What People Really Look Like. ~ Dale Favier

Via Dale Favieron Sep 6, 2013


Bonus! Eight things I Learned from 50 Naked People.

I’ve been a massage therapist for many years now. I know what people look like.

People have been undressing for me for a long time. I know what you look like: a glance at you, and I can picture pretty well what you’d look like on my table.

Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody. Lean people have a kind of rawboned, unfinished look about them that is very appealing. But they don’t have plump round breasts and plump round asses. You have plump round breasts and a plump round ass, you have a plump round belly and plump round thighs as well. That’s how it works. (And that’s very appealing too.)

Women have cellulite. All of them.

It’s dimply and cute. It’s not a defect. It’s not a health problem. It’s the natural consequence of not consisting of photoshopped pixels, and not having emerged from an airbrush.

Men have silly buttocks.

Well, if most of your clients are women, anyway. You come to male buttocks and you say — what, this is it? They’re kind of scrawny and the tissue is jumpy because it’s unpadded; you have to dial back the pressure, or they’ll yelp.

Adults sag. It doesn’t matter how fit they are. Every decade, an adult sags a little more. All of the tissue hangs a little looser. They wrinkle, too. I don’t know who put about the rumor that just old people wrinkle. You start wrinkling when you start sagging, as soon as you’re all grown up, and the process goes its merry way as long as you live. Which is hopefully a long, long time, right?

Everybody on a massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule.

At that first long sigh, at that first thought that “I can stop hanging on now, I’m safe” – a luminosity, a glow, begins. Within a few minutes the whole body is radiant with it. It suffuses the room: it suffuses the massage therapist too. People talk about massage therapists being caretakers, and I suppose we are: we like to look after people, and we’re easily moved to tenderness. But to let you in on a secret: I’m in it for the glow.

I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.


Bodywork is great. Acupuncture is great…it’s changed my life:

What people really look like:

Healthy, daily lifestyle tips for all of us:

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Assist. Ed: Jade Belzberg/Ed: Sara Crolick

About Dale Favier

Dale Favier has taught poetry, chopped vegetables, and written software for a living. Nowadays he writes in the morning, does database work (for a wonderful non-profit promoting literacy) in the afternoon, and does massage in the evening. It’s pretty much the perfect life, and while he’s uncomfortably aware that he’s running an unsustainable karma deficit, he plans to keep it up as long as he can. He blogs about massage and health at http://dalefavier.blogspot.com.


80 Responses to “What People Really Look Like. ~ Dale Favier”

  1. Claudia Kuzniak says:

    This is a juicy piece and explains why it's always been so easy for me to take off my clothes for a massage. Really, I appreciate the "sheet holding" procedure, but it's not necessary. I love the goal being "the glow." I think therapists like Dale are angels that touch us so that we may let go.

  2. Emmanuela says:

    I find this so odd. I've been a massage therapist for 10 years, never have I looked at someone and thought " I can picture what you'd look like on my table" Ever.
    And when they are on my table, it has never occurred to me that they are "saggy, or round, or have silly buttocks".
    I do, of course, agree with the glow, and that comes with a rapport that genuinely happens over time, some longer than others. But I'm sure if they knew that their therapist was looking at their bodies as something to *judge or *categorize, they would take a bit longer to feel comfortable, more possible, never come back.
    My job is therapy, to help others feel better, physically and mentally.
    What they look like has absolutely nothing to do with it.

  3. Marilyn Owen says:

    Claudia, I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you, Dale, for that beautiful message of Love for bodies. I’m reminded that it was a massage therapist who told me, as if it were the most true think I the world, that my heavy body was exactly the size it needed to be. She gave me permission to stop being ashamed of it. Other practitioners over the years have been so tender and accepting that it made me weep and feel love for myself I’d never felt. I’m eternally grateful for those who heal through massage.

  4. Ally says:

    So lovely! Thank you for your compassionate, and very sensible, words. :)

  5. Katrina Kunstmann Katrina Kunstmann says:

    "Men have silly buttocks." And with a sentence you've won me over, cause I think the exact same thing. Such words as these, silly, saggy, plump, rawboned are judgemental. They are adjectives that describe the nature of a body, a characteristic. If someone asked you to describe a body, those are the sorts of words you'd use and they are relatively free of judgement. It's our internal connotation that gives them slant.

