connect!

the client list.

 illustration by cassandra rhodin

As many of you know, an article was published a few weeks ago in The New York Times that got a lot of people -- mostly the expat community here in Paris -- pretty miffed. And that's putting it lightly. 

For me, the OpEd piece didn't incite the strong reaction that it did for so many, however, one of the writer's points did call forth one of my stranger memories I've had here in Paris. In the article, he laments that the decline of "seedy" hostess bars "marked by barely dressed women perched in the window" are sterilizing any vestige of the old Paris, eliminating its character and grit.

So I don't know exactly what happens in these hostess bars (one can guess), but it's understandable why such blatant establishments would become fewer. Perhaps a response to their decline is the rise of the more discreet (or are they?) massage parlors that seem to be popping up all over the city, some sadly offering the same idea. And I happened to stumble upon not one, but two of them.

Only me, I swear.

It was around this time last year, I was waking up regularly with stress-induced stiff necks where I was needing to be hoisted up just to get out of bed in the morning. A normal reaction to this would be to go to a licensed chiropractor, but I didn't and sought out a cheap fix at one of the many massage shops located near Aurel's office over in the 9th.

It was a cold afternoon in November where the rain was charging down on a diagonal, rendering my umbrella completely useless. On a street lined with several parlors to choose from, at random I chose one with twinkling lights hanging in the window and a poster of an official looking back chart taped to the door.

I walked in and as much as I would like to say that I was greeted with service, I can't; the staff seemed kind of pissed that I had even entered. That should have been my first indication that I was in the wrong place. In front of me at the reception desk was an older woman, modestly dressed looking at me with a skeptical eye. On the couch to my right were two women eating snacks in mini skirts, high heels, and barely-there tops; one was purple lace revealing a red push-up bra; the other was thin white crew-neck top with an illustration of a rabbit on it. Dripping wet and overdressed in my rubber rain boots, wool leggings and hooded coat, I assessed the scene and decided that I was extremely uncomfortable. But of course that didn't stop me from leaving.

While I was paying upfront for my massage (indication number two), the two scantily women were having what I instinctively felt was a heated conversation, presumably pawning me off: the undesirable woman client. In a huff, the purple lace masseuse jolted up from the couch and guided me down a narrow hallway to an available back room.

Getting undressed, where I was directed to take my panties off to avoid ruining them during the massage, I noticed two identical signs posted on both the south and north facing walls. They were informing clients that the parlor is strictly for massages, no other services are offered, and touching the masseuse is strictly prohibited. (Indication number three -- I don't remember reading signs like this at my message at the Dior Institut)

My "massage" which consisted of me lying naked like a greased up pig on a table, while she slapped me with hot jasmine-scented oil and tugged at the first layer of my skin with absolute boredom. Bored myself, I opened my eyes to let my thoughts wander, guesstimating how much longer the treatment was going to last. It was then that I saw through the massage doughnut where my face was nestled, that she had pulled her skirt up revealing her beige panties along with a grown out shaved bikini line, mere inches away from my face. 

(Indication number four! Indication number four!)

Obviously, I was not interested in her up-sell but in a way, I did feel kind of bad. It's like when you don't buy the products used on you after a facial or at the hair salon. 

Her gesture invited a host of questions flooding through my at-the-time frantic mind: If I was interested, how would we even go about it? Would I have to pay up front again? Was I wrong for feeling flattered? Did she really think I came in for hotsy-totsy? Was this a silly misunderstanding and she was just getting some air? And did Aurélien ever get around to downloading season two of The Client List? I had so many questions that I knew would never get answers to. (Except for the last one. He still hasn't done it.) 

Being stark naked does add a level of vulnerability where simply walking out poses much more of a challenge than you'd expect. So I just closed my eyes, grateful that I didn't purchase an entire hour. 

The massage itself was awful, I woke up the following day with bacne from the oil she had pickled me with, and having a crotch in my face during a massage will forever be burned in my book of Paris memories. My second experience involved an actual physical proposal resulting in me screaming ça va pas -- again totally naked.

So if there is any question that Paris is losing it's grit and character, look closer, it's still here. It's just more concealed. After all, it is called the oldest profession for a reason.

24 comments:

  1. Ha ha! The worst I've had was a brief unsolicited boob massage (from a woman). I can't believe you didn't walk out before the naked part. I would think they'd like not having to service some sweaty old dude, but I suppose you were cutting in to their earning potential.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A boob massage! How useless. In theory, you'd think it would be nice, but no, from a stranger, it's just kind of weird. That's a total Gwan story. : )

      I was cutting into nothing. No one was in there! They were just being divas. Ugh, I shiver every time I think of it.

      Delete
  2. That was one of my biggest gripes with his story, only I didn't have the brilliant personal experience to write about. So glad you did!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He should get a massage at one of the MANY places in the area. He'll get the nitty gritty Paris that he's craving. I know I felt really gross after, so much that I needed an American cocktail!

      Delete
  3. ROFLMAO, as I'm reading this the Client List is actually on in the background!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky. You get The Client List! French tv JUST started airing season 2 of Homeland and I saw an episode of Ghost Whisperer recently but no Client List. I really want to see the final season!

