Thursday, February 23, 2012

What If Massage IS the Answer?

Last week I was starting to get worried. Twelve wasn't acting up or anything, but was just a bit more dismissive of Mom than usual. Tonight, though, she snuggled on my lap in the big blue chair during the Daily Show and complained that it's been awhile since she's had a back rub at bedtime ["awhile" = one day].

I was mega relieved. I'm not ready for this stage to be over.

How it actually works is that Twelve gets ready for bed, then calls out "I'm ready to be tucked in and cuddled with and back rubbed!" It's silly and charming, and she knows it. Normally she's not allowed to be so demanding, but we keep it silly and playful ("Oh, so you'll let me rub your back?") Perhaps being playfully demanding allows her to admit to wanting a back rub at bedtime.

Works for me.

I just wonder what will happen when she decides she's too old/mature/whatever for back rubs from mommy. We all need healthy physical touch, and it's not like we live in a society in which we get much of that, especially in adolescence. If you're not a child and you're not sexual, you're pretty much out of luck unless you're wealthy enough to purchase massage or proactive enough to establish a private realm in which to experience nonsexual healthy physical touch.

I dunno about you, but I'd prefer that Twelve not seek sexual activity as a source of physical touch when she's too-old-for-Mommy stage but not yet adult. I am seriously considering finding a way to pay for regular massages during that stage. Indulgent? Perhaps. Privilege to the max? Certainly. But I can't help but wonder about the effect of regular massage on teen sexual behavior.

Maybe it wouldn't do a thing. Society's influences - media - wouldn't change. Boys would still learn to conflate sexual desire and possession, and girls would still learn to think of themselves as objects of others' pleasure.

But maybe experiencing lots of positive touch would help young women feel better about their bodies. Maybe young men wouldn't resort to clumsily coercive sexual encounters in order to experience physical touch. Fewer teen pregnancies. Reduced STIs. Improved self-esteem. Lower stress, even.

Imagine the possibilities.

Now: Write to your elected officials, and demand public funding for massage therapy. If your representative is a Republican, call it an anti-abortion strategy. If a Democrat, throw in the bits about reduced STIs and improved self-esteem. If you happen to be represented by a parent of someone in the eleven-to-twenty-year-old range, write an impassioned, heartfelt couple of pages.

And maybe somewhere buried in the fine print we could include massage for the stressed-out parents of all these youngsters. After all, even if by some miracle they're not having sex, we still have to deal with driving, grades, college applications, curfews, clothing, piercings, hair color, tattoos ... awwww, hell.

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