    I've always wondered what it would be like to be a massage therapist, as I myself am so very reactive to touch and massage is for me a blessed treat I get to indulge in so rarely. Thank you for this revealing peak into a realm that is a mystery to me.

  6. Leesa says:

    As I begin reading your article, Dale, my heart is open while I take in your words. They are concise and heartfelt, yes, but honestly, they are just a continuation of words which I have been taking in for the last hour while catching up on emails…. until I read:

    'Everybody on a massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule.'

    Then, I pause only for a second to re-read them, thinking of all the many types of bodies that you must see during your practice.
    Though your words convey a lovely thought, I am still somewhat unmoved (perhaps slightly resistant)… until I read:

    'At that first long sigh, at that first thought that “I can stop hanging on now, I’m safe” – a luminosity, a glow, begins.' and before I can even begin reading these following words: 'Within a few minutes the whole body is radiant with it. It suffuses the room..,', I feel the 'sigh' in my spirit body and suddenly, I am crying!! (The kind of tears that me by surprise, rushing to the surface so unexpectedly, flooding my eyes and filling my throat with a truth which resonates so wholly that it can't be digested quickly enough.)

    This 'truth' is so exquisitely beautiful; it fills my entire being with such precious emotion. I am overcome with such a profound sense of love, words cannot not express sufficiently. Thank you. Thank you.

    Perhaps, I'll be able to release my sense of shyness/self-consciousness, and gift myself with a long desired, but never allowed professional massage.

    Infinite blessings

  7. atenea says:

    What a wonderful piece, many thanks! I'm a massage-addict and even though I have no issues with my own nudity, you definitely can tell when a therapist has that gift of appreciating the glow… and they glow with you in process.

  8. jennifur says:

    the last paragraph, especially, was beautiful. I was a massage therapist for 13 years, and while I agree with Emmanuela about judgment, still, this was well written and would free people from the fear of being judged rather than create that fear

  9. staylor says:

    I found this just simple, beautiful and honest, and thankfully not intellectual. Just a relaxed and organic observation.. not a visual perspective but more an organic one.. I loved the ending….the peeled back experience of a being. I've been a massage therapist too and a magic can happen in the letting go, the trusting, when someone finally relaxes. 'The out breath'.
    Its a no words, 'just being' space… Massage can be deeply healing…
    thank you for this.

  10. Anne says:

    Thanks a lot.
    Ajust some words so people that do no see the meaning behind the words, can understand it as wel. With love

  11. Kenny says:

    Emmanuela – my mother used to say: "When a hundred people tell you you're drunk, lie down."
    Yours is the unfortunate perspective.
    You're not someone that much of us would way to see.

  12. Dale Favier says:

    The editors here at EJ have been lovely, but I was a little taken aback at the photo they chose up top there — yet another model who looks maybe 20 years old &10 pounds underweight, with skin just like Praxiteles makes it. I suppose they have to work fast and it is really surprisingly hard to find realistic images of the bodies I work on every day, bodies like the ones you and I have. I decided that really it just goes to underscore my point: you can't even get an essay about real bodies illustrated with images of real bodies. I do want to stress that that is NOT how I do my draping :-)

    Thanks for the wonderful comments, all! I appreciate them.

  13. Sunshine says:

    Emmanuel – I would have to agree with Kenny. "Lie down". I love your professionalism and obvious devotion to the field of massage therapy and respect for the body. But there is such a thing as too far, it appears you have become disconnected from the tender human perception. Its seems there are MT individuals lately who are becoming far to concerned with how the public view them rather than just connecting with the public. Isn't that what we are here to do?

  14. Julie says:

    I could not agree more with what Leesa wrote. Tears sprang to my eyes unbidden, and I was overcome by the enormous compassion I mentally heard in your words. Thanks.

  15. Patricia says:

    When I read the title I was prepared to find fault with the article. When I read the last few paragraphs, I became determined to find a massage therapist like Dale. Thank you, for a beautifully written piece … And future confidence to let go and glow.

