The (pär-lər) Controversy

An atrocity occurred recently.

Unless you were privy to a series of Executive Orders, signed by New Jersey’s Governor Murphy, that were meant to address and outline the steps in which “personal care businesses” were to re-open after the shut-down caused by the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, you may never have known.

This has sent many therapists over the edge.

Marci laughs…

What was this atrocity? Well, Governor Murphy acknowledged the place of business of massage therapists, in an official government document, by the term… “parlor“.

Are you one of them?

This has sent many massage therapists over the edge. I… happen to find this satiracle. But please, do not miscontrue my laughter. As a nurse, I will always have a cynical sense of humor; however, I do not take pleasure in my comrades flipping out. I am flipping out right there with them, but I am not sure if it is for the same reason.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the terms massage therapy and massage therapist began to replace such titles as masseuse and masseur as far back as the 1960s. The title massage therapist was readily understood by the general public and helped give the field legitimacy as a health profession. And– in that same era– it was common knowledge that the label “massage parlor” alluded to a house of prostitution.

So, is it funny that Governor Murphy basically legitimized the “safe” plan for re-opening New Jersey’s brothels with his Executive Order? Probably not. But, here we are—sixty years after the free-love era— offended because we have raised our hand at roll call answering to a name we later claim to have no affiliation. Or, do we?

I really want to tell my fellow comrades that just because you do not like the term “parlor” doesn’t mean it has been used out of context. This derogatory term will continue to apply–even to us– until we all change our behavior.  And there are some massage therapists that will never change their behavior.

The question is:  Are you one of them?

Life isn’t fair. What are you gonna do?

My high school english teacher, every day, 1984-1988

(My English teacher will may not like how this segment transitions to third person.)

Historically speaking

When life hasn’t been fair to Marci,


d i s a s s o c i a t e s.

  f r o m.

t h e.

u n f a i r.

t  h  i  n  g .

However, it’s a process.

Since opening the bāsalt Studio, Marci allowed one particular client to book multiple two-hour sessions.  During each massage, this client asked her when she was going to install a shower table. On multiple ocassions he told sexually inappropriate jokes and/or reiterated the tale of the therapist that didn’t wear a bra. One time he grabbed her arm.

Keep in mind, as an emergency room RN, Marci was accustomed to and expected to be assaulted on a nightly basis by bodily fluids; was groped by men and women on and off ventilators; was propositioned during cathether placements; and she never forgets being clobbered in the face with the wooden leg of one of her favorite detoxers. (His aggressive disillusionment with the healthcare system when she put him in a time out and took away his leg continues to be cherished as priceless.)

So–suffice it to say– Marci is no stranger to caring for unsavory sorts like the aformentioned client who placed great importance on cleanliness. She re-directed the conversation to an awkward yet necessary silence; “firmly guided” his arm back to the table; completed her work as nicely as she could muster–may have even laughed just to show him that she can take a good ribbing… each and every session.

If Marci was still in the ER, she could have just treated and streeted this joker, but as a sole proprieter/ massage therapist she still had to charge his credit card and graciously accept the 20% gratuity before kicking him to the curb.

And there it was. 

The bāsalt Studio had just become this guy’s new massage parlor.

The rule of silence.

The exploitation and involuntary servitude of young men and women is a problem that runs deeper than semantics.

There was a time when I would have loved to own a parlëure. You know…that special place with ornate, yet extremely uncomfortable, furniture where you can go–when you have taken a vow of silence– in order to have exceedingly important conversations with exceptional people in a private setting.

However, in America, the parlëure does not exist– only a distant relative-of-a-room where you can have ice cream or pizza or a perm or a funeral or a happy ending.

I never thought I opened any of those types of establishments until I analyzed it a bit further…

You see, as a nurse, I was never offered a gratuity after being verbally or physically assaulted. But as a massage therapist, accepting gratuity is the cultural norm.  In my opinion, this cultural norm is one of the barriers massage therapists have placed in their own way.

Now, one may argue that massage therapists rely on gratuity to make a living wage. Or perhaps: “[t]heir real money–and chance at a better life– comes in the form of tips…”

According to a 2019 New York Times article on massage parlors and human trafficking, this cultural norm is what licensed massage therapists have in common with indentured sex workers that are shuttled from parlor to parlor.

The exploitation and involuntary servitude of young men and women is a problem that runs deeper than semantics. And this cultural norm is something that the bāsalt Studio no longer accepts.

So, what are you gonna do?

It is my hope that more sole proprieters will stop basing their bottom line on this variable source of income; develop a personal ethical philosophy; incorporate a vision and a mission; realize their own worth; price their services accordingly.

It is also my hope that more massage therapists start their own businesses. And for those that may not be ready to take that leap—make a firm decision to only accept employment from an employer that values their therapeutic skill set and pays a living wage that is not dependent on commission or gratuity.

If you can not find that company–be that company.

marci page, rn/lmt, owner basalt bodywork, llc

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s