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Where is the pain?

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A luxuriously frugal lesson: Penny wise pound foolish.

We got a monthly membership to Massage Envy. It seemed like a good deal – for a discounted rate of $59, you get an hour of massage every month.

If you don’t use the hour in a particular month, you can roll it over to the following month, like the rollover minutes for your cell phone. It keeps accumulating as long as you keep your membership active.

There were other advantages – Massage Envy is like the McDonald’s of massages – you can get a massage anywhere in the world and be assured of the same quality of service. Also, if you had a really stressful month because your second grader got an A- on his project, your mother-in-law is visiting, or your teenager wants to explore gender fluidity, then Massage Envy would be your panacea. You can get additional massages as many times a month at the same low rate. It seemed like a good deal so we signed up.

The first few months were great. I was fairly regular. I missed a couple of times but was able to make up the following month. Then one day, I woke up really stressed out because I realized I had seven unused credits under my name. That’s $413 potentially going to waste. That’s serious money!

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I made a call to them to see if I could suspend my membership; that way I would get some breathing space to catch up. Spending time on a massage at that moment seemed like a waste of money because I wanted to use it to combat the real reasons of stress – a rough day at work, my teenage kid not doing Namaste in the morning or an argument with my wife. This was a self-inflicted stress.

I called them to see if my wife could use my credit. It turns out she had five of her own unused credits. I asked them if any of my other family members could use that. They said they could use one hour every six months. Out of my 3 kids, only one of my sons, Vicktor, entertained the possibility before rejecting it. He said, “Dad, I don’t need it. I am not stressed out.”

I said, “You would be after we finish with the conversation. Why is your room such a mess? How come you spend so much time on your phone and television?  And what was that A- about?” He smiled, “Good try but it’s not working, Dad.”  I continued, “So have you decided what you will do after graduate school?  What about marriage – will you let us pick a girl for you? And how many kids will you have and will you live nearby so your Mom and I can help with babysitting?” He got the hint and agreed to a complimentary session.

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That took care of one credit. They would charge for an extra hour on the fifth of next month so I thought I better start working on it. I called to make an appointment and scheduled a 1.5-hour deep tissue massage. I thought if I did a few 1.5-hour sessions, it would bring my account current faster.

While listening to the music and waiting for the masseuse I told myself, “OK, I am here. I should make the best use of it. I should let go of all my worries and just relax. I should breathe in all the positivity, happiness and joy and I should breathe out negativity, depressing thoughts and worries.”

Then I thought “if I am able to relax on my own, why I am here wasting money on a stupid massage? I should try to get tense.” I started thinking of all the negative thoughts in the world – how my wife is becoming more capricious, more impatient and bossing me around. I thought about my kids – even though they are polite, they don’t show real love and affection, the kind I had for my parents growing up.

I thought about Turing, our Basenji puppy, how he ran away from the house. I thought about the forest fires in Los Angeles and the pending earth quake we are supposed to have. I thought about the high state tax in California. It was beginning to work. My neck was getting tense. I felt good. I needed to invite more negative thoughts and their cousins to stress me out so I could get true value for the money.

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Then I started thinking about how the 5th of the month is only a week away. I quickly grabbed my iPhone from the side table and figured out we had 11.5 credit hours totaling $678.50. I thought this is crazy. If I terminate my membership, I lose close to $700. That’s a lot of money just going down the drain. If I continue my membership, I keep adding to the unused hours. It was vicious circle. As I was thinking, I could feel the stress creeping in my back too. It felt good that I would get full use of my money.

As the masseuse started his work, pressing my neck and my back, I could feel the muscles loosening up. He asked me if the medium pressure was all right or should he increase it to heavy. I told him we could try heavy; I had to get value for my money.

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For the remaining one hour, he beat my body like a punching bag. Things softened up real quickly and my body was becoming like Jell-O. It felt heavenly in a masochist way. As his session was coming to an end, he asked me if there were any tension left. The thought of the remaining 11.5 credit hours crossed my mind again and I replied, “Yes, in my wallet!”

(Los Angeles-based comedian Raajeev Aggerwhil has starred in Nickelodeon’s TV show 100 Things to Do before High School and also acted in the film based on the television series. He is a frequent contributor to The American Bazaar. He can be reached via Twitter, and Instagram.)


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