  16. Pam Baumgardner says:


  17. Amie says:

    Thank you, sir. You made me cry, bu in a good way. 😀

  18. anna castle says:

    totally in it for the glow.

  19. amr says:

    I like the ascension to this piece Dale. From a gross form to light (flames). As MT's we are blessed to witness experience.

  20. Scott says:

    I practiced massage therapy in the past, and I have to say some of the negative comments come from a desire to be clinical. They are, however, half full of crap. Its impossible to stop having feelings, thoughts and emotions. It IS possible to be so absorbed in what you are doing to temporarily have a "single pointed" focus but certainly not all or really most of the time. Emanuela's comments show what is wrong with medicine, facebook culture, and just general bs. You take honest comments out of context and then apply an unrealistic standard. Out of context, in that this is a body image piece. Its not a statement on how other therapists should think and act. It is an extension of his attitude toward the body, which is loving and whimsical. You try to accomplish the same thing but by taking all emotion out- mimicking a doctor…or some other health professional that sees so many people or bodies, that those bodies have become close to an object. Either is fine I suppose but when I want an emotionally healing massage or a relaxation based massage, I think I prefer his approach.

  21. Wow Dale. I love, love, love this article. I can only imagine how better the people of our world would be of we ALL embraced our natural beauty… Cellulite, buttocks, round bellies and all. I’m noticing more now than before, that women are working out to get rid of after birth weight way too soon after baby is born. It’s really not a healthy thing to do either. Photoshop is a lie and we as a society need to understand that. I published a photography book on just that, embracing our natural beauty. Feminine Transitions: A photographic celebration of natural beauty. http://www.FeminineTransitions.com. Thank you for sharing the beauty if our true selves.

  22. Carol Denning says:

    Learning to love our bodies takes a lot of time, I think. It comes with the wisdom of being grateful for the faithful heart that has kept beating all along, the breasts that maybe nursed babies and attest to our femininity, the lungs that keep breathing, the legs that have held us up, the arms that have encircled in loving embraces. The temple of the soul should not be disparaged, ever.

  23. Lizette says:

    Thank you for your article. I like your points on the letting go! I have been a Massage Therapist for 14 yrs. Most of my clients do not fully undress and I rarely use sheets, the work I do has people getting on and off the table to see what has shifted and to help me move to the next area to work on. My favorite part of the treatment is the "glow" to see the body move to ease and flow as I like to say, is the best. As the body releases and the pain diminishes and the trust builds, the energy flow changes physically, spiritually and mentally. It is so true that Massage Therapists see the body with out social judgement but as a creature that needs to flow and be free from pain.

  24. Kevin says:

    Cool article, I must agree after decades eventually everything sags, it's gravity.

    A project I recently was involved with 'FullyDisclothed.com' did exactly what this post relates to. Shows people in all shapes and sizes.

    None of us can escape the effects of ageing, sure we can fix things a little with excercise, diet etc, but enjoy the changes, they are like rings on a tree, and tell our own unique stories.

  25. Michelle says:

    Beautifully said. Many thoughts race thru my mind after reading this, but the fact that my heart is now racing, well it must've triggered my heart chakra. thank you so much for sharing this piece. I too am a Massage Therapist and I agree with many points you make in this article. Namaste.

  26. Thank you for this article. For sharing with us how you see people as the light that they are! This made me glow in the process.

  27. Katherine says:

    Thank you. Beautiful. I need to read it a few times. I teach people they are beautiful for a living…but we all need reminders especially as the clock continues to roll forward for each of us. So refreshing and comforting to hear your perspective. I have always felt such a connection with my massage therapist, she has become a friend, I truly love and appreciate her for how she helps me.

  28. Rachel Stern says:

    I wish I could come to you for massage therapy. I think I would receive soul therapy also!

