August 8, 2012

Remember When I Did the Splits in Thailand? ~ Allison Cowan

My Take on Thai Massages.

I had not done the splits since I was warming up for my high school gymnastics meet at age 18. Well, maybe I attempted a time or two at a wedding a while back.

Still, I was in shock as I found myself on my back with a Thai woman, half of my size, prying my legs open to a split position. It was like my feet were in a fight.

When I first told my friends I was heading to Thailand, all I heard about were the amazing massages. The benefits included: reduction of stress, increased circulation and flexibility. I love massages more than anyone I know. Others have huge amounts of self-consciousness when it comes to paying a total stranger to touch them intimately.

In Cambodia, my mother saw a sign for blind masseuses and finally considered having one. I could not imagine anything more awkward—to each their own.

After hearing such great things, I had to book an appointment as soon as possible. I signed up for a Thai massage while at a yoga retreat on the island of Koh Phangan. I was ready to be pampered and spoiled.

My first mistake was undressing in front of the poor lady, let’s call her Lucky. It took a few disparate attempts on Lucky’s part, but I finally got the memo to put my shirt and bathing suit back on. Note to all, in Thai massages you put on even more clothes than you came in with.

Although feeling a little bad for tiny Lucky, I was starting to relax.

Then, the punching came and then the elbows, the knees and the fingers. Butt cracks are not off limits in Thailand.

I kept wondering where the hidden camera was when she stood on my back.

The climax of the humiliating massage was having her standing on one leg and putting all her weight on the other, forcing me into the splits. 

To make matters worse, Lucky asked me how many kids I had. My reply was none. As always, the question that followed inquired about my husband, and I proudly admitted that I do not have one. She then asked how old I was. When I responded 28, she said, “Oh no, no, no.”

Her level of disappointment in my life choices was evident in her aggression towards my leg.

My ego and crotch broke simultaneously.

To top it off, I received my first stomach massage. Trying to hold in days of Pad Thai, pizza and Thai beer while someone is kneading your stomach is a difficult task.

The hour that seemed like it had lasted forever finally ended. I was proud of myself, I survived. For some reason, I gave Lucky a generous tip—no idea why. I walked away proudly, as I pictured prisoners of war did after being released from a Vietnamese prison. Technically, it was a limp, but I felt an extra skip in my step. Not only did I have another amazing cultural experience, I had also endured the wrath of a 90-pound teenager.

One of the most prominent benefits of Thai massages is mental clarity.

I am clear that I will not have another Thai massage.

The Swedes are much nicer.


Allison Cowan is a secondary teacher in Denver. She loves to travel around the world but has a crippling fear of planes. Her favorite animals are elephants and she recently rode one in Thailand.




Editor: Maja Despot

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