[AUDIO NOTE: I performed this piece this past weekend at Anna David’s True Tales of Lust and Love (also starring Melissa Villasenor, Morgan Walsh, and Claire Titelman.) I highly recommend listening to this tale in all its mortifying glory — it’s better with the sound of an audience screech-laughing in horror. Here’s the link to the recording of the show. (On iTunes here in the 11/12 show.) I’m the third story.]
[WARNING: This story is not for the squeamish.]
So I’m super pregnant. And with that comes all these horrible things. Like, I can’t feel my fingertips – haven’t been able to in weeks. It’s carpal tunnel, it apparently happens to pregnant women, and it’s shitty. My gums bleed when I brush my teeth, I’ve lost all the hair on my arms, I am down to one position in bed where I can sleep without my legs going numb, I’ve got this cold I’m not allowed to take anything for other than hot baths and pity parties, and there’s a parasite that lives inside of me that absorbs all of my nutrients. Or as my El Salvadorian housekeeper likes to say: “Your baby is stealing your beauty.”
But it’s been pretty rough lately. The other week in the space of an hour I had to put my beloved sixteen-year old cat to sleep, and then I called my mom to cry to her but instead she told me about five other horrible things that were happening in my family and I got a call in the middle of that from my doctor to inform me that I have gestational diabetes.
And I realize this is like the poor man’s Tig Notaro right here. “Thank you, I have gestational diabetes. Thank you.” But I’m telling you this because it factors into the story.
I have gestational diabetes – “Sir, I’ll be okay, it’s okay. It’s just gestational diabetes.” – but it means I have to test my blood by pricking my finger four times a day and I have to eat these special meals five times a day and I can’t sleep because it makes my body go numb and my husband is out of town and my cat is dead and I’m eating saltines and string cheese for lunch and I have to perform a bloodletting every four hours and I’m NOT ALLOWED SCOTCH so my friend and I go for a nice, long massage.
We went to this place I’d been to a few times in my neighborhood. It’s no-frills, but tries to be serene and namaste and has that co-ed quiet room where we all sit uncomfortably in robes waiting our turn, pretending we aren’t all sitting together with nothing separating our naked bodies but two robes and a pile of In Touch Magazines.
This place doesn’t have individual rooms, so you’re in this big room with tents that separate, like a dark funhouse. And I never like the separated tents, because you end up listening to someone else’s massage, because inevitably there’s that person who has no concept of other people who’s like, “Ungh! Yeah. That’s it. Ooooooffffunh.”
So the guy leads me to my tent section, tells me to take off my robe and climb up on the table and that he’ll be right back. So I do, even though it’s very difficult to climb up on a massage table when you’re eight months pregnant, but I manage to sort of shuffle-scoot between the sheet and the heavy blanket and as I scoot I realize, I’m wet.
I’m wet but also, it’s like I found a spot I didn’t dry off somehow after I took my shower. But I know that’s not possible, because I showered more than fifteen minutes ago. But it’s dark in there, and I’m already on my side, so I kind of rub at where I’m wet, which is all around this part here of my hips and butt and I’m like, “This is kind of like a gel, maybe I got into some lotion or… but I don’t know. I can’t feel my fingers, so I’m not sure what I’m touching here. So maybe I’ll just smell it.
And it smells like semen.
And that is because it is semen.
Let me tell you what happens to you at this point. First of all, I’m sure natural instinct is to flip the fuck off that table. But it took me almost thirty seconds to even get INTO this position, and I’m several feet off the ground so there’s no flinging this body anywhere, so I sort of sit up on my knees, and I’m trying to see in the dark but it looks like – yes, I’m rolling around in a spunk puddle, and it’s on my hands and it’s on my body and it’s in front of me and –-
Basically what happened is my brain split in half and began trying to reason with itself.
“No, this can’t be what is happening.”
“It is. Try not to freak out, but you are covered in anonymous sperm.”
“No, no. That’s not. No, maybe we should just lie back down and go to sleep. Maybe we’re sleeping and this is all a dream!“
And the masseuse opens the curtain at this point and sees me naked on my knees, giant tits and belly facing him and he’s like, “Do you need more time?” And I’m like, “Uh! Um… no, it’s just… uh… there’s something…“ – you guys, I don’t know what made me want to be polite in this situation, maybe it was the Enya or the romantic lighting, but mostly I was thinking of all the other people in their tents around me and while part of me is like “NO, I NEED YOU TO COME IN HERE AND DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT I AM COVERED IN JIZZ.”
