Beatrix Jenness loves what she does. Contrasting with statistics that place the average career in massage therapy between two and seven years, Jenness has been a massage therapist for 18 years, licensed in two states and currently based in Great Falls, Montana. Physically, the job is demanding. But emotional stresses may be the tougher hurdle.
“Nearly every day I have to contend with stereotypes that range from ‘the flaky masseuse’ to ‘the prostitute,’” Jenness says. Although she’s been married for four years, a previous boyfriend couldn’t resist from joking about the “massage” confusion that comes up a lot. She broke off that relationship. In social situations, responding to the simple inquiry about what she does for a living inspires men to shoot back a “cute” remark, and Jenness has given up on Yellow Page advertising altogether. Then there’s the guy who lies on his back stark naked with the sheet off. Local massage therapists have compared notes, and no one takes appointments from “the flasher” anymore.
“Recently someone posted my name, phone number, business address and email address on a local website called ‘Naughty Reviews,’” Jenness reports. “Someone who saw my name there came in as a new client and handed me a fistful of $20 bills wrapped artfully around a condom. I handed it all back said, ‘I’m afraid there’s been a misunderstanding. I don’t do erotic massage.’ That’s about as calm as I’ve been able to be in any situation like that. The gentleman was embarrassed, but I’m getting really sick of this kind of thing.”
Jenness continues in the profession because she enjoys the rewards of giving someone a great therapeutic massage. In addition to maintaining a private practice, she has worked at an oncology facility and a fitness facility. To handle the snide comments, Jenness networks with colleagues and occasionally vents to an online social group. She also has strategies for keeping herself in good physical shape:
- Study with the best. Jenness had two teachers, both in their 70s. “They’d been doing massage for 40 years, so I felt that their instructions would help me to have a long career,” she says.
- Posture. “A big part of doing the job right is body mechanics—knowing how to hold your body,” Jenness says. “You don’t have to be big and strong to put a lot of pressure on one muscle, but you have to learn how to use your body so that you’re not just squeezing with your hands.”
- Yoga. Jenness confesses that she has to force herself to do yoga, since she doesn’t really enjoy it. “Yoga reminds me to use good posture, and it helps with flexibility,” she says. “When you’re working in the same position all the time, yoga helps to stretch everything out so you don’t just always fold into that same position.”
- Massage. The obvious: Jenness makes sure she gets a monthly massage for herself! She trades out with other local massage therapists to perform the service for each other. The other perk of this is that the “client” understands that a massage therapist is an educated, licensed professional who doesn’t appreciate lame jokes about “related” occupations.
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