Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Touching (Or, Shouldn't you buy me dinner before polishing my nails?)

Yesterday, I let a strange man massage my hands and arms. Then I let him do the same to my feet.

Okay, so maybe this isn't so strange to those of you fortunate enough to afford manicures and pedicures, but this experience got me thinking...

It’s really rather personal. When we start a relationship, that first touch of the hands can be sensual and exciting as we feel the warmth of the other person’s pulse and the comfort of their grasp. The human connection is beautiful. But when physical intimacy is part of a business deal, all the rules change.
There I was at the Venetian Nail Salon, where a crew of nail technicians – both male and female – miraculously always manages to repair my nasty cuticles and make my hands look clean and professional looking. For that, I am grateful. But this particular day, as I sat there during the hand and arm massage portion of the manicure (and later the foot and leg massage), I realized how strange the moment was.
It wasn't my first manicure with this particular technician; in fact, I request him whenever he is available precisely because I like his massages. I wanted to tell him how good it felt; you know, offer positive feedback. But it felt wrong to say such words. I made sure not to breathe differently or sigh at all for fear of sounding turned on, which I wasn’t. I was simply relaxed and appreciating his amazing touch. But since he wasn’t a native English speaker and we, therefore, hadn’t had any conversation, I felt awkward. Our faces were no more than 24 inches apart, but our eyes worlds away from each other. No eye contact at all. He was professionally absent.
Yes, money changes everything. Not unlike prostitution, I imagine, the business arrangement turns intimacy into something technical and honesty into superficiality. Of course, if I hadn’t been paying for the service in the salon, I would have never let the nail tech massage my arms and legs in the first place. Still, the moment felt void of humanity, but I’m not sure what could have been done differently.

What do you think? Are you comfortable with such disconnected touching? Or are you relieved by it?


  1. I feel weird getting a pedi. I've never had a man do it,but I am sure he would appreciate you telling him that he does a great job every time you go in.

  2. Thank goodness for professional relationships!
    My doctor has been places that just would not be comfortable otherwise!

  3. I get foot massages from Asian massage therapists, both men and women. Each therapist has a unique touch and technique, even though they work at the same office. I never would even think of treating them differently or thanking a man more or less than I thank a woman after an hour of massage.