Despite the Magellans, Marco Polos and Ponce de Leons before me, I have discovered the elusive FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, a miracle source that heals and cures all pain and suffering. Wanna here about it? YOU WILL, but first let me tell YOU about this exclusive business opportunity and the special benefits that YOU and YOUR LOVE ONES can receive in this multi-billion dollar industry!
Hullo? Are still there?
I’m totally kidding. I’m not trying to sell to you some magic pill, formulated elixir or ginkgo semen powder for long-happy-life. The fountain of youth is simply MASSAGE.
Not just any massage, Chinese massage. I had a pretty good idea of this before my move to the Far East 9 years ago because of the Fishion Chinese Herb Center in NYC. The first time I went there, my neck and shoulders fell out of whack and the pain was unbearable. The therapist assessed my back and in his broken English explained, “NO so serious…NO bad…NO problem. You, I fix. Next hour. Berry Berry pain….many pain….NO want pain? Go SOHO.” I nodded in hesitating acceptance. If I wasn’t willing to tolerate the pain, I could walk up 2 blocks to Soho, pay 100x more for a therapeutic hot stone massage with christened virgin lavender oil and not feel any better. But so many of my friends swore by this guy, and he was all I could afford.
It wasn’t painful. It was torture. He poked, prodded, pulled and twisted. But 1 hour and $40 later, I could actually move my neck again. Two visits later, my shoulders fell back into their rightful positions. And from that day forward, I was hooked and a solid portion of my piddly fashion assistant monthly salary went to him.
When we moved to China it was like Fishion at my door step!! BUT CHEAPER! There it began, my quest to discover ALL of the Ancient Chinese Secrets.
In southern China in 2009, a 90 minute massages ran 35 rmb /$7 USD! With China’s booming economy in 2018 in Qingdao I pay 180rmb /$30 USD. More expensive but still an amazing deal.
It wasn’t all roses and cheap, relaxing massages. I have had my definite fair share of shady shit. If you’ve lived in China and have had a Chinese massage, it’s probably happened to you.
Your face squished through the pothole in the table and then the masseuse delicately dangling your arm off the massage table, followed up by him grinding himself against it. You humbly move your arms back onto the table, so he walks over to the other side, rinse, repeat. Yeah, that. Or like “Qing bu yao touch my dongxi.”
“How was your massage today, honey?”
“Well, I was definitely molested, but y’know, he really got that kink out of my lower back so…”
“Glad you’re feeling better, dear.”
When hubby’s elderly parents came to visit, we accidentally brought them to a brothel. The half-naked pictures of the girls on the way to the rooms should have been an indication, but at that point, we already paid for the 4 of us, and…well, we didn’t want to be rude. Other places we’ve gone into may not have been so obvious, but the guests in the adjacent rooms were having more fun than what’s considered socially acceptable.
Other annoyances felt minor compared to that. Like when the masseuse fell asleep during the massage and started snoring. Or seconds before one was going to snap, crackle and pop my neck, I requested a brief pause to take a deep breath. Not because I was scared, but because his breath smelled so badly. Once, I tipped the masseuse and she shook her head claiming it wasn’t enough, demanding I tip her more than the cost of the massage. That’s when the I-don’t-uh-speak-uh- Chinese-uh works wonders.
Based on the hundreds of massages I’ve gotten in China over the years, the good experiences have outweighed the not-so-good. Which is why I repeat my unscientific claim that Chinese massage is the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. Thousands of studies prove how it reduces stress and tension and by just getting one you’ll know. What makes it even less stressful in China is the price. Back in the US or France, the minimum for an hour massage is at least $60 USD, a chunk of change most people can’t afford on a regular basis. And if you end up getting a crappy massage, you leave with the same pinched nerve in your back plus buyer’s remorse on the money you just blew. In China, if it’s cheap and it sucks (I’m talking legitimate massages here) then it’s not a big deal. Cheap massages in China are a way of life. People get foot massages during business meetings, on their lunch breaks, after work. Instead of saying, “hey, let’s meet for coffee!” you have the option to suggest, “let’s get a foot massage and spend time quality time catching up while mindlessly scrolling through our phones.”
My father-in-law came back to visit us in China barely able to walk off the plane. Every day we went to the local hospital for massage, acupuncture and this crazy neck pulling guillotine device. After a week, he was good as new, and I was personally promoted to the coveted Number-1-Daughter-in-Law position. Several years back, I relived the same injury during my Fishion NYC days. Same injury in my mid-20s, took a much longer time to recover in my upper 30s. The Chinese doctor pushed so much liquid out of my neck and shoulders that my mouth swelled up like I was punched in the face. The swelling subsided and after a couple months my neck and shoulders finally resumed position.
So why do I think massage is the fountain of youth? Our muscles keep our insides safe. Massaging the stiffness and soreness pulls out negative energy and toxins that have been festering inside them, sometimes for years. Stress is one of the main culprits for premature aging, so if our muscles are always stressed then we are always aging. Alleviating these daily stresses by being touched, caressed and pampered in a non-sexual way transports us back to our youth, like when we were babies. It comes down to letting someone else take care of our bodies for an hour or so. Immediately after hubby gets a massage, he’s constantly writing notes and lists on things that came to him while his mind was resting. For me, I feel light years younger after one.
So no, the fountain of youth isn’t located through some jungle shrouded ruins on a quixotic tropical island in the Andaman Sea.
Instead, walk down that a dark ally, enter the run-down tenement building, through the plastic curtains, up the stairs and you’ll find it in a humble little shop in the corner. It’ll be far from anything glamourous but chances are the massage here will be best age-defying, body energizing, power-boosting potion you will ever find.
For the record, I’m not a doctor or a massage therapist. I just have plenty of opinions and love sharing with anyone interested in reading them.