My Tibetan Masseuse


My Tibetan masseuse told me that her husband is in Paris. He is studying French to become a citizen.

She tells me that she is not attracted to black men; we talk about the challenges of overcoming culture in marriage. I think about racism. She tells me that even marrying a Tibetan born in India – a second-generation refugee – is difficult. A friend who came with her from Tibet married a second-generation refugee. He eats rice and dahl like Indians. The friend likes noodles like Tibetans. My masseuse laughs and says they will not cook for each other. They will not eat the other’s food. But her husband will eat anything, she says, He hates to cook and misses my food. He has been in Paris two years now. She is 37. I told her my sister has twin babies. She wants twin babies.

Her nephew still lives in Tibet with her brother and her mother. He asks her to send a bicycle.

She came to India ten years ago. She learned Tibetan massage from her grandfather. She is strong.

She tells me that if a Tibetan family has two girls and a boy, the boy will be expected to care for his parents as they grow old. If there are only girls, the youngest is responsible for the parents. They are allowed – expected – to marry. The grandparents will care for their grandchildren while the grown children care for their parents.

Her cell phone rang before she finished with my back. There had been confusion. Someone had expected her somewhere else. She explained when she hung up that it was another masseuse, an Indian woman she had called the day before to schedule a massage for her lower back. She had tried to leave a message for the other masseuse, to let her know we had scheduled massages that morning, but the other woman had not gotten the message.

I always wondered whether the masseuse goes for massages. Then I felt bad because I knew her lower back would hurt more because the bed was low. Maybe that was why it hurt in the first place. She leaned over me to knead through the muscles and I let go of the worry.

Afterwards I tell my mother what I learned during my massage. She is surprised because she had a massage from the same woman and it was quiet. The masseuse had only chanted occasionally in a low voice.

We guessed that it was because I was nervous and she knew. (I did not want to remove my underwear for the massage although it was an option). (This is probably a sign I am accustomed to the puritanical or sanitized aspect of American culture). So she talked.

We thought also that maybe she was bored or feeling sleepy, and wanted to talk.

Either way, I was happily massaged.

My Tibetan masseuse does not speak French, yet she is planning to join her husband in France. I will worry about that for her. And hope for twins.


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