I can't be the only one around here who gives bad back rubs. For as long as I've had girlfriends, I've had women ask me for back massages. Maybe I give off the impression of a man who knows what he's doing with his hands, maybe I gravitate toward women with back problems.
Whatever the reason, enough women have criticized my massage skills -- or lack thereof -- to the point where I've surmised that I'm bad at giving back rubs. Hey, if I had a quarter for every time someone told me I was bad at something, I'd have enough copper Washingtons to eternally fuel my debilitating gumball addiction.
Still, what harm is there in learning a new skill? To get to the bottom of my useless monster hands and why they're so bad at rubbing, I spoke to some professional masseuses and asked them how to use my hands for good instead of evil. When sourcing answers from a number of experts, it became shockingly evident that I have no idea what I'm doing and that my attempts at massages could be more closely compared to ritualistic torture than body rubs.
Step 1: Music and oil!
My first contact, Irene, took the time to address the topic of mood when giving a massage. She spoke about using oil, music, and lighting to set the mood… which is an aspect of massages I think a lot of guys don't take the time plan.
"If you use an oil, try to use a scent that they like," she said. "Or an unscented, water-based oil, because they can shower it off afterwards. Try soft instrumental music, because -- whether you like it or not -- you'll start going to the rhythm of the music, so if it's rock, you'll go too fast."
Ben Brown of Bliss Spa in New York had equally encouraging -- and highly specific -- words, too.
"You can and should set up ambience," insisted Ben. "This is a treat and you want her to feel special. Choose fragrances (lavender, rose, jasmine, sweet orange, for example) that appeal to her senses but are not overbearing. Use soft lights or candles but not so dark that you're fumbling. Some candles double as a massage oil. Please make sure you have the right kind, otherwise you have a waxy mess. Lastly, choose music that soothes and sets the right tone. However, you can be creative with your music choices, like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot to Joep Beving, Max Richter, Chad Lawson, and Bremer/McCoy."
I thought about whether or not it was appropriate to bring up that most of my massages incorporate '90s hip-hop, but I decided against it. Next, my panel of experts talked to me about my form and style.