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Spare him the spa

With a job like mine, sedentary with tight deadlines, a quick and easy route from tension to relaxation is a massage. I can't get enough of it: Shiatsu, Aromatherapy, Swedish, Chinese, Deep Tissue or Pomeranian Pummeling. And I don't care who the prodder is - male, female, hermaphrodite, animal, vegetable or mineral. Once I hit the futon, or table with a hole in it, or, if it's Shiatsu, that bouncy potty thing, I'm anybody's. Press as hard as you like.

I say quick and easy, not quick and dirty. I mean a massage, not a "so-called massage" at a "so-called massage parlour". A "so-called massage" with "extras" - oooh, matron - is for men. But men don't seem to like proper pampering, at least not the men I know. Simon Mills explains why in The Times:

Why do we always get massaged to the bleating, aural kapok of Enya and Enigma and those ubiquitous, Peruvian sodding panpipes? Why don't they see that it's a man lying face down on the upholstered slab and give us some Elgar, Beethoven, Chopin or Ryuichi Sakamoto?

[...]

Then there's the overwhelming feeling of disappointment and pointlessness that comes when you get a masseur who doesn't work your soft bits hard enough. You know this from the very first touch when his/her pressure is akin to a tentative stroke of a friend's new puppy. Great, you think. Now I am going to have to lie here for the next hour, with no trousers on, basted like a Christmas turkey, bloody Enya simpering away in my ear, while some failed hairdresser rhythmically tickles away at my flabby parts as if petting a consumptive hamster.

I don't think women have this sort of trouble when they spa. (The word “spa” has become a verb, joining “summer” and “party” - dreadful). They just cruise into a pre-ordained spa sisterhood, completing a business-like introduction at reception, and changing into the provided dressing gown before wafting through into the warm womb of planet pamper beyond.

Why don't men know how to spa? Well, we feel awkward, adiposal and clumsy. We feel vaguely absurd, incongruous and, frankly, rather appalled that we have surrendered to that chink in our masculinity that is required to get us through the door of one of these establishments.

If we sign up for treatment at a mixed facility, the experience is never anything less than sweat-inducingly humiliating. The girls on the reception desk appear to be making fun of us as we fill in the health questionnaire, the throwaway sandals are at least four sizes too small, and the gown is comically short in the leg and arm. We don't have the nous to say exactly what we want because we don't want to appear overly expert in such arrant girliness.

It is almost impossible to make things pleasurable for any man who isn't a spoilt, self-serving, over-indulgent Premier League footballer. The environment is skewed towards the type of narcissism that makes most men squirm. We simply do not know the form, and to cover our arses (quite literally, in those shorty gowns), we start to act like nervy, cowed saps, doing as we are told and never asking any questions.

We certainly can't relax. If it's a massage that we are in for, we are concentrating so intently on not farting or entering a state of visible arousal that our bodies tense up like England footballers during a semi-final penalty shootout. That is bad enough if the person doing the massage is a woman. If it's a man's fingers on us, the tension is trebled.

Let's leave it there for now.

On "not farting" we want but little there below, which is simply not to fart in public when it's quiet. Women are better at not farting than men. Billy Connelly once said that the two main differences between men and women are that women can hold in a fart and men can keep a secret. So if you want a woman to keep a secret, you have to whisper it up her arse.

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