*there are no manatee in this post
*these images are courtesy of the iPhone 6SPlus, all except the Featured Image, which I stole from My Cousin’s Facebook page
“Can I turn our massage experience into a blog post?” – I sent this, as a text message, to my mother at approximately 4:53pm yesterday.
I sent this, knowing that The Massage Story is probably one of the funniest things I have ever lived through; so funny, in fact, that I cannot tell the story out loud without bursting into laughter that is so intense it makes me cry. Whether it will translate well to print has yet to be seen. Here’s to hoping I’m not about to let you down.
“Can I turn our massage experience into a blog post?”
At 5:04pm I received the following: “Yes, just don’t make me sound like a rotund imbecile.”
My mother, before we go any further in this journey, you should know, is the polar opposite (I once had a coworker who thought I made up that phrase, did I?) of anything that is rotund or imbecilic. She is six feet tall, willowy, and laden with Master’s Degrees. She wakes up fifty times smarter than the smartest people that I know. She was runner up for State Teacher of the Year (cue the accolades) and she is personal advisor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
I’m totally kidding about that last ‘fact’. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
So, as I stated in The Manatee Story, I took My Mother on a Carnival Cruise in June. Six days, five nights, crystal clear water, two Bahamian ports of call, unlimited Bahama Mamas… Unlimited is a bit of a stretch. My Mother is not a drinker, despite these incriminating photos on my phone. Because experiences are so much greater when we share them with others, My Mother’s youngest sister went, too, along with her two daughters.
Our first days at sea were grand. It was beautiful, there are dozens of activities on board, lots of fruity drinks with straw umbrellas. Our first port was Nassau, and My Mother and My Aunt took a sightseeing excursion where they learned all about rum and conch penis – because what the hell else do you teach middle-aged women about the Bahamas? (Does anyone else think that’s a little strange?) I went snorkeling and learned about.. Snorkeling. At dinner, I bought a reasonably nice bottle of Moscato, because I am not a discerning wine drinker and anything over $8/bottle qualifies as “nice,” in my opinion.
I really tried to give My Mother is best possible experience here, because I was under the mistaken impression that she was the most amazing woman on the planet – AWESOME beyond compare.
Just keep reading. You’ll understand.
For the next day, my cousins and I chipped in to rent a private cabana on Half Moon Cay – a PRIVATE CABANA with snorkel masks and equipment, shallow, still water My Mother (who cannot swim, no matter what she tells you) can attempt to snorkel in. There would be a fan and a refrigerator and complementary Diet Cokes… This second port is about to be THE experience of My Mother’s lifetime. This is for My Mother, who grew up working in bare feet in tobacco fields, who’s now an expert on conch penis. In this magical place, on this magical cay, we will celebrate her big birthday – how big, I am not at liberty to say – in a BIG way.
For a poor chick, whose children are trained to only buy the groceries with the Food Lion logo already on them (store brand, can I get an amen), I’m basically trading lives with Beyonce for the morning. I’m about to live like a queen, fanned with palm leaves, and so is My Mother. For this one, singular day, we are about to have some seriously nice shit.
Now, here is where I should mention to you that I am a hyper-planner. If you want to go on vacation, you don’t need a Travel Agent. I WAS BORN YOUR TRAVEL AGENT. My ideas will be better than your Travel Agent’s could ever be. If you want to have a dinner party, I AM YOUR MARTHA STEWART. With trust Pinterest in my pocket, I can all things. If you invite me out, I have, no joke, seven pages of handwritten notes with backup or contingency activities. I know what the restaurant serves for dinner, I have researched the nearest breweries, I have the Google Maps walking directions… But, alas, there is one thing that I cannot control, and it is the weather. I have screamed at the weather, I have pitched lengthy fits ABOUT THE WEATHER (that’s the key to being a Southern Belle – you have to know how to pitch a good fit every now and again, “or everyday,” my wife is saying in the background), but I cannot control it. I cannot control the humidity, even when it fucks up my hair and all but ruins a family trip to Disney World. I cannot control the wind, even when it fucks up my hair and moves the strands over to the wrong side of my part and I suddenly look like Donald Trump.
