As the years wore on, yearnings for a romantic relationship slowly consumed more of my idle thoughts. Christmas and Valentines Day were my low points. Seeing couples kiss under the mistletoe, or watching a commercial of a guy giving chocolates to a lady, served as painful reminders of what I didn’t have.
At the start of each year, I vowed to create more social opportunities with women. Yet, no matter how many promises I broke to myself, or how my sexual frustration grew, I just was a yellow-bellied coward when it came to interacting with the opposite sex. The funny thing is that I had overcome obstacles which made this phobia pale in comparison. The core of my fear stemmed from how I would sound to a lady as soon as she heard me speak. Like an instant reaction upon suddenly opening a carton of spoiled milk, I feared getting that disapproving, befuddled, awkward gaze.
However, on my 36th birthday, I decided to have a life-changing experience. As my friend and I strolled through a local mall, we passed by a tanning salon. I stopped and read their services which were displayed in the window. Listed amongst them was a one-hour full body massage for $65. My friend asked me if I wanted a massage. Before I knew what happened, my friend made an appointment for me the next day.
A day later, I entered the salon full of anxiety and apprehension. I craved the touch of a female message therapist. But, I was worried that my nervousness would exacerbate my spasticity making a massage virtually impossible and really pissing her off. After a five-minute wait at the front desk, a short, fit, attractive blond woman came up to me and introduced herself as “Stina.”
I tried to shake her hand. But, she firmly grasped my hand with both her hands, looked into my eyes, smiled, and softly told me to relax and not worry about my involuntary body movement. Then, before escorting me to a private room, she asked me if I wanted her to give a certain area special attention. After mulling it over, I informed her that because I sit in a wheelchair all day, my bottom gets sore and numb from lack of blood flow. While not a false statement, as you can no doubt ascertain by now, my motives behind this request weren’t totally asexual.
Before going further, I must provide some background on why I getting a massage gave me anxiety. Ever since experiencing mainstreaming in school, I have been a control freak. I thought that, given my condition in order for me to succeed in school, I had to keep on top of as many things as possible. This philosophy served me very well throughout my academic career. Unfortunately, over time, I became acutely sensitive to how others perceived my involuntary movement. Every time a group of strangers gathered around me, I would devote part of my consciousness to clenching my hands tightly together, so in case I became startled my perceptible movement would be minimal.
Therefore, when I was on the massage table for the first time, I went back to an old, bad habit. No matter what the therapist said, I truly believed that if I moved too much that she would refuse to work on me ever again. Also, she might spread the word to other therapists and blackball me from getting a massage from anybody ever again! I now realize that my thoughts were irrational but remember fear thrives upon ignorance.
During that first massage, I kept my boxer briefs on. Incredible shyness and immaturity around women prevented me from completely disrobing and letting go of old insecurities. All I could think about was how to not move around too much. Moreover, I needed to tense my hands in order to remain still, which defeats the whole purpose of a “relaxing” massage.
About halfway through, Stina did something completely unexpected. She gave my bottom ten firm pats and a rub—also known as a “sensual spanking.” After that, my body just surrendered to her strong, supple hands. During that last 30-minutes I found a wonderful psychological tool which I use now whenever I get stressed out—submission. As it applies to massages, it helps when I think of myself as a helpless little child being compassionately nurtured by a maternal woman.
Yes, after all those years of trying to blend in and appear as “normal” as possible, did I finally discover my true path towards feeling comfortable with women? The answer turned out to be realizing that no matter what I did, not everybody was going to be comfortable around me. I had to accept the reality that I couldn’t change the world. On the other hand, when I stopped overthinking about the consequences of a social misstep, I finally released the burden of trying to be perfect. In part three, I’ll share how this personal discovery motivated me to make bolder strides in my quest for intimacy.