The little-known fact about this column, which originally ran in March 2009 (and which I like to call "Why I Still Look at Cribs at Target"), is that I had to leave out one pivotal scene.
If you've ever had a professional massage, you know that massage therapists leave the room to give you privacy to undress and get on the massage table.
Well, not this time. When I left the steam room, the massage therapist walked me down the hall in my little white towel, led me into a room, stood next to the head of the massage table and said, "You can put your towel on the chair and get up on the table."
So there I was, climbing up on the table -- knee first, of course -- naked. While a stoic Asian woman stood next to me saying, "Get up there, now. Get up there."
Ah, good times.
* * *
For my birthday back in November, my husband bought me a gift certificate for an hour-long massage.
"You should really get that massage," Jay reminded me a dozen times over the next three months. And I wanted to. What I didn't want was to admit I'd misplaced his gift. ("Misplaced sounds so much friendlier than "accidentally threw out," doesn't it?)
Eventually I ran out of excuses and called the spa — Naoko Esthetics — and asked if they'd possibly believe that I had a gift certificate that I'd lost. Turns out they didn't need to believe me because they can track these things. In fact, they were able to tell me that my husband bought the certificate two days before my birthday and that it was not only for a massage, but a steam, as well.
The steam was news to me. I'd never had one before. I told Naoko, the owner, just that when she led me to the steam room the next day.
We stared at each other a few seconds before I said, "Umm… I don't know what to do."
"Just leave your towel on this chair and sit inside," she told me. "I'll come back for you in 25 minutes."
Easy enough. I stepped inside the steam room, which looked like a big, foggy shower fitted with benches. A digital thermometer on the wall read 110 degrees and I thought, "You aren't kidding."
I'm native Minnesotan. I've Norwegian blood in my veins. I'm not bred for prolonged high temps. What if it's so hot that I pass out? I thought to myself. Worse yet, what if I get dizzy and try to leave, but pass out on the way and am left lying, naked, half in and half out of the shower?
Once I realized I was going to survive the heat, I tried to figure out what one does in a steam shower. Should I be sitting? Lying down? Leaning against the wall? Should I be meditating? Stretching? Napping?
As a rule, I'm not very good at sitting still for more than a minute or two. I tried to do some deep breathing, but I'm too easily distracted. Breathe in, one; breathe out, two, I thought. Breathe in, one; breathe out two; I wonder if this is water or sweat running down my shoulders? Smells like water. Hmmm… tastes like water. Oh, eww… look at that; I really need to start doing sit-ups. What if I lie down… will that flatten…? Yes, better.
I'd forgotten all about the breathing by the time Naoko called from the other side of the door, "Are you ready?"
"Sure," I answered, jumping to my feet.
"OK, shower," she said. And I did.
A few minutes later, I sunk lazily into the massage table under a starry, blue ceiling and Naoko's expert hands.
"This is a birthday gift?" she asked.
"When is your birthday?"
"November," I said. "The sixth."
"Ah…" she said, getting all shiatsu on my back. "You are changing your job or your residence soon?"
"No," I answered. "I don't think so."
"Yes," she corrected. "I think by your birthday in 2009, you are changing your job or your residence."
"Oh!" I answered, suddenly aware I wasn't only getting a steam and a massage — but my future, as well.
"Well, we hadn't planned on moving…"
"And I think by your birthday in 2010… no, 2011… you'll have a baby?"
"I don't think so."
"No. I mean… well, my husband doesn't want… well, no."
"I think by 2011 birthday you'll have another baby. Now, your husband — when is his birthday?"
"Ah. He's not very romantic. He's realistic."
I was about to answer "yes," but then reconsidered. He did, after all, buy me this massage. And it was shaping up to be one of my most memorable gifts yet.