A Massage That Gave My Wallet a Happy Ending
Small glitches and partial-nudity aside, the experience was very pleasant, professional and something I will definitely do again.
I’m both Catholic and a practical Midwesterner—a double whammy when it comes to feeling guilt—especially as it pertains to the pursuit of frivolous self-indulgence. But after recently completing a half-marathon—and in turn, hobbling around like I had a stick lodged in a certain, lower orifice—the idea of a massage sounded mighty enticing. So, when I heard about Northern Virginia School of Therapeutic Massage, I felt compelled to check it out.
Every Wednesday and Sunday, students, who are at least midway through their training program, hone their skills by providing $35/hour massages to the general public at their campus located at 200 Little Falls Road, Ste. 303, Falls Church, VA 22046.
Sunday massages are offered from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Wednesday, treatments are available in the afternoon at 12:15, 1:30, 5:30 and 6:45. Appointments are made by calling 703-888-9782 and can be booked up to three months in advance.
Students in this nationally-accredited program participate in an intensive, 525-hour, six-month curriculum. Tuition is roughly $8,500 and includes instruction in anatomy, physiology and massage techniques (Swedish, sports, deep tissue, chair and Chinese medicine). Per the president of Northern Virginia School of Massage, Mike Tramonte, “We get a lot of college grads in our program, people that are already successful, oftentimes, who are looking for a second career…physical therapists, personal trainers, nurses, yoga instructors, people in sports medicine. Last year, we even had two Georgetown grads go through.”
According to Mike, the school has been in existence since 2006; they graduate about 100 students a year and have somewhere between an 80 to 90 percent completion rate. Students must pass a national licensing exam prior to graduation from the program. The school also assists with job placement.
It all sounded good to me so I booked my massage for a Wednesday at 12:15 and received a text message the morning of my appointment to confirm. The school is located in a multi-story office building on the third floor and affords both free visitor and street parking. I showed up about ten minutes early as I knew I’d have to fill out paperwork in advance. (Also, note to the ladies: women’s restrooms are a floor up or down and require a key, so plan accordingly. The men’s room is located directly across the hall. Naturally.)
When I walked in the small waiting area, I was greeted warmly by a receptionist (student, I think) and asked my name. She was surrounded predominantly by women, the majority who looked to be in their mid to late-20’s. Most were dressed in black yoga attire of some sort and all were milling about waiting to find out which one of us they’d get. They seemed fixated on our hydration levels and kept encouraging us to drink from a pitcher of water that they had sitting on a table. (For some warped reason, this triggered images of Jim Jones and Guyana for me but admittedly, I don’t always think like a normal person.)
Prior to the water-pimping, I was handed a clipboard that had my name on the top and told to fill out the two pages of paperwork (medical and release forms) which took me about five minutes to finish. Also, my clipboard contained a form that I had to complete at the conclusion of my massage which allowed me to assess my student therapist. The first name of my therapist was listed at the top of this form and it was one of those unisex names that made gender determination confusing. I personally didn’t care if I got a man or a woman. But some people do. So if you’re one of them, mention your preference when you book your appointment. (They will honor gender preferences for therapists; however, they will not entertain by-name requests.)
Upon turning in my paperwork, my $35 was collected. Note that this is a cash-only, exact-change establishment. (Tipping is optional and given at the conclusion of the session, directly to the therapist, after filling out the feedback form. Fifteen to 20 percent seemed to be the standard. Although, I did see one guy generously tip $20 due to his elation over the rapturous attention his therapist had paid to his aching feet.)
After handing over my cash, I was approached by my therapist. She introduced herself and briefly went over my medical history with me. She also asked if I had any trouble spots or areas that I would like her to concentrate on and she inquired as to what kind of pressure I liked. (And I must say, the massage she rendered definitely incorporated the feedback I offered so make sure to speak up when asked.)
Next, she took me into an adjacent, large, darkened room (with spa-like music playing), cordoned off into private areas that were divided by curtained, folding screens (think Chinese restaurant minus the scent of kung pao chicken.) A single massage table, adorned with crisp sheets and a blanket, sat in each room. Per Mike, there are six treatment rooms—five behind curtained partitions and also, one located in a private office—allowing a max of six clients to be accommodated during each appointment session. During my appointment, six clients were present, and several seemed to be regulars. Everything appeared very clean and utilitarian.
My therapist directed me to my “room”, instructed me to disrobe (without being specific as to what extent) and then left to give me some privacy. The curtained partitions had slight gaps in places so modestly, I found myself obsessively monitoring the openings as I quickly went about the business of undressing. I took my clothes off, left my undergarments on (normally I would have only left underpants on, since that, or wearing nothing seems customary), and dove for the table, hastily tucking myself beneath the sheet and blanket.
I was a little stressed by the undressing part, but, once the massage (which was heavenly) started, my prior uneasiness was quickly forgotten. My therapist was attentive, thorough, and skillful; and she definitely paid attention to my areas of greatest distress. At times, I could hear whisperings from the other partitions. For example, $20-Tip-Guy didn’t realize he was supposed to be under his sheets/blanket; and I overheard his therapist (a man) suggest to him that he might be more comfortable covered up. But the background music masked most of the surrounding noise, and everyone seemed considerate about keeping their voices down.
During my session, there were a few, very minor glitches—someone accidentally flipped on the overhead light for a bit, there was occasional traffic in and out of the room (the door opening and shutting was somewhat distracting) and the music stopped playing for several minutes. Also, one of the CD’s that came on had cicadas chirping, which I found odd, but obviously, somebody finds that soothing.
The only other noteworthy item happened at the very end. My therapist took a little longer with me so, in turn, the other clients had already finished and dressed. When my therapist finally left my room, all of the other therapists had already begun tidying up for the next session and didn’t seem to realize a client was still in the area. Unintentionally, one of the therapists banged into a privacy screen which sent all of the privacy screens on my side of the room tumbling down, like dominoes.
Unfortunately, when this occurred, I was only midway through getting dressed. With one hand, I frantically clutched my blouse shut. With the other, I tried to pull up my pants and simultaneously engineer an imaginary fig leaf to cover my exposed lady parts. Added to this cartoon was me lunging at the air with my bare leg (only one was draped in a pant leg at the time) in a desperate attempt to hook the screens with my feet to prevent them from falling down around me. (Oh, how I would have loved to have been an octopus right then.) It didn’t take long for me to realize the futility of my actions, so I just resigned myself to exposure and stood there partly undressed, laughing like a crazy person.
It was then, that my presence—in all its partially-birthday-suited glory—was revealed to the therapists. They were shocked to see me standing there and felt genuine contrition over the mishap. They kept repeating, “Oh my God, we’re sooooo sorry. This has never happened before. We’re soooo sorry.”
They quickly averted their eyes and righted the screens around me and continued to apologize as I dressed. With each item of clothing I replaced, my mortification lessened. And by the time I departed the room we all had a shared laugh over it, because it really was pretty hilarious.
But small glitches and partial-nudity aside, the experience was very pleasant, professional and something I will definitely do again. So, if you too, are looking for a first-rate massage that delivers a happy ending to your wallet, check out Northern Virginia School of Therapeutic Massage. Tell them the Naked Lady sent you.