    I have no issues either, as another poster wrote, with undressing for a massage therapist. But, interestingly enough, I won't get undressed in the public space of the women's locker room at the gym. I use the private room with its own toilet, sink and shower. Nearly all the women around me unabashedly dress and undress openly. Nearly all the women are substantially older than myself. Nearly all the woman are overweight, and saggy, baggy, wrinkled. And like you, I find them all beautiful. But me, with my younger, more elastic and smooth skin, my muscles still toned and intact, and with only a slight sag in my belly and buttocks, and more pronounced sag of my breasts — well, I like what I see in the mirror but am not prone to share that view with the other women. I am an orthodox Jew, and we are taught to be modest — even in the presence of only women. I only hope the other women do not think I am a snob.

  29. Eileen Virnig LMT says:

    I've been a massage therapist for over 15 years…the only reason I still do it, very part time,…is for the glow…that ethereal place where I get higher than the client…and flow, the beauty of the dance and the joy of it all. I wish every client could relax enough to go there…and EVERY body is beautiful…it's like comparing apples to oranges, one isn't better, but both delicious in their own way…so thankful for my years of body surfing…and all the people of various colors, shapes and sizes who have trusted me to touch them!

  30. Erica says:

    This made me remember a conversation I had years ago with a friend who was considering going into massage therapy. "The only problem I can see is what a friend of mine ran into. She said that since she can't pick and choose her clients, she has to do massages for the fatties and uglies too." At the time I was terribly uncomfortable with that comment and it still makes me cringe (over 10 years later). I hadn't realized until now how much that casually cruel comment had impacted me until reading this. That was the thought that was in the back of my mind every time I went in for a massage. I was terrified that I was the "ugly fat client that no one wants to take". Now I realize that when my therapist tells me how proud she is of me for having the courage to try things beyond "traditional" OT/ PT to recover from the mess that cancer and some TIAs left me in she isn't saying "Brave for a fat person", she's saying "Brave". When she talks about being so glad that I'm feeling a little stronger this week it isn't because I might loose a few pounds, it's because she cares that I'm feeling stronger. Thank you for a wonderful gift, just when I really needed it.

  31. Kim says:

    I am a massage therapist and an esthetician, and I see people naked all the time. Fat, thin, short, tall, once you're on my table you all look beautiful. I see you as a body part that needs to be treated, a muscle in pain, a piece at a time as I work, I don't judge the body as a whole….you can't, because you work a piece at a time to come to a wholeness at the end, and yes, the glow…because as my client relaxes, I relax, and we all become one together!

  32. In Mexico we have a saying "mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos"; "If many people have a flaw, thinking it less of a flaw is silly goose."

  33. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This heart glows…

  34. Lin says:

    Loved it! The people above who criticize iremind me of the type of people who say “I don’t see skin color I just see a person.” It’s total BS and if you’re a massage therapist claiming to not notice different kinds of bodies that’s BS too.

  35. Angel says:

    I'm a skinny girl who is very much in shape. I have 4 pack abs. I also have cellulite. I would also like women to know that when ANY woman sits down, the tummy folds over the top of the jeans (even if you have abs, belly folds over jeans). I watch a lot of women sit down and hide that. Just thought it was note worthy.

  36. ilikemytie says:

    It seems like some people are taking this piece wrong. First, if you're touching a human body or looking at it and not examining it, you're a liar. My chiropractor, whom I see weekly asked me if I'd lost a bunch of weight recently. Concerned for my health. Not super in her realm, but she stares at bodies on tables all day. Because I've broken so many parts of my body and had surgery so many times I go to chiro weekly to get fixed and adjusted. Then 2x a month I'll go get a massage to feel healed.

  37. Cory says:

    Dale. This is brilliant. For those of you who are uncomfortable-that's OK. It does not mean that Dale is wrong. For those of you that say you NEVER judge a body or feel ANYTHING sexual or otherwise about ANY of your clients-this scares me. For you are not being honest. Dale is being honest. As we go through this life- attraction, disgust, intrigue, approval, fear, awe, curiosity; all of these things happen. To recognize them is responsible. It enables us to be good stewards of our natural perceptions, embrace what is good and life giving and quiet what is not. So many of us struggle with our bodies and our self worth. This piece recognizes our "flaws" not as something to be ashamed of, but as markers of our genuine humanity and furthermore, it looks beyond the surface to see us as we truly are. Thank you, Dale.

  38. Adam says:

    I resent this article. I have a fantastic buttocks and there is nothing you or anyone can say to convince me otherwise.

