I Love a Mall Massage.


Fun fact: Comedian Bob Hope had a massage every day for most of his life. Is it any wonder he lived to be a hundred?

One of my daughters doesn’t see the point of having a massage. Someday, I suspect, she’ll become a fan like the rest of us. We’ll see.

I used to get full-body, hour-long massages every so often, sometimes once a month. You know, the kind that takes place in a softly lit pastel room smelling of lavender. The therapist waits outside while you take everything off except your panties. Then you climb under a freshly-laundered sheet and wait for her to ask if you’re ready.

Quietly closing the door behind her, she asks how you’ve been. Then she starts the music—Native American flute or dreamy guitar or Enya. She pours expensive oil into her palms and slides them over your skin.

You tell her your hip hurts or your shoulders or your lower back, and you trust that she’ll get to it, but only after the routine, slow, gentle sliding of her hands over your back.

You like her, so you always have a lot to talk about even though you realize talking interferes with her concentration and your ability to relax. Even though you know you should just close your eyes and float away.

Lately, though, because I’ve had trouble with coughing when I lie on my back, I’ve given up on the luxurious, pampering full body massage. Now I go to the mall for my massages. And I love it.

For one thing, I don’t have to make an appointment for a mall massage. I just show up. And there they are, two Chinese men, sometimes also a Chinese woman, and their chairs and kneelers. I find them down the hall from Nordstrom, between the bubble tea shop and the Verizon store.

These Chinese mall massage services seem to be all over the country. My daughter in Maryland and my daughter in Eastern Washington have them. I don’t know about my daughter in Indiana. She’s the one who doesn’t see the point.

This past Presidents’ Day weekend, my neck and shoulders were tight from too much computer work. So … off to the mall I went. Presidents’ Day is always a busy weekend at the mall, but one of the masseurs was free. Seeing me, he put down the knife he was using to peel an apple and got right to work giving me a thirty minute massage on one of the kneelers. ($30.) And believe me, thirty minutes is enough with these guys. They don’t waste a second on gentle preparation. They dig right in with all the strength that comes from years of martial arts training.

The therapist I got that day was really feeling his oats. (Is that an old-fashioned saying? Something from the Old West, I suppose, from the days when everyone rode horses.) Anyway, he was so determined to work out any knots and stiffness that I had to grit my teeth a few times. Better too hard than too soft, don’t you think?

The mall also has music, but with my face in the cradle that’s attached to the kneeler, the music blended with the sound of the shoppers into a single-noted hum, which was surprisingly relaxing.

After my massage, I walked to Nordstrom where I bought a cool pair of deep-plum-colored jeans, and then over to Nordstrom’s Café Bistro where I ate a Cilantro Lime Salad. Such are the related benefits of a mall massage.








About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She's working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early '90s.
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  1. We have a mall massage service at one of our local malls, but I rarely see anyone in the chair. I’m one of those rare individuals who doesn’t like getting a massage. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t relax enough to enjoy it. I’m happy you make a day out of it and enjoy yourself, Nicki. You deserve it!

  2. I used to work for a company that offered employees head and neck massages for half off. That was great!

    I had a full body massage, but was not a fan. I also find it difficult to relax.

    I’m glad though that you enjoy a good massage. My mother likes to get them.

  3. I love massages, but I am such a wimp. If it’s too hard, I tense up and fight it and wreck all the benefits.

    When I had shin splints, part of the physical therapy was a massage to loosen the calf muscles. It was hard not to scream. I’d be begging the therapist to let me something easy, like weights or stretching.

    The other patients thought I was crazy. The massage was the only part of PT they liked.

    • I like a hard massage on my back and shoulders. But, yes, there are times and places where it just plain hurts, and that’s not any fun. I’m not a runner, so I’ve never had shin splints. But I have had a charlie horse in my calf, and trying to massage it out hurts a lot.

  4. I love a massage! Sometimes I’m so loose afterward that I can barely walk. I’ve never tried the mall massages. Do they do it through your clothes? I love the skin to skin contact but would be far to skittish to take my blouse off in the middle of the mall! 🙂

  5. Bob

    Maybe i better try a massage

  6. Sounds like a great outing, Nicki. Nothing like a massage to get the kinks out!

  7. Nice to hear massages work for you, Nicki. Sounds like a treat whenever you get to go for one. The harder the better? You must be tough. Personally I avoid massages because every single one I’ve had, I’ve come out much more stiff and in pain – and those are the neck and shoulder massages. I suppose it is not for me, or maybe I’ve never had a good masseuse. A bit of shopping and some nice food after your massage session sounds like a treat, like a day very well spent 🙂

    Here in Melbourne, these in and out massage shops are everywhere in the shopping malls, and also in shops in the city and outer areas. Sometimes I wonder if some of them are legitimate.

    • Some massage therapists believe in gentle massages, just as much pressure as your body wants to accept at the moment. My experience is that when I have a hard massage, it doesn’t necessarily feel better right away. It takes my body a day or so to work it out. After a massage, it’s recommended to relax, drink a lot of water and also get some gentle, relaxing exercise. Especially after a hard massage, what one does afterwards seems to matter a lot.

  8. I also get massages regularly, they are one of the great things about China. Massages are so cheap here! I always do the Chinese style back massage, which feels like if someone was doing martial arts on you, yep. The part that always hurts the most is my ass… I guess I spend too much time sitting!

  9. I used to get massages occasionally. Most recently tried the reflexology which was kind of nice as I seem to have more feet problems than anything. Don’t think I ever tried a mall massage before but I might consider it after reading this.

  10. I’ve only had a few massages in my entire life, but all were awesome and I keep thinking that I should include massages to my life. I like the perks you add to your mall massage, Nicki. The salad you ate is my favorite kind 🙂

  11. Our mall has the same service. Any massage is well worth the time. Pamper away!

  12. Nice! We actually just got a massage table in our household. We’ve got to put it to good use now 🙂

  13. To stimulate circulatory system greatly, massage is always worthwhile. The experienced professionals can focus on the different pressure and apply varied techniques to facilitate flow of blood throughout the body

  14. We kept running to the massage chairs when we were in Malaysia. It is nice, and very convienient. Why didn’t they think of this sooner? 😀

    When I lived in Thailand, I got massages every week. Bliss. These days, I haven’t found someone that I like consistently. The massage all depends on the person, but maybe I should give it another go. Esp. if Bob Hope lived to be a hundred!

    • With a massage every night before bed, Bob Hope could wake up every morning ready to funny. Sounds good!

      I’ve heard that a Thai massage is especially good. I hope you find someone you like in Cambodia.

      When I was growing up, I never heard of anyone having a massage. In fact, I think in many people’s minds it was associated with prostitution. No one did yoga either or had acupuncture, and China existed behind the bamboo curtain. And then, gradually, we stopped being so provincial and opened up to the rest of the world, especially Asia. Of course, now that we’re backtracking to Trump’s “America First” world, who knows.

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