If you’ve received a gift certificate for a massage as a birthday or Father’s Day gift, or just want to get one and have never pulled the trigger, it can be a little scary to think about a stranger rubbing your at least semi-naked body for an hour or more. It’s sort of an awkward scenario when you really think about it.
There has to be some unwritten rules about the whole experience, right? Indeed there are.
Your time will be far more enjoyable — for both you and the therapist — if you’re aware of this code of etiquette. Below are 8 things to keep in mind when going in for a massage.
Quick prelim point: do you choose a male or female therapist? This can be a hotly debated topic among men. If you’re straight, does having a guy massage therapist make you gay? Is having a woman akin to cheating? The answer to both is no. It just comes down to preference. Anecdotally, most guys prefer women therapists, but certainly not all. I was honestly a little worried during my first massage that it would feel weird having a woman besides my wife touching me, but it’s really not at all a sexual thing. It’s about relaxation, not seduction. That said, if it’s a problem for you, there’s nothing wrong with having a guy give you a massage. Try out both, and see what feels more comfortable.
1. Take a shower beforehand. If you were a massage therapist, would you want to be touching someone who had just come from the gym? Or from mowing the lawn and doing some landscaping work? No thank you. Get rid of the stank and arrive clean and fresh.
Your therapist will probably also be rubbing down your feet and hands, so clip your sloth nails before you go in.
2. Arrive early. Before a massage appointment, you’ll have to fill out some health background paperwork, and also talk with the therapist for just a couple minutes about what you’re looking for. Showing up right as your appointment starts means you’re actually shorting yourself on massage time. Fifteen minutes early is perfect, especially if it’s your first time. If you become a regular, 5 minutes early will be just fine.
3. Turn off your phone. Nobody wants their phone to be dinging during what’s supposed to be a relaxing 30-90 minutes. Even a vibration is often noticeable in a quiet room, so go nuclear, and shut the dang thing down. Probably needs a break anyway after being on for a few months straight.
4. Undress to your level of comfort. This is what the therapist will typically tell you before beginning the massage. They’ll leave the room, allow you to undress and get on the table, and place a sheet over your lower extremities. You’ll either undress to your underwear or down to the nude. It’s really whatever you’re comfortable with. You’re not a prude if you keep your underwear on, and you’re not a perv if you remove it. But it is easier for the therapist to work without a cloth barrier to truncate their movements (especially true if you’re wearing big, baggy boxer shorts), so you really should remove your undies if possible.
Even if you decide to go nude, your family jewels are never actually exposed. Though you’ll be asked to turn over during the massage, therapists do some nifty sheet work to keep everything under wraps as you do so.
It’s normal not to feel comfortable removing your underwear the very first time you get a massage, but you’ll probably feel more comfortable in doing so on subsequent visits. Remember that you’re dealing with a professional who sees human flesh day in and day out, and won’t find small glimpses of your buttocks weird, sexual, or at all interesting.
5. Communicate. Something uncomfortable? Let the massage therapist know. They’ll usually ask at the beginning what kind of pressure you want; if you don’t know, tell them that, then be sure to communicate whether you like what they’re doing or not. In this type of setting, it’s not at all personal.
You should also communicate at the beginning if you don’t want a certain part of your body massaged. For instance, I don’t like my feet being touched (because they’re ticklish, and I just don’t like feet), so I always let the therapist know before we start.
That all said, do you need to make conversation? Feedback is okay as just mentioned, and some small talk is acceptable as well, but you certainly shouldn’t feel the need to chat. You can if you want, but it’s also totally fine to lay there in relaxing silence, close your eyes, and just enjoy the experience. In fact, falling asleep is common, and your therapist won’t be offended at all.
6. What about bodily functions? It’s not uncommon to pass gas during a massage. You’re super relaxed after all, and sometimes it just happens. Even though you’ll probably be embarrassed if it happens, no need to be, and the therapist will ignore it.
While your therapist won’t mind a few toots, they understandably don’t want a gas bomb going off in the typically small massage room. So if you’ve got a lot of gas or need to use the bathroom, it’s okay to pause the session and visit the restroom. Same thing goes for needing to pee, or simply blow your nose. It’s okay to call a timeout.
While not common, some men do get an erection during a massage. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about (again though, you probably will be). Know that it does happen, and that your therapist will just ignore it. I had read about this before I got my first massage, and was so scared of it happening that there was no way it was going to happen.
7. Don’t ask about sexual favors (or even joke about them). Duh. Just don’t do it and don’t even make a passing joke about it. At best, you’ll offend your therapist; at worst, you’ll be kicked out, and for good.
8. Leave a tip. It’s pretty much expected to tip 15-20% these days. You can give your therapist cash directly (or leave it at the front desk), or you typically have the option to add it on to your credit card bill. If you’re using a gift certificate, bring some cash to use for your tip, unless it’s indicated that the tip has been covered as well.