JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

My massage message: Oh, the joy! Oh, the pain!

Updated: 2014-02-25T06:26:39Z

By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

The Kansas City Star

It was the best $30 I’ve ever spent. And the worst, too.

I’ve never had a massage that was cruel, unusual, fascinating and feel-good. When my friends wanted to celebrate their birthdays at Imperial Foot Care in Westport, they should have just said let’s endure 50 Shades of Reflexology.

One of my friends, Babz, swears by it. And if you ask Yelpsters, it’s the best. This place ( imperialfootcare.com) has enough five-star reviews to make a restaurant jealous. Why wouldn’t we believe?

It’s memorable, to say the least. The minute you walk in, it’s a whisper zone. I’m talking library status. Do not talk. Do not mention the faint smell of funky feet wafting about. And it’s dark in there. No lights. And no privacy. Rows of massage chairs sit side by side. Everyone is in it together. Thankfully, you keep your clothes on for these full-body massages.

As soon as my butt hits the recliner my feet are put into a plastic-bag-lined basket of hot water. My masseur lays my chair back and covers me with a scratchy towel. Despite my anxiety, I close my eyes and try to relax. The only thing you can hear is a fountain and music. At one point I think I hear a song from the “Kill Bill” soundtrack: “The Lonely Shepherd” by pan flutist Zamfir. But maybe that’s because I feel like I’m in a fight.

It starts with a mini head massage that I refer to as the skull crusher. Seriously, I think my face might split wide open as he applies pressure to my temples, the middle of my scalp and in between my eyebrows. He even goes after my cheekbones. It could be worse. My friend’s masseur puts his fingers in her ears and twirls. That happened.

I know these are points for headache relief, sinuses and such. But all I feel is fear. It’s like a game of Operation, but the room is so silent I am too scared to ask for a time out.

My friend didn’t warn me all of this is part of the hour-long foot massage package. (Note: $30 for an hour is a steal.) Next up — my shoulders, arms and neck. This feels good. Gentle but thorough. He even slides his arms between my back and the chair to work my back out just a little. Finally, he gets to my feet. In a word: amazing.

It’s the best foot rub I’ve ever had, and it goes on for what must be 30 minutes. The lotion, the up and down motion on each foot. I think my nail polish might jump off my feet with joy. The only downfall is he keeps using this oddly long pinky nail to outline my toes. Again, he goes a little too hard on the pressure points of my toes, specifically the pieces that connect my little piggies to my feet. I think they might pop out of the sockets. I jerk back, praying he takes the cue to ease up. He just holds my foot still and keeps at it. Ouch.

Finally, he moves on to the calves. Again, heavenly. I can feel my muscles give in. Very minimal thigh action. Sweet relief.

At this point, I honestly lose track of how long I’ve been sitting there. He straightens my pants leg, so I think it’s over. No. He lays my chair all the way back and tells me to turn over. I steal a peek at my friends. But their eyes are closed, bodies covered in towels. I do as told.

When I tell you I think he’s on a mission to remove the meat from my shoulder blades, I am serious. It hurts. I squirm. I tighten my fingers into a ball. I should say something, but no one in the entire room is saying a word. It’s taboo to talk. I hope he speaks body language and sees I need a gentler kind of rub, but he’s in a wrestling match with my tense knots. I’m certain I feel his elbow and fist. I think a foot might be on my back. Nope. It only feels like I’m a trampoline. But every few minutes, he relaxes his aggressive style and things get good. Where my shoulders cry tears of pain, my neck is delighted.

And somewhere between my shoulders and legs comes a surprise. This massage includes your booty. Your jelly may not be ready. I clench mine at first. I’m just not prepared. But if you relax, it might be the one part of the massage that doesn’t make you feel beat down.

Unfortunately, he finds his way back to my head. I don’t know what he is doing to my hair, but I feel like Cousin Itt. He gives me a scalp massage and scratch that serves as a wake-up call. His oddly long pinky nails leave visions of Freddy Krueger dancing in my head.

And just like that, it’s over. I know you’re supposed to follow massages by drinking water. But toxins beware, liquor is calling. We walk to Port Fonda for a round of margaritas. Had Murray’s been open, I would have gone next door for ice cream. It’s just that kind of experience.

If you like deep tissue, hardcore rubdowns, I bet this place is perfection. I’m just not a fan of a massage so brutal it leaves bruises. Then again, I can’t say I’ll never go back. My sinuses have been clear for three days straight. The only thing sore is my shoulder blades and the space in between them.

Imperial Foot Care. It hurts so good.

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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