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Awkward Massage Etiquette Questions Answered

Have you ever wondered what your massage therapist is really thinking when you show up to your session with four days of leg stubble? Have you ever been so worried you might pass gas that it takes you half the session just to relax?

I get it. When you're undressed on a table in a small room with a virtual stranger, it can be a little ... intimate. But, I can almost guarantee you that what's driving you to distraction isn't even registering on your therapist's radar. So, take a deep breath and relax ... I'm going to answer your burning questions and demystify some massage etiquette for you.

Hairy legs (when you usually shave)

You haven't done it in a few days and there's half a week's worth of stubble there to prove it. Problem is, you completely forgot about it until you're getting undressed for your massage. Oh, the horror! What will this new therapist think?! You know what? She doesn't care. Your massage therapist will have massaged dozens of legs and they will range from smooth as an apple to a gnarled forest. Your leg stubble fazes her about as much as the color of your hair. Which is to say: Not. At. All. Men don't shave their legs, so why would your therapist mind working on a woman without perfectly smooth legs? Here's a little secret - more women than you might think simply don't shave, period. So stop feeling like you've got to be smooth as a baby's bottom or apologize for it because your legs are perfect however you walked in.

You're out of shape

You're no athlete and while you may or may not be comfortable with the skin you're in, generally speaking, you feel a little self-conscious about your recent extra pounds when you're naked on the massage table. Surely this therapist usually works with really fit and healthy people. You feel just terrible because you're sure she's having to work just a little bit harder on you than her other clients that day. Oh my gosh, stop. Nothing makes me sadder than to hear a client say they feel bad about their body. I have worked on literally thousands of bodies in my career and they have come in every size and shape imaginable. And you know what? I am infinitely grateful to each and every one of those bodies for being on my table. And, no - it is not "harder" for me to work on someone who is overweight. While there are factors that make some sessions "harder," weight is not one of them. By being on my table you are showing your body love and care, please don't temper that with self-judgment.

Was I snoring?

You fell asleep and you're pretty sure you snored Yeah, I know you did and yes, I heard it - although it wasn't nearly as loud as I'm sure you thought it was. More like a little snort. Look, my job is to relax you to the point of oblivion. If you were able to fall asleep deeply enough to let out a little snore while a virtual stranger was putting an elbow into your undressed back? Then, my friend, job well done. Think of it kind of like a burp being a compliment to the chef. Compliment accepted, thank you.

Oh my god, did I just ... pass gas?

Probably, it happens. (See above regarding my job being to relax you to the point of oblivion.) To answer your questions: No, I'm not horrified. No, I don't think you are the grossest person ever. No, it wasn't awful. No, I'm not going to tell everyone I know about that time a client farted on my table. No, I don't want to end the session. Yeah, I may have noticed it happened (or more often, probably not) but if I did, it registered briefly and faded away. (No pun intended. Well, maybe intended a little.) Take it easy, it's not the end of the world and it happens all the time.

Your hair is dirty

So what? I'm going to get some massage lotion in it at some point during and muss it all up anyway, so if it wasn't dirty already when you came in, it will be when you leave.

It's been a while since your last pedicure and your feet are a little rough.

Guess what? Most feet are, and more than a little. OK, so the lotion might not go on quite as smooth but we're talking calluses here not fungus. (By the way, if you're rocking some athlete's foot - do tell. For that one, I will avoid your feet.) Chipped toe nail polish? Good thing we're not doing a foot modeling shoot mid session I guess. Dirt on your feet? Yeah, well I wear sandals in the summer too. If you can tell me how to avoid that, then let's start a business together ... in the meantime, if it's a lot and it bothers me, I'll give your feet a wipe down with a hot towel first. No worries.

You're a little sweaty

You were rushing so you didn't show up late but it's hot out so now you're kind of sweaty. And cotton sheets are absorbent. And I also have hot towels at the ready. So don't, um, sweat it.

You need an adjustment

It would be perfect if only the therapist would use just a little bit more pressure. Or a little less. You can't fully relax because you're just too damn hot. Or cold. Your neck is at an awkward angle or your feet are going to cramp if the ankle bolster isn't moved up a little bit. You want to say something but you don't want to seem high maintenance or worse, offend your therapist. Speak up! How embarrassing for me if your whole perception of the service you received hinged on something so easily fixed as temperature or pillow positioning. I am always happy to do anything I can to accommodate a client's comfort. But, I'm not a mind reader and for most comfort issues, it is helpful to me if you kindly and verbally let me know.

Look, what you really need to know is that bodies are bodies are bodies and I have seen and touched thousands of them over the last fifteen years. No two are the same. Old, young, thin, fat, athletic, soft, hairy, smooth and everything imaginable in between. And yet no two are all that much different. We all sweat, get dirty feet, fall asleep and make a little noise. You took the time to book yourself a massage because you felt that was what your particular body needed. You took time out of your schedule to be there and money out of your wallet to pay for it. Don't waste a single precious minute of your time on the table worrying about what your therapist is thinking about your leg stubble or sleep breathing. Because I promise you, they aren't thinking anything about it.

And if you have a burning massage etiquette question that wasn't answered for you here, leave it in the comments section or find me on social media and ask away. Who knows - your question may be the feature of a future article!Did you find this article interesting, helpful or entertaining? Please leave me a comment, it makes me feel so loved! And while you're at it, be a pal and share it with a friend. Don't forget to tag...Instagram: @lifebalancemassageoakland | Twitter: @juliettewilkcmt | Facebook: @juliettewilkmassage



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Hey there, I'm Juliette (She/her) – I'm a Bodyworker and Writer.

I run a thriving massage practice in the East Bay California, where I've helped thousands of people feel amazing in their bodies.
When I'm not helping people feel better in their bodies or writing about wellness, practice-building and the messy art of being human, you can find me hanging with my family, curled up with some chocolate and a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area with my pup.

My daily grind involves battling my brain to carve out a space for healthier living, personal growth, and a pinch more self-love. It's an ongoing challenge!

Join me as I explore wellness of the head, heart and body. 

Stay curious, stay humble, stay kind.



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Juliette Wilk is a licensed and certified Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience. She runs a thriving private practice in East Bay California, where she's helped thousands of people feel better in their bodies. When she's not helping people achieve a state of bliss or writing on wellness and practice-building topics, you can find her hanging with her family and pup, curled up with a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area. Work with her or read more @


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