When having a home massage practice is awkward
Thai massage has a stigma in many places, a shady reputation for "happy endings" and illegal prostitution. Actually, it continues to surprise me that it even has this connotation here in the Netherlands, where one can visit a legal, licensed sex worker. Why would you need to go to a brothel posing as a massage "parlour?" No, I understand the draw of the illegal and illicit. What I don't understand is why I still get chuckles and winks from some people when I tell them that I practice Thai massage.
As I work towards completing the upstairs renovation, especially the area where my massage practice will be located, my thoughts are mostly on creating the right atmosphere within the space. I'm worried about light (too much or too little) and air circulation, the placement of my steamer for preparing herbal compresses, and of course the decorations and paint colors. I haven't been thinking all that much about the outside yet.
When we moved out of our old home, I updated Google maps to show my business at the new address. That listing was for Sharon Feigal Thai Massage. Further information gives an email address but no phone number (I hate phone calls) and says that I am temporarily closed. It links to my website, which also says that I'm temporarily closed and provides a contact form. I have received a few email and form inquiries since I've moved in, which makes me even more enthusiastic to re-open.
I've also had instances of men hovering around my driveway looking slightly confused and looking at my address and their phone. I usually just ignore this, since I'm not usually in the front of the house (I see them if I check the cameras). A friend arrived recently while a pair were doing that, and asked if he could help them. They said there was supposed to be a massage place here, and in response he played dumb. I don't mind my friend's response. Generally, legitimate new clients don't just show up without an appointment.
Our old house was in the middle of the busy Jordaan, with only one door opening to a popular shopping street with constant foot traffic and vigilant neighbors. When random men showed up at awkward hours, I could choose to not answer the door, or answer it (via intercom or at the door) but explain I was open only by appointment and that I took appointments only by email. If they were still confused, I would explain that I work on fully clothed clients and that I am not working at this time.
We were ready for some privacy after 12 years in our former busy neighborhood, and we've got it. The new house is an interesting mid-century architectural design of the Nieuwe Stijl movement. Something about the size and the mostly blank facade already has one of my friends referring to it as our Playboy mansion. It makes me nervous that the appearance of the house itself, paired with my business name, may attract more of those awkward visits, and that they may be potentially dangerous, for us or houseguests, or even clients.
I'm not really sure why a home massage practice causes misunderstanding. Many massage therapists practice in a room of their home, and many more do home visits. On the other hand, a quick Google maps search for massage in my area shows mostly female names, no business names at all, so perhaps that says it all.
I've updated my Google business name on maps to read Sharon Feigal Therapeutic Massage. Of course, my treatments are still based in traditional Thai medicine! I'm simply hoping that the name change eliminates some of these misunderstandings.
To end on a fun note: one year on King's Day (or maybe Queen's Day) I met a couple of friendly Thai people with a massage chair set up on a bridge. Their sign read "Thai Massage with Happy Ending" and they were giving short chair massages followed by a homemade ice cream similar to what I've seen for sale from handcarts in Thailand. The treats were the happy ending, and it was BRILLIANT.