      Delete
  4. Hahahah! laugh of the day.......yes only YOU!...... but I am sure I also would have too much British politeness to walk out!

    Love Denise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would have been awkward to just walk out...even before I got naked! Are we odd for thinking it would have been impolite?

      Delete
  5. Oh SWEET BABY JESUS!!! THANK YOU!!! Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am beyond thankful to you for giving me this nugget of gloriousness! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha you're welcome! Happy Thanksgiving, Sara! Thanks for the shout out on FB. Gobble. Gobble.

      Delete
  6. LOL

    I agree with the article that the invasion of bobo chic is making every city look like the next (Starbucks on Place du Tertre, anyone?!), but I don't think human misery should be glorified so a few bourgeois can feel daring for living in close proximity to 'grit' and lord it over the other bourgeois who don't rub elbows with creatures from "the underworld".

    And yes, only you:) But the only thing that ran through my mind as I was reading your post was that you should never opt for the cheap options when dealing with back and neck pain or bone alignment. None of the masseuses in massage parlours are trained to give proper massages, as such, they can do more harm than good. Case in point: looking for an inexpensive solution to deal with backache, a friend of mine, who was trying a new dentist, saw on the dentist's card that she also doubled as massage therapist and that her prices were quite reasonable. So my thrifty friend decided to kill two birds with one stone and got a massage after her dental appointment. Long story short: her bargain massage by the dentist-cum-massage therapist ended up costing her a few months of weekly appointments with a licensed chiropractor to mend the damage done to her neck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Duchesse, I had the same reaction as you did to the article. I understood both sides. However, some of the rebuttals were just so aggressive with the article was taken so personally that it was difficult to even enjoy an opposing argument (which I normally love). It was an Op-ed piece and opinions aren't facts. It's not worth getting mad over. But that's me getting all 12-steppy.

      It was silly to try and go the cheap route when I have health insurance and Aurelien has a kiné that he really likes. I haven't had problems since (and no I'm not crediting the creepy massage) but the next time I do, I'll go about it the right way.

      I would be creeped out if my dentist wanted to massage me. He is also a French man from Long Island (yep, they exist!) and it would just be weird and wrong. But thank you for cautionary tale. : )

      Delete
  7. OMG!!! .....The indications!! LOL .... I would definitely be quite uncomfortable.... but i knowing me i probably wouldn't want to upset the masseuse in her "beige" undies so i'd just "smile and wave"

    I swear you encounter the funniest things ever. :) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha I know! How can you be like "Okay, thank you, bye" and prop yourself up in the nude effortlessly? I guess you could but it would be awkward or worse what if they thought you were going to report them and they called their boss. Too scary. Well it serves me right for thinking I could get a good massage on the cheap!

      Delete
  8. good grief, mon dieu.

    Toronto has plenty of those "massage" palours...some call themselves Holistic or something...but my friend never in a month of sundays would I walk into one...and strip!!!!

    Do I have to come over there and "street smart" you? LOL...only you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you ever do, Debs, I want to be there!;)

      Delete
    2. I swear Deb I'm not dumb. Although you wouldn't think it by reading some of my posts. :) Okay, so there are a lot of Tui-Na massage places in Manhattan that I used to go to after a long day and while they weren't the most professional, the women were in uniforms if not just pants and a shirt, the massage was good and I truly didn't get the sense that extra services were offered. I foolishly though that it would be the same in crazy town Paris. Shame on me!

      Delete
  9. There was a news story on French CBC a few months back about massage parlours in Quebec giving legit therapeutic massage receipts to be reimbursed by Quebec's health services. So the show sent a covert investigator -- a licensed chiropractor -- with a hidden camera in his backpack. Let me tell you that he was not impressed with the massage skills that were applied to his back and neck. The "massage therapists" were scantily clad, used cheap scented oils and offered BJs and other goodies within minutes.

    And that, ladies, is what Quebec taxpayers end up paying for. Disgraceful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so nasty. The oil is the worst part. They grease you up like a piglet! So they offer it so soon the extras so soon? I had always wondered about that transaction; if a client has to make several visits to establish himself as a "client" or if it really is right off the bat like that. So gross.

      Can I find this story on line? What is it titled? I'd love to see it.

      Delete
    2. You're in luck! Here it is: http://www.radio-canada.ca/emissions/la_facture/2012-2013/Reportage.asp?idDoc=260670

      Delete
  10. This is such a small world. Something similar happened to myself and some of my best college friends. There were six of us scheduled for a spa day at this "holistic day retreat" in celebration of the brides upcoming wedding. It was just moments after we pulled into the parking lot of this retreat when the parking lot filled up law enforcement from a ton of different agencies. We were told to leave immediately. Later on the news that evening it turned out that this place was a front prostitution. The kicker of this story is that this happened in little old Vermont and apparently the people who turned this retreat into the police was the local owners of the Motel 6 (I think he was more worried about his own profits dwindling than actual women's rights).

    ReplyDelete

  11. Very nice!! there is so much information on this blog keep posting good information like this so that I can come back every day for some new info... Online Travel Agencies

    ReplyDelete