But instead I’m like, “Uh, there’s something on the bed here and I’m… it’s not… well, I think it’s… from a man. Don’t smell it.”
There’s the advice I give out. “Hey, don’t smell this. You’re welcome.”
So the masseuse comes into the tent to investigate and at the same time I pull up the blanket to shield myself, and then I realize it’s all over the blanket too because I’ve been just rolling around in it, so now it’s who knows where, and I drop the blanket and just naked flop out of the bed going, “I’m just going to wash my hands while you… um… I think maybe I should wash my hands.”
The masseuse is inspecting the sheets, and this is where some part of my brain is like, “Wait, what if your water broke? What if that’s all it is? Or just some kind of wet spot you made when you got on the bed? Or what if this is just another wondrous part of pregnancy?
‘When did you get your pre-sperm? That’s magical. I ate mine with my placenta.’
What if this is all your fault and came out of you? Then you are going to feel like such an idiot.”
Just as I go to inspect between my legs some rational part of my brain screams, “STOP! DO NOT TOUCH YOURSELF. YOUR HUSBAND IS OUT OF TOWN AND WHILE YOU CAN’T GET PREGNANT AGAIN RIGHT NOW DO YOU REALLY WANT TO STICK YOUR FINGER INSIDE YOURSELF CONSIDERING WHAT IT HAS JUST BEEN TOUCHING?” And I am grateful for that part of my brain.
I go wash my hands, and I find my friend, and I’m still feeling like somehow I need to do something. I stammer to her, “I don’t… I don’t really. Um. I need some advice.” Like I’m calling Martha Stewart. “Hi, I’m naked and covered in jizz. Club soda or…?”
So I tell my friend what happened, and this is how you know she’s a good friend. She goes, “Okay, well, that’s disgusting and so we are leaving right now.”
And here’s how you know she’s a great friend. Because I go, “Really? Man, I was kind of looking forward to a massage.”
And she doesn’t even bat an eye, she’s just like, “Okay, yeah, then you’re getting a massage. But you’re getting a fucking great massage. Let’s go talk to the manager.”
So we’re in the front area, which is not where people in robes are supposed to be, and we’re explaining what happened, and the masseuse finds us out here and he looks pale as he says, “Yeah, that guy who was just in there needs to be X’ed. It’s everywhere in there. It soaked all the way through to every sheet.” And the manager explains to me that they put twelve sheets down in the morning on the tables, and as each client leaves they pull back a sheet or two and then move on. And my friend and I are like, “Oh. Okay.” All CSI. “As long as we know why this happened. Okay, then. Alright.” Somehow this placates us.
The manager tells me to take a shower while they prepare a new room for me. I go take a cold shower, because the water wasn’t warm anymore at this point and I’m trying to Silkwood myself but mostly I’m just thinking, “That sheet had not been changed. I was rolling around in a lake and this guy’s trying to make me think this was two sheets down? No.”
The manager meets me in the quiet room and he’s like, “Again, so sorry. The owner isn’t here, but after your massage you and I can talk and we’ll figure out what to do about the situation, but please just… try to enjoy your massage.”
So I climb onto a new table and I have the same masseuse and he’s mortified and I’m mortified and it is awkward. But I use this time to think about what to do. I am momentarily proud of myself for not running from that place screaming, because I need to get my head straight and figure out my rights.
“Okay. I’m going to make sure we file an incident report, and we’re going to sign things and agree on what happened and maybe I can get that guy’s name so I can find out if he has… if he has any STDs because okay, I can’t get pregnant, but, can I get syphilis? Hepatitis? At least one of the heps, right? That seems possible. What could I have maybe just given this baby? Do I need to call the doctors today? Will they make me get an emergency c-section because I’m a risk?”
And this is when I remember that moments before I went to get my massage, I gave myself a blood sugar test. Right before I walked into that room, I pricked my finger with a needle and bled on a stick. And then used that same hand to scoop up some jizz and sniff it.
