Sometimes One Bad Experience is all it Takes
As I was writing my response to yesterday’s Daily Prompt it reminded me of a strange incident I had that ended up changing the course of my life significantly. I made the horrible mistake of ignoring my gut reaction to someone, and the consequences shattered my enthusiasm for something I’ve loved since I was a child. In the end, my abandoning that prospect was for the best, but I still shudder with repulsion every time I think of the uncomfortable confrontation I had to go through for it.
Never Say “Full-Body Massage” Around Me
When I was about 10 years old I discovered that I had a natural affinity for seeking out tension in people’s’ backs, and I had a knack for creating a pattern that suited each of my ‘patients’ perfectly. I also had a firm sense of pressure (pun intended), and I was able to work huge knots out of my family members’ backs that usually took professional therapists a week to break up. I loved possessing the ability to help people feel better, but all it took was one creepy incident to turn me off on it entirely.
When I was 16 I dropped out of high school (so I could help in supporting my family, which I’ll explain another day), and shortly after that I decided to make some extra cash by using my abilities. I put an ad in the local paper, clearly stating that I wasn’t licensed, but offering a lower price than most professionals requested, and I ended up getting a few calls. My first customer, a very kind elderly man, was completely normal, and our session went well. I was a little afraid to work on him because it’s so easy to accidentally hurt someone in his sort of condition, but I paid close attention to his reactions and moved my hands as gently as I could. He was happy with my work, and we made plans for him to return.
A few days later my second client showed up, and as soon as I saw him a nervous feeling sank into the bottom of my belly. He just looked like the kind of person you couldn’t trust. I wasn’t afraid because everything was taking place in my home, with my capable step-dad never far away, and I really needed the cash. I ignored my initial instincts about him, invited him in, and got him set up.
The first sure sign that something was wrong was when he was making preparations. I gave him a towel, pointed him in the direction of the bathroom, and asked him to take off his shirt and pants (but NOT his underwear, which I was very clear about) because he’d asked for me to work on his extremities in addition to his back. I never ask anyone to take off more than is necessary. But when he returned to the living room it was clear, judging by the clothes he was holding in his hands, that he hadn’t listened to my instructions.
He verified my suspicions of his nudity just under the towel he wore when he settled himself on my makeshift massage table, telling me he was more comfortable that way. I wanted to run away right then and there, but I ignored the bad signs yet again in the interest of earning some much-needed income for my family. I started working on his back so he had to lay on his stomach, which felt like a less threatening position for him to be in, but it didn’t take long for him to roll over and request that I work on his chest.
My reticence should have been apparent to a toddler, but he still persisted in trying to pervert what should have been a clean, detached session for me. It took less than 10 minutes for the creepiness factor of the situation to reach critical mass, and just as I reached my limit and prepared to ask him to leave he escalated the inappropriateness far beyond any level I’d ever imagined.
This Isn’t a Strip Club, but the Same Rules Apply
As I pulled my hands away from him, fed up with his suggestively lewd behavior, he snatched my fingers in a strong grip and yanked them toward his crotch, telling me in a desperate tone that he’d pay me for the entire hour if I “just touch ‘it’ for a few seconds”. Luckily, my palms were still covered with oil, so I slipped away and scooted as far from him as I could. Harried and scared, I demanded that he leave in the kindest, least threatening tone I could muster. He begged for a while, pleading for my ‘assistance’, but eventually left, to my immense relief. I was so shocked by the incident that all I could do was sit there for a while.
Apparently, the man had disregarded the professional, serious tone I’d used throughout my entire ad, and had zeroed in on the term ‘full-body massage’, assuming it meant I was a hooker. I’m not positive, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person he’s sexually assaulted in such a subtle manner. Luckily, he didn’t cause any severe mental damage, but he did take away my ability to give massages to strangers, so that was the end of that idea. I haven’t touched an unknown body part since.
Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda
In retrospect, I probably should have called the police after that man left. I had some information on him, so it would have been easy for the authorities to track him down. The soliciting wasn’t that bad (it wasn’t the first time that had happened to me), but if he was bold enough to grab my hand when he knew there were others nearby what would he have done if we’d been alone? He could have full-on raped me, and there’s a chance he did just that to another girl after I wouldn’t comply. It sickens me to consider such what-if’s.
When my mother came into the living room and found me sitting there alone she asked me what happened, and didn’t like the answer. She was livid over the insult to me, and my step-father was so enraged he wanted to hop in the car and hunt the man down. I stopped him, thinking it was a waste of time, my mind down-playing everything so it could cope with the stress of the situation. I don’t think I can ever forgive myself for not taking action when I had the chance, and I sincerely hope the pervert didn’t hurt someone else.
And that is why I failed to become a massage therapist.