DSC_4450_ppThe linebacker (prop/Hagrid/big) sized woman hands me a bubblegum sized package. “Tanga!” she shouts. She can’t mean thong, I think. I think wrong. She has used a noun to create an imperative command. I unravel the tiny package to produce a, frankly, confusing puzzle of string and cloth that claims to be an undergarment. She and her (equally large) male colleague leave the room so I can savor the embarrassment of dressing in a thong for the first and, God willing, only time in my adult life. I slip it on incorrectly three or four times, holding it out in front of me after each miscue to analyze it as though it is a stingy map I am trying to refold.

Unless you are punching another man in the throat on the canvas of a ring or an octagon, wearing a tanga should probably make a man feel decidedly unmanly. I am no exception to this probability. I counteract this discomfort with a mixture of manