe that’s what a lot of these procedures are aimed at anyway. When the blood moves, just like when our body moves, it allows all the bad shit we pile in there to find its way out much faster. It’s like that dickhead who microwaves fish in an office environment – you know you have to get rid of him immediately – it’s just a question of which path you’re going to use at the end of the day. And the funniest part about this whole maneuver is where some of these items even come from to begin with. According to that bastion of medical research, Wikipedia, veterinarians became the first health professionals to use PEMF therapy, usually to attempt to heal broken legs in racehorses. So you know, that basically makes me a thoroughbred. I always knew I was a stallion.
In any event, I met Kiki for the first time at a friend’s second house. The experience had been briefly described to me by one of those friends well beforehand. My wife had already been at least once and said she felt really great coming out of the experience. So what did I have to lose save a little dignity. And let’s be honest, I don’t have very much of that left around any of these people to begin with so I might as well just lean in.
Our friends have a place they call The Lab™ . The Lab™ is really a spare house (have I mentioned that I have weird friends). It has couches and furniture, and looks very much like a home that no one ever lived in. It’s a beautiful place as well as functional and smart. So when I walked in and saw a massage table set up in the living room, I thought, Okay, how bad could this really be? When I noticed next was the giant conduction box sitting on the counter. I looked at Kiki and back to the transformer box and thought this doesn’t seem like the type of thing that I’m going to enjoy. I was again assured by those around me that I would absolutely love this experience despite my hesitancy. I was reminded that this is exactly what Kiki does for a living and makes lots of money doing it in places where people can afford to have just about anything they want done to their body. And they apparently choose this regularly.
Now, I’ll tell you, my thoughts on massage are and were fairly traditional. The only other massage that ever had was in Costa Rica. My wife talked me into something called a couples massage, which does not end the way that you think it’s going to end. It is in fact not a sexy role playing scenario where you take turns touching naughty bits while speaking in a terrible spanish accent. “Ju like dat, ju so goot at dis.” Despite my obvious disappointment, I took off all my clothes anyway. It seemed rude to disappoint the expectant faces of the masseuses waiting for us in the couple massage area. I was a little frustrated that the entire concept of a couples massage seems to be two intimately familiar people lying roughly ten feet apart with no present intent to interact or touch. If that’s romance, then my bedroom every night around 9 pm is basically The Notebook running on loop.
Keep in mind, I am not a petite anything. I do not bend in proper or pleasing ways. There is nothing panther like about me. Once I had maneuvered my body onto the bed and lain face down, the fun began. Keep in mind I can only see feet at this point. And the feet I saw were tiny and encased in orthopaedic rubber soled shoes. I could tell the poor woman was small because I could see the traditional hem of the maid’s uniform underneath the table as she moved back and forth setting up. She even sounded small when she spoke to me in hushed tones. She greased up my back, took a deep, unabiding breathe, and then proceeded to give me the grossest, lightest touch humanly possible. I don’t think I’ve ever been freaked out by something like that before in my life. Except midget porn. Now, I don’t know how much midget porn you… You know what, let’s not go down that road. We’re better up here on the high road.
The Costa Rican massage was underwhelming to say the least. What I did notice after the fact was I didn’t feel any different. I mean, I felt like my wallet was lighter and I’d been had. But beyond that… I applauded their creativity in finding new and different ways to take money out of my pocket without strong arming the intended victim. In any event, massages, as they say, we’re just not my thing. Moving forward, I was promised that this PEFM massage idea was life changing. The last time I had my life changed, it turned out pretty well for me so I guess we’ll just lean in and hope for the best. What’s the worst that can happen. Right?
Kiki had me sit on a chair, stripped naked to the waist. And she began running current through my shoulders and back. Now I will tell you, it doesn’t feel like you think it’s going to feel. At first, all you can feel is shudders; it’s as if you can feel your eyes move with the current. You can feel flutters and kicks. It essentially feels like you had a burrito for lunch. But instead of having gas in your stomach, you’ve got gas, well, all over your body. But what I noticed was next to nothing. I didn’t feel much of anything at all. She grabbed one of my fingers by the very tip and asked if I could feel the electricity working. No. She grabbed the next finger, scowled at me a little bit, and said can you feel that? No, again. And then finally, she grabbed the end of my thumb and said, Can you feel that? I said no one last time and thought about all the other times I had been on the other end of that conversation. I totally understood her disappointment. If she had disappointment, it certainly didn’t show. If anything, I think it doubled her resolve.
In fact, the only thing she imparted to me was “Wow, we have a lot of work to do.” Well, no shit, you’ve got a shaved bear half naked on a portable stool. Of course we have a lot of work to do. “You probably haven’t turned the box on yet,” I said. That was my mistake; gotta own that one. My mouth definitely got way ahead of my brain. That was my “your sister does it better because…” moment.
The next thing she did was turn the box up. Way up. Like way the fuck up. And brother let me tell you, that box contains hell. It was like being set on fire, except there was no pain just convulsions. Now, I’m sure she did it like that because she’s a sadist and maybe a serial killer. I’ll tell you the easiest thing you can do when sitting through one of these massages is get drowsy. She doesn’t like for that to happen. So she describes things to you like your psoas or your occipital. You hear those words and your immediate reaction should be “I’m not sure I want you to touch any of those things. I don’t even know where either of things reside but it’s certainly not taught in any biology or physiology class I’ve taken.” But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is that she has a metal scraping tool that she threatens to use to get into deep dark spots you don’t talk about at cocktail parties or reunions. Or maybe you do. Can I come to your cocktail parties please? I’m tired of hearing about other people’s children. I’ve met them, Clark. They’re dicks.
I would describe the psoas to you but I think science can do a better job than redneck me. The psoas major (from “the Greek”: ψόας – psóās: ‘of the loins’, genitive singular form of ψόα – psóa ‘the loins’) is a long, fusiform muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the lesser pelvis. It joins the iliacus muscle to form the iliopsoas. None of that makes any sense to me and probably not to you either. So I’d call it gooch adjacent. Or maybe the lower lip of the chopper pad. In layman’s terms, it’s the taint’s wraparound porch. In any event, it’s not a place I want Kiki shoving her electric fingers without at least dinner and some drinks first.
I’ve now had 6 of these sessions and not once has she missed an opportunity to threaten to massage my psoas. Each time I scrunch up a little bit more inside. It’s like an ab workout you never see coming. But the honest to god truth is this: You sit up and the sadist massages your neck and back. Then you lie on each side and your legs are taken care of in turn. In an hour, it really doesn’t feel that bad. And when you’re done – you feel almost new. Perhaps even renewed Not like shiny of course, but at least restored to some semblance of your adolescent physical condition. I think the biggest thing about this experience that I can take away is that it should produce some modicum of fear and loathing. It really just doesn’t. In fact, it’s at worst a pleasant chat with the masseuse. There’s not a whole lot of movement. It’s just an hour spent having low level current run through your body with the hope that the extra umph of the electricity will help your body jump start the healing process. And it actually feels pretty good once you get past the idea that you are LITERALLY BEING ELECTROCUTED. By a sadist. Who enjoys pained looks and watching you strain to get away.
I really did feel better when it was over. Having not had a multitude of massage experience in the past, I didn’t really know how to judge things. What I felt was loose when finished. And relaxed. And maybe even a little lighter. I think paying that much attention to my body had benefits I hadn’t foreseen. Things that just seem normal, like a pain in a particular part of your back, can be linked back to specific causes and then worked on. It seems silly to have to be told that particular part because it seems so simple. But honestly, I just hadn’t thought it through and had no frame of reference. When Kiki made contact with a point of pain, she was able to ask pointed questions about what I was doing in my daily life that might be the cause of the problem. I took note as we moved through the sessions and the extra attention helped me focus in on some actions I was taking that just didn’t make sense. From the way I sat to the way I walked, every little movement was analyzed unconsciously in a way I had heretofore not known to do. And with God as my witness, I was able to start nailing down some pretty easy fixes on my own that saved me a ton of annoyance throughout my day. Simple acts, like standing and stretching became fashionable in my little world. Hell, I even slept a little better because I could think through what might hurt depending on the way I laid.
Maybe the takeaway here for me is that this one seemed like it had some actual real life science behind it. And I can poke fun all I want but the experience is frankly pretty incredible. I don’t think that this service is going to work for everyone. You may already be so loosey goosey that none of this would be helpful at all. In that case, please also skip the chapter on hot yoga because it absolutely will not appeal to you in any way unless you enjoy hotboxing jokes and creative references to holding in farts. But frankly, if you’ve gotten this far already, you’re probably an enthusiast like me. So keep reading. And this is perhaps my greatest advice to those considering the treatment: pee first. First, you just really shouldn’t miss an opportunity at your age. And second, there is nothing that little sadist liked more than hearing “I think a little pee just came out.”