  39. Malibu Healer says:

    I am also in it for the glow :)

  40. Lauren_Leduc says:

    This is extremely beautiful. I love your last line especially. I'm a yoga teacher and that's exactly what I see when my student's take savasana. Namaste to you, beautiful human.

  41. teaganfea says:

    Simply beautiful. Thank you! Having been to a festival in Australia where I saw lots of naked people hanging about,I know this to be true. Nobody looks like the bodies we see in the magazines. Nobody. If you have body issues, I highly recommend going to a hippy festival and hanging out with nuddies!! :)

  42. Patricia says:

    No, sorry all women do NOT have cellulite! You lost me with that ridiculous statement!

  43. Wade Sims says:

    That was a nice article. It is funny that during massage, we only get to see pieces and parts (as those parts that aren't being worked on are usually all covered up.) I think that this gives rise to a somewhat fragmented view of the person and we have to rely on touch to 'see' the person as whole, connecting with something greater than the surface. And yes, anything written down will be the subject of criticism and rejection as well as affirmation … so the comments are fun to read as well. The comments are a good reminder that we all come from different places – so wonderful that people experience the same article from their own unique perspective. I hope that Mr. Favier sees himself with the same love and compassion that he sees others.

  44. Drummrgrl says:

    An acquaintance who is a massage therapist and teacher shocked and saddened me recently when he casually mentioned how he "warned" his students that they'd have to work way more "fat old women" than beautiful young babes. I think his words were painful because of a certain unshakable self-loathing.

  45. stardust says:

    This is so beautiful, thank you!

  46. valeriewatts says:

    If you had said women have "silly buttocks" you would have been in trouble!
    Men have to take these insults as a matter of course. And I am speaking as a woman…

  47. dani says:

    nice article…but sorry not all women have cellulite..i dont and i know a lot of women who dont have it..i think it runs in families, my mum never had cellulite and neither does my sister, love our buttocks

  48. MtnMelodie says:

    Echoing, Claudia, "Massage therapist are angels that touch us so we may let go." Thank you so much Dale for sharing this. What a beautiful piece. For those massage therapist who think this is inappropriate, you have missed the point, and frankly, I would hate to be one of your clients if you are unable to get what he is trying to express and if you are not able to view each client as a beaming beauty.

    I love how this piece shows the artist in you, the part in you without judgement and shows just how beautiful your view is on us humans as a whole. I love the joy for the work that you do that I feel while reading your work. Humans are beautiful, and most women do have cellulite and it is inevitable that we will all age and sag. How fortunate we should be that we live long enough to view our wrinkles and sagging skin. How fortunate we should be for massage therapist that heal and view us as gems.

    Thank you for the work you do, my massage therapist has healed my body and soul on so many levels, because he is without judgment and is full of compassionate healing. AUM! Thanks Dale. What a pleasure!

  49. Thank you Dale and thank you everyone who has commented so far. It’s been fascinating reading. My wife has been a therapist and yoga teacher for many years and I’ve been fortunate to see firsthand that ‘post massage, post yoga class glow’ thousands of times, radiating all over students and clients as they leave their sessions. It’s amazing to see it. People really do glow. And they’re beautiful.

    We now run a yoga retreat in Portugal and so I get to see this phenomenon nearly every single day through our season. It’s without doubt the most rewarding part of my job. And I’m rarely in class or in the treatment rooms. Just an outside observer so to speak, watching people of all sizes, shapes, ages and nationalities experience this. And on a week long retreat in the forest where we live, that glowing effect just grows. As people deeply relax, they become more beautiful. It’s not that they are ugly when they arrive. Mainly they’re just stressed and tired. And as they de stress, through their practice and treatments, they literally shine.

    Thanks again to all those who shared. How we feel about our bodies is such a sensitive, emotional and soulful issue. Accepting that we are beautiful and perfect, just the way we are, is not easy. Accepting everyone else around us as beautiful and perfect just the way they are too, is even harder. But so worth it.

  50. Christie says:

    As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I also meet many people who stress and obsess about their bodies.
    Thank you Dale, for echoing what I feel and saying what you said better than I could.

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