I am trying not to panic, but I am convinced that I have just become an urban legend. “Welcome to the wonderful world of AIDS!” “Did you hear about the woman who got AIDS when she was completely alone?”
I’m feeling very sorry for myself at this point and quite worried and I just want to mention that this guy was giving me a terrible massage. He’s skipping around, not really doing any part that – well, now that I think about it, he skipped any part that had come in contact with the semen, which is smart, really – but he’s kind of half-assing it and sniffing constantly and I don’t want to open my eyes because I’m now convinced that he’s crying and rubbing my thighs, thinking about how he just gave his last handjob in the back of this day spa and now this pregnant lady has ruined his life.
And then he says we’re done. And let me tell you, not only was that massage shitty and I thought about AIDS the entire time, but he stopped it at thirty minutes instead of the full hour. The injustices just keep coming.
Then I’m putting my clothes back on when the receptionist comes up to me and gives me this huge hug. She says, “You are a beautiful goddess creating life in your most special vessel. I am so sick for you. This is the most disgusting thing… I’m so insulted… I’m mortified for you. How you could even just…? And your baby…I don’t know how you’re surviving.” So I got away from her.
The manager takes me to this back room, sits down next to a stack of blank gift certificates and says, “We don’t really have anything in place to do when something like this happens because something like this has never happened.” So I tell him I’d like to file a report and I’d like the client’s name in case I end up coming down with gestational herpes. I mean, am I supposed to call the cops? “Ma’am, can you describe the ejaculate that came into contact with your ridiculously pregnant body? Any distinguishing characteristics? Wait. Did you smell it? We maybe have somewhere to go if you smelled it.”
The guy’s like, “Well, I don’t think we can give you the client’s name, but know that he’s not allowed here anymore. We have his record, we can see his past history and anything he’s done here before –” WHICH MAKES ME THINK THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE “–but why don’t you write down what happened and I’ll email it to you and that way you have a record of it?” And I say, “I don’t need you to email me my own writing on what happened. That means nothing. I’m going to write a statement, you’re going to write a statement, we’re going to both sign it and then I’m going to call my doctors and see what we need to do next.” I’m being very official here and I’m kind of pissed that they aren’t more appreciative that I’m not just running around through the quiet room screaming, “THIS PLACE IS MADE OF SEMEN!”
So we write these things up and then his computer crashes and then I have to get behind his desk and try to find the documents, but it turns out he hadn’t saved them, so we have to write it all over again and then print it and sign it and I’ve written this very detailed, very clinical version of events, trying not to use all caps at any point, and I’m writing times and dates and my name and then I look down and this guy’s written:
“Male client before pregnant lady client ejaculated everywhere and she got it all up on her.”
I mean, yeah, I guess that’s all that happened.
I take all the cash I have in my wallet, which is like twelve bucks or something, and I say, “This is all I have, but you can give it to the masseuse…” And the manager waves it away. “Please, ma’am, no. Of course you don’t have to do that,” he says. And I very stoically put my money away as he says, “We are just so sorry about this. You’re a loyal client and we’d hate to lose your future business over this, so just to make everything a little less stressful for you, and to apologize for things, we’d like to offer you a fifty percent discount on the massage you just had.”
And I just went, “Well, no, I won’t be paying that.”
And he goes, “Right, yes, of course.”
And sometimes, you guys, when I think back over this, that becomes the biggest injustice of this entire story! And yes, I realize my thirty-minute shitty massage came with a free ass facial, but I still can’t believe ON ANY LEVEL that they thought I’d pay for this! And if he didn’t want to accept the tip is it because THEY KNOW that guy was jacking someone off right before I went in there? WHY DO WE LET THINGS BE CO-ED? WHY IS SPERM ALLOWED TO JUST BE WHEREVER? Check under your table, ladies! If you find any semen, please let the bartender know so you can get half off your martini.
So I go outside and call my husband and do the Clare Danes ugly cry, spitting out words like, “Semen man touching hips baby AIDS whyyyyyy.” And he calms me down and says, “You took a shower, right? Right after? Did you get it all?” And I’m like, “I DON’T KNOW! I haven’t been able to see nor touch it all in quite some time!”
My friend comes out from her massage and was like, “Yo, you know I Helen Kellered the shit out of my massage table before I got up there.” She also mentions that as a gay lady, she’s never been in contact with sperm before. “I wouldn’t have known what it was. Pam, I might have been like, ‘Oh, this must be a nice masque.’”
