Over the past year at Northwestern, I've accumulated a lot of stress. I’ve tried every trick in the book: getting five hours of sleep, eating two meals a day and never working out. And yet, the stress persisted! So I came to the only logical conclusion — I needed to get my first massage.
I wanted the best of the best. No four-star joint would be good enough for my first time. I scoured the one website I visited, Northwestern Athletics, and found my massage — a highly-coveted 30-minute session at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion’s wellness suite.
For a mere $60, I booked my appointment for a Tuesday morning. I had no idea what to expect. My recent Google searches consisted of questions like “What to wear to a massage?” and “Are you supposed to talk during a massage?”
This was only my third time at SPAC, and what better reason than for a stranger to rub my body for 30 minutes?
The “wellness suite” is actually a purgatory-like space tucked in the corner of the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. It is cold, insular and windowless, giving the wing an incredibly liminal vibe.
Tony, the front desk attendee, helped me sign a waiver upon my arrival. During our fleeting time together, he told me his life story. You see, Tony is a musician on the side. And in case you were wondering, he spent quite some time on the coast of California before moving to Chicago with his wife, where she pursued a master’s degree. If you were really curious, he also lived in Colorado for a while. I was happy to share this moment with Tony.
Finally, the time for my massage arrived. I decided on the Swedish style (to connect with my 26% Swedish ancestry), and Allen, the massage therapist and protagonist of this story, informed me that almost all Western-style massages originated in Sweden.
The lights dimmed, and my life was slowly transformed. I learned Allen had moved from Tampa Bay, Florida, where he rubbed some of the best athletes in the world. Now, he was here, working on a weak, 120-pound boy whose neck hurts because he spends most of the day playing on his iPad.
When I asked if athletes from Northwestern frequent the massage studio, he responded with something along the lines of “we get athletes… and we get guys like you.”
I decided my back and neck needed the most attention, and with that, Allen went to work. It was like the NASA scientists faking the first moon landing. John Paulson betting against subprime mortgages in 2008. Me clutching a B in EA4 last quarter.
Allen whipped out some relaxing music, and I listened as the oils were transferred from bottle to hands. We started slow, but ramped up as time ticked on.
Yes, Allen was a masseur, but he was also a salesman. I was nearly sold on the idea of spending $120 a month on massages as a 19-year-old, until I thought about the fact that I’d be spending $120 a month on massages as a 19-year-old.
The 30 minutes passed too quickly. As I rose from the chair, I felt like a new man. Everyone wanted me to come back to the wellness suite, and not just because I spent $60.
The initial walk from 1838 Chicago to SPAC took 15 minutes, but it felt like five on the way back. I walked at the speed of light. I was faster, stronger, smarter and dripping with oil. The Sheridan crosswalk light counting down with only six seconds left was no match for my new body. I was nimble.
Before entering the wellness suite, I was sick with a cough, stressed from school and tired from a dire lack of sleep. After this 30-minute Swedish massage (as well as antibiotics and eight hours of sleep), my life was forever changed.