And I cannot control the rain, even when it forces the Carnival Elation to skip the port of call that was going to give my mom the #dayofherdreams.
My Mother, because she is mellow and easy to please, was totally fine with it. “There’s so much to do on board,” she exclaimed. “They’re having a towel folding seminar, where they teach you how to make the little towel animals! And there’s eighties song trivia!”
But that’s not enough, right? That’s not enough to say THANK YOU to the woman who gave birth to you and never made you feel weird for being gay, and who announced the publication of your first lesbian romance novel during Joy Time at the United Methodist Church. Eighties song trivia and towel animals aren’t enough. Not by a long shot.
With this in mind, I simply did what every rational, rum-infused woman would do.
I booked us a massage.
Technically speaking, I booked us a couple’s massage, but I made it super clear that she was my mom, and that she did not want to get her hair wet (different story for a different day). Aside from those two things, I gave them a general price point and told them to surprise me. This is clearly where the breakdown occurred.
My Mother and I arrive at our appointed time. We are pumped. I smell like rum, because, on the Carnival Elation, it is more cost effective to get your Diet Coke with rum already in it. Then they give you the other half of the can. I have recently discovered this, and I feel like the Sherlock Holmes of booze.
The dueling masseuses show us into a beautiful, peaceful room that does not feel at all like part of a cruise ship. There are candles, there is potpourri. They tell us to disrobe and put on the “paper panties” left on the counter. Um… I notice, because, as I said, I’ve recently determined that I’m Sherlock Holmes, that the massage tables are covered in a thin sort of tinfoil and I think to myself, “That’s so wonderful! They’re so hygienic!” It is concerning to me, in retrospect, that I was not thinking “This is weird. I’m taking my clothes off in front of my mom, and we are swathed in romantic mood lighting…” But, suffice it to say, I stand in a corner and try to be modest (I am modest, btw) and I take my clothes off and grab the aforementioned “paper panties.” They are small, they are papery-
“Voss,” says My Mother. “This is a thong.”
“No…” But it is. It is totally a thin, paper thong. And I’m supposed to wear it in front of my mother. With nothing else. Like, I have to turn around in front of her in order to walk back over to the massage table, and no offense to the flat-chested, but these girls are too big to be tucked up under my arm.
ABORT, says my rational, adult brain.
JUST DO IT, says the rum.
Rum, old friend, I should not have invited you to this party.
Whatever. Paper thong it is.
For the second time, now, I should stress to you, dear reader, it is concerning to me that, at no point yet, have I seriously considered that this situation is tip-toeing into the realm of the bizarre. I mean, I am 97% naked – okay, my ass is too big to be 97% naked in the thong, I’m more like 99.8% naked – and I am locked in a room with my mom, who is also 99.8% naked, and we’re both lying on what appears to be generic tinfoil. You know the kind, the one that’s four dollars cheaper than Reynolds Wrap.. My Mother is going on about conch penis and something called the “Power Line” (take my advice and DON’T google that) and I’m REALLY trying to give her this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Maybe I’m not oddly nude alongside the woman whose vagina funneled me into the world. Maybe this is a normal scenario for the gentry, maybe I’m just aristocratic. This has got to be normal, somehow.
“Of course it’s normal,” coos Captain Morgan. “For a honeymoon…”
The masseuses come back and they are ten ways of polite, and they ask, “Are you allergic to seaweed?”
I am, truth be told, not really allergic to anything, except homophobia and adults with bad grammar, but… “How the hell would I know that?”
“You’re not,” My Mother pipes up, and I assume the doctors present at my birth have given her some secret card with all of my allergies written on it, and there is no check mark by SEAWEED, or TOMATOES which I routinely tell waitresses I’m violently allergic to when I don’t want them anywhere near my salad.
My masseuse shrugs, and then reaches for a hard, bristled brush that should belong on a horse farm. When she begins to scrape it across and over my skin repeatedly, I think, “This isn’t pleasant at all. This hurts. Massages aren’t supposed to hurt…”
“Give it time,” my rum is faltering.
I open my mouth to inquire as to the purpose of the brushing and I am, all at once, covered in a green seaweed goo/paste. I’m being painted with it, with an actual paintbrush. I am being painted like a canvas with something that stinks of ocean and mud and day-old fart. And then I am covered with the phony Reynolds Wrap (“That totally makes sense now…”), and then I am covered in a down comforter.
And then I am left, alone, with a hot towel on my face, and I suddenly want a burrito, because I am a burrito…
My Mother, unbeknownst to me, is claustrophobic, and I should have been thinking “Dear God, I’m subjecting her to torture!” Instead, I am thinking “What the fuck is happening right now?” and “If burritos had feelings, I’ll bet they would be scared.”
Time passes. My nose itches. I tell God that I will straighten up and be a really good girl if he will just take away that itch, which he does not and I attribute it to larger, pressing concerns on his end, like the upcoming Presidential election and pestilence, in general.
Four Enya albums later, a shower comes on.
“Voss,” whispers the rum, “This shit just got weird.”
“Rum,” I whisper back, “This shit has been weird for a while now. Where have you been?”
Quietly, like handsy ninjas cloaked in stealth, the masseuses return, smelling like Lysol. Mine unwraps me, delicately, and shows me to the shower, where she tells me to clean off the goo/paste and put on a fresh paper thong, which she hands me. I have to pee, so I am grateful to be alone and not in a seaweed cocoon. I begin the washing, and the peeing.
And then the curtain parts.
And My Mother walks in.
To clarify: My Mother WALKS INTO THE SHOWER WITH ME. She is naked, she is covered in green goo/paste, and she is acting as if this is a completely normal turn of events. She is smiling.
“What are you doing?” I scream, twisting like a pretzel to cover my bits, which is impossible because I’m far larger than a standard pretzel. I’m, like, the Marilyn Monroe of pretzels. My dough is hanging off everywhere.
My Mother looks at me as if I am speaking a different language. “I’m getting in the shower, Voss.”
“MOTHER! I AM IN THE SHOWER!” Like she did not notice that when she had to move AROUND my body.
“Well,” she shrugs, and moves to get under the spray nozzle, which brings her boobs too close to my boobs. “They asked me if I minded and I thought this would save time. I told her it was fine, I don’t mind.”
“I MIND, MOTHER! I MIND!” There are things about her mother’s body that no woman should ever know, or ever see. There are secrets that should remain secrets, and sadly, those secrets were fully revealed to me that day. Alllllll of those secrets were fully revealed to me that day.
“What do you want me to do? Get out?”
Of course I can’t make her get out. She’s an old- She’s a lady in the lush, green pasture of her life (that’s a better way to say it, ain’t it?) and I am a lady who has yet to make it to that lush green pasture, so it would be impolite for me to make HER leave the shower she has somehow orchestrated that we take together, to the delight of the masseuses who are yukking it up outside. With no other option, I peel the seaweed from my skin and then I have to help My Mother peel the seaweed from her skin, because she can’t reach her back (and I’ll never UNSEE it) and I’m out and in my towel and taking shallow breaths through my nose.
That should have been the final act of our Shakespearean Tragi-Comedy. That should have been the curtain call, with me frightened and shakily dressing in another paper thong, but that was only the first of TWO showers we would take together. TWO. SHOWERS. WITH. MY. MOTHER.
I’m crying right now, as I write this, alone in a room with my dog, because I cannot fully express to you how funny this was, the juxtaposition between my terror and her serenity, her absolute conviction that it was no big deal to see her daughter naked – her daughter who is 33, not 2.
Later that night, when we got back to the room, and we were getting ready for formal dinner night, the one where the cruise ship pulls out all of the stops and sets up elaborate photo backgrounds for professional portraits, My Mother looked over at me and quipped, with a straighter face than I have ever seen before, “You know, if you get bored, we can always take another shower.”
“Not cool, mom. Not cool.”
I will need a disco ball filled with rum to handle this evening…
As an addendum to this sordid tale, which has two other parts, though I am vacillating between whether or not to put them into print, I would like to point out that, after much hard work, and an entirely separate vacation, My Mother finally got her Cabana Day, although it was not in the Caribbean.