I call my OB/GYN and my doctor. But of course, I’ve got to tell this story to the receptionist so she can tell the doctor, and you know that yes, these women have heard it all, but they haven’t heard this. And I can tell by the way they’re taking down notes. “Imm him…And was this a massage parlor or…were you someplace… else?” One receptionist was just like, “Girl, ew. We will call you back.”
But I can’t wait. I need answers now. I’m a pretty good Googler. I can find most things on the Internet and get you an answer right away, but this one posed a particularly new challenge. Not only did I appear to be the only person this had ever happened to, I couldn’t really land on the right search words. I can tell you, without hesitation, that it’s best never to Google “ANONYMOUS SPERM ON MY ASS.”
The owner of the spa calls, telling me that they plan on changing how they do things in the tents from now on, like having lights back there and maybe not doing the sheet thing. “I’d rather not involve the police,” he says. “I mean, it’s not like the client broke the law, anyway, and I’m not sure what they can do.”
Then one of the nurses calls me and says, “The doctor would like to know why you’re rolling around on a table full of semen.” And I say, “TELL HIM THAT’S NOT HOW I NORMALLY SPEND MY SATURDAYS.”
I call the LA County something or other that deals with spas and this guy acts like I’m prank calling from a radio station. “Hey! We don’t deal with that kind of stuff,” he huffs. “We check pools and hot tubs. Whatever you do when you’re in those rooms is at your own risk.” Like there’s nothing more shady than a pre-natal massage.
The first doctor calls and he can’t even hide that he’s laughing. “Talk about an unhappy beginning! HO HO HO.” My other doctor says, “Look, you’re probably fine. And besides, anything you could possibly contract from this won’t show up for a couple of months, anyway.” And I ask, “Is that supposed to make me feel better?” And he goes, “Just try to relax and enjoy the rest of your pregnancy.”
I email the owner, trying to sound very stricken with grief, letting him know that the doctors say it’s “too soon to tell” and that I am concerned about the safety of his establishment. I make a few recommendations. I casually mention that I’d recently bought some gift certificates for some friends and now we’re all too uncomfortable to use them, and I don’t know if I’m willing to come back to this spa. I’m dropping sixteen hints because you guys I don’t know why I want him to offer me free massages for life, but it seems like the only thing that makes sense! Fuck Yelp– I could get on Facebook and contact the mega-mommies in this crazy neighborhood I’m in and that place would be shut down in seconds, and this guy hasn’t even offered me ANYTHING in exchange for what I just went through? THAT MAN HAS STILL NOT WRITTEN ME BACK OR CALLED! WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?! WHY DON’T I GET TO JUST COME ALL OVER SOMEONE’S DAY?
I tell a friend of mine about all of this, and after she finishes being horrified she starts laughing. “I’m sorry. But you really had an Ultimate White Lady Problem in that room, getting your feet rubbed, pan flutes playing, wondering if you just gave your baby AIDS through your butt.”
I tell her I’m maybe going to tell this story tonight, here, because I still feel like I have to do something, and she says, “Just for a second, I’d like you to stop and think about whether or not you want this to be the legacy of your gestation. Do you really want to possibly be known forever as the Pre-Natal Massage Spunk Lady?”
And I realized: yes, I do.
Because I have to believe this all happened for a reason. When there’s no recourse, nothing I can do— NOT EVEN ONE DAMN FREE MASSAGE, BY THE WAY. THAT I MIGHT NOT HAVE USED, AND IF I DID I WOULDN’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT. But I have to believe that this happened to make me do something. That yes, I’m a beautiful vessel creating life even as we’re all sitting here together, but I’m also falling apart and in a lot of pain and I really can’t feel my fingers and I have to think, I have to believe that this all happened because I am the chosen one, sent here to tell the world:
LIFE IS GROSS. CARRY A FLASHLIGHT.
[If you’d like to hear my past piece for Anna David’s True Tales, you can download the podcast on iTunes. It’s the August show with Maria Bamford, Elizabeth Laime and Christie Nittrouer. (I think I’m third in that show, too. It’s about my awkward sexual encounters during my teenage years.)]