My hair was looking a bit ragged, so I thought I would go for a haircut. Meeta told me she knew a good place and would book for me, and asked me if I wanted a head massage. I wasn’t entirely sure what this involved with respect to my haircut, so I was a bit sheepish, but she went ahead and booked it. In the US, they will kinda sorta give you a little massage while washing your hair, and old style barbers will do a couple of minutes on the back of the neck, but this is nothing I have ever ordered separately, so I wasn’t sure if we had actually ordered a service or were just asking whoever to be sure to spend a little extra time touching me while doing their normal wash and cut.
I arrived at the salon and they seated me and told me that the massage guy was busy, could he do it after the cut, and I said sure. I showed the stylist a pic of myself with a previous haircut I liked and told him that was what I wanted. He then asked about my beard and I said sure, trim it a bit to match, but no shave. The guy was pretty thorough I will give him that, trimming my hair and then beard and nose hairs and eyebrows and then taking the straight razor to trace a nice beard line in my neck and cheeks. I was pretty impressed already as the massage guy came over to do his bit. He covered me in towels, then asked me if I wanted coconut or pineapple or about 4 other things I can’t remember. I wasn’t sure what exactly he would be doing, but I have positive associations with all things coconut, so I chose that.
Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. It started innocently enough, with a general top of the head rub down that became progressively more vigorous. Then, he really started to put some elbow grease into it, and it felt like he was trying tocompletely knead out any line or furrow or vein that might be interfering with some platonic ideal of smoothness. He reached for the coconut oil or lotion and started to work it in to each and every pore on my head. At one point, both his thumbs were pressing very deeply into my eyes and I had a slight, panicky realization that he could be an assassin sent to kill or at least blind me. Then he moved away and back to the top of my head thankfully, which was quite pleasant if by this point a bit hallucination inducing. Following that, he moved to my neck, front and back, and then attacked each shoulder, arm and hand with an intensity I have not witnessed outside of certain experiences combining drugs with sex, or perhaps in a movie that depicts a deranged vet on a killing spree of some kind. After that, it was back to my head and face, where he spent another few minutes rubbing, and polishing. At this point, some 20 minutes had passed and I was wondering if the service was one in which I was supposed to say “stop” (or just as likely, “uncle”) when I had had enough.
Just then, he stopped, and abruptly walked away. I was left there quivering and wondering if I should now get up and get my jacket and leave. I sat there for a few minutes pondering the correct course of action in this culture, when suddenly he returned with a steaming hot towel that he very tightly wrapped around the top of my head as he leaned me back in the chair. Then he got some sort of moisturizing lotion and started working it into my face and eye sockets and nose, squeezing and pushing and preventing me from catching my breath. After a few minutes of this, he put hot towels on my face as well, and left me immobile with those on my face, with nothing but a tiny breathe hole for several long minutes. At this point I was pretty sure I must be on some sort of Indian version of Candid Camera, and any minute someone would come out to ask me how it felt and why didn’t I tell him to stop or figure out that this was all an elaborate joke.
Finally, he finished, and then washed my hair and dried it, and I paid and tipped and left. The entire encounter ended up costing about $16. And when I saw Ashni I asked her if it was normal to have this treatment for a simple head massage and she verified that it was as expected.
Wow. I definitely have to try this again sometime.