How Naked Can I Get?

It’s your first massage therapy session! How exciting! It can be pretty nerve-wracking, too. Probably you don’t know this massage therapist very well. And now they’re asking you to undress to the level of your comfort! WHAT IF YOU ARE NOT VERY COMFORTABLE BEING UNDRESSED.

Well, the first good news is that the therapist is going to leave the room to let you undress in private. Legit RMTs are not interested in seeing you between the states of clothed and snuggled comfortably between the sheets of the massage table.

Second, ‘to the level of your comfort’ is exactly that. The only caveat is that if you choose to wear no shirt but keep the bra on, that bra really is best coming off. Not because RMTs are creepy and weird, but because we don’t want to get oil or lotion on your nice underthings, nor do we want to risk snapping the straps or otherwise wrecking your clothes.

So let’s talk underwear for a second, whether it be thongs, panties, briefs, boxers or those stretchy mid-thigh-length things that rugby players wear. Is it best to keep them on or take them off?

GUESS WHAT

IT DON’T MATTER NONE

Really! Either there’s enough slackness in the material that the RMT will casually tuck the top sheet into the underthing and hike it up a little so they can get to that skin underneath, or they can just keep the sheet over top of the underthing and work through both sets of fabrics.

“Well then why not do the entire massage like that?” you ask.

You can. It’s a thing you can do. Because it’s your massage and you are in control of what gets done to your body.

But going back to the why, there’s a couple of reasons. Most massage techniques involves a lot of wringing the muscles and sliding along the muscles and stretching the muscles. Fabric gets in the way of how much wringing and sliding and stretching can be done. The movements will be a lot shorter because the collar of your shirt is pulling against your neck, because jeans aren’t terribly stretchy, because we don’t want to ruin your clothes by stretching them out or wrinkling them terribly. Also you’ll be a sweaty mess at the end and have to go home like that.

(“But Thai massage is done through the clothes!”

So is craniosacral therapy. I’m talking about Swedish massage. They all have different techniques suited to what’s being worn. Calm yo’self.)

Back to underwear’s special status. Many of the massage techniques used on the glutes function equally well clothes or unclothed. Unless you have a specific problem in your glute that you want worked on, the RMT’s hands and elbows can remain fairly static on the glute muscles and still do a decent job of working out the kinks. Underwear fabric tends to be stretchy enough that it’s not going to interfere with the range of motion the RMT wants to get.

Also, some people just don’t want their butt skin being touched or don’t like the thought of their genitals being ‘out there’ (please note: they will never be Out There. Genital massage is not a thing that gets done. Ever).

“Won’t the therapist be weirded out if I’m not wearing underwear, though?”

Nope! We don’t care. Your sensitive bits are always covered up anyway (‘sensitive’ being the genital area, the gluteal cleft [or ‘buttcrack’] and nipples [except during breast massage, which needs special and specific consent beforehand, and in any case the nipples and areolae aren’t touched]), so it’s not like we’re missing out.

Let’s recap: in a Swedish massage (which is the standard massage, using oils or lotions), you’ll be expected to undress. Bras need to come off. Underwear is optional.

So now the RMT is out of the room and you’re feeling a breeze. There’s a massage table with sheets and a blanket and pillows and some sort of doughnut-thing at one end. AW SHIT NOW WHAT?

Get yourself between the sheets! That doughnut-thing is for your head when you’re lying on your stomach. Put your face in it. The pillow should be under the bend at your ankles. If there’s another pillow for your stomach, it should… I dunno, be somewhere that feels all right? I hate using stomach pillows, but whatever. The RMT is knocking on the door. You’re ready to be massaged!

OR ARE YOU?

Remember when I said to get between the sheets? Remember when I said your sensitive bits are always covered up? Now is not the time to play Helpful Hector with your RMT and leave your butt hanging out for them to gaze upon when they return. They will not thank you. Pull those sheets up and let the RMT uncover what they need to work on. Butt cracks should remain a mystery.

So the RMT has finished working on the first side. It’s time to get turned over and continue this sometimes baffling ballet of How Much Naked Is Naked?

Well, the RMT is going to make sure the sheets are up to your neck and down past your toes and there’s a lovely foot or so of cloth on either width-wise. They’re going to hold onto the sheets while you execute a graceful turn onto your back. You’ll need to scootch down the table so that pillow is now under your knees and your head is out of that doughnut-thing. What comes next?

Next is you leave that sheet where it is. You can move your arms to be out of the sheets if you’re feeling a bit warm, or you can adjust the top so it’s not choking you, but don’t give the RMT an eyeful of your rippling chest and certainly don’t shove the sheets down to your waist. Let your nipples be as unto your butt crack.

“But I’m constipated and need my abdomen worked on and the RMT said we’d be doing abdominal massage and I’m too hot and I want to be helpful!”

And all that will be noted in your file! But if you’re too hot we can just remove the blanket or uncover your feet or put a cool damp towel on your forehead. When the RMT needs to work on the stomach region, they’ll put a towel over your chest and in a dazzling display of magician-like talent slip the sheets out from under it and leave your nipples in the dark. It doesn’t matter if they’re man-nipples. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a mastectomy and there are no nipples left. Is it the region where nipples are traditionally viewed? Then it stays covered. Those are the rules the RMT governing college has laid out and your whinging is not worth our career.

“BUT I WANT TO BE HELPFUL!”

Listen.

RMTs

fucking

hate

to be helped

when it’s not asked for.

#

It should go without saying at this point, but wait for the RMT to leave the room at the end of the treatment before you hop off the table.

#

Let’s recap! How naked can you get? AS NAKED AS YOU WANT! Just as long as your nakedness stays between the sheets.

The Soul-Crushing Conundrum About Proper Tipping

Oh man, you want to tip us? Thank you.

Thank you.

While (hopefully) not dependent on tips in the way those in more servicey service industries are, I think we can all agree that extra money is not something to be sneezed at. However, as with literally everything that exists about massage therapy (except for the rule about not having sex with your clients), there is always room for discord and different opinions.

Let us now navigate the thorny mixed metaphorical waters of tipping in the massage industry.

What is a good tip? How little can you get away with while not looking cheap? How little can you get away with and don’t care about looking cheap? Can you not do it at all?

Well guess what!

IT DEPENDS.

(get used to hearing that phrase)

I’ve worked at a spa where tipping was verboten. Completely not allowed. Like ‘gets you fired if anyone finds out’ not allowed. This policy was on the website’s FAQs page. There was probably a discreet placard at the front desk stating this. Basically (this is what we the staff were told), the idea is that the client pays for their service/s up front and doesn’t have to worry about any ‘surprise’ additional charges when they were ready to leave in a cloud of blissful zombieism. What clients were also told is that we the staff got good enough wages that we didn’t need tips. (At the time we got paid a minimal wage for our non-massaging time, on the premise that we would be doing various chores around the spa.) Whether or not this latter excuse was true didn’t make a difference: tipping was right out and so help you if you left a little something in our rooms when you left. A couple times that happened, we brought it to the front desk and had them put the money on the client’s account, ’cause $20 is not worth our job. But thank you!

(Remind me to do a comic about the client who left me a Bible day planner as a ‘tip’.)

However!

I’ve also interviewed at a hotel where tips (rather, gratuities, thank you) were added onto the service/s. Like 18%? Again, it was on their website. They would like your money, thank you, and they are going to be upfront about getting it. Which is cool! Oh man 18% on high-end hotel massage prices would be pretty nice.

However!

Currently I’m working at a place that has no tipping policy. Which is to say, tips aren’t mandatory but we accept them anyway, because we have big ol’ accepting hearts.

However!

This can cause confusion. Since we don’t have a policy, we don’t state our policy. WHAT TO DO?

assssssssssssk.

Just ask. Never be embarrassed or ashamed to ask.

Is there money involved? Then yes, ask ask ask, very good idea to know what is expected.

Now, because I am a kind-hearted and sweet-tempered individual who would never ever wish to fleece the unknowing public, I’ma offer you a couple ways you can go about tipping that hopefully leaves everyone, client and therapist, satisfied.

First, you can go by percentage. I tell people to do whatever they do at a restaurant (while adding off-hand that that’s in the 10%-15% range, because I know some of you have no regard for waitstaff).

Second, the $2.50-per-15 rule, which I made up, so don’t expect to find it referenced anywhere else. What this means is, for every 15 minutes of massage, add a $2.50 tip. Getting a half hour massage? That’s a $5 tip. 90 minute massage? $15 tip. 45 minutes? $7.50. When clients ask me though, I tend to say $5 per half hour and hope for the best. It’s the same thing, but $5 is easier to parse in a hurry than $2.50.

Third – you can not tip, too, and that’s okay! That’s why there’s the little NO option beside the YES option on the POS machine. (Or, as I invariably call it, the money-taking machine. I have a highly technical mind.)

“WHAT!” I hear you yell, outraged. “NO tipping? AT ALL? These people!”

Well, quite frankly, while I super do love extra money and like it when people show their appreciation and gratitude for a job well done with cold hard cash, the thing is, if shit ain’t mandatory, you can’t really complain when you ask for volunteers and no one steps up.

Alternately, I’ve heard a couple RMTs says that they don’t accept tips as a personal thing anyway, because massage therapy should be seen as equal with things like doctoring and dentistry, and THOSE professions don’t sully themselves with taking filthy unearned extra lucre, and if you take tips then aren’t you worried that the clients will be worried that you’ll treat them differently and give different goodness of skill of massage during their treatments and isn’t it shameful how tipping equates us with such ‘professions’ as waitstaff and aestheticians and-

BRAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Brah.

Chill.

sounds like you could use a massage

Now, even though I love me some free money, there are definitely ways you can give someone free money and still come off as douchey and insulting. (Remarkable, ain’t it?) Like, say, if you get an hour massage whose total comes to, like, $97 and you give the RMT a hundred-dollar bill and winsomely tell them to “keep the change”.

gee

can you spare it

If you do wish to tip (which you don’t have to!) (unless it’s stated you do!), at the very least, throw in $5. If that seems like too much effort, or hey, if you super don’t have the extra money and this is all through insurance or WHATEVERRRRRRRRR. then… just don’t tip.

I mean, I’m going to take your money regardless. It’s mine now. That 8 cents? You’re not getting it back. You gave it to me. hsss, fffft.

(Yes seriously $0.08 on debit, plus $3 cash for an hour massage. No I do not understand the thought process there either.)

So that’s how to tip! Don’t! Or, preferably, do! Or, ask!

Money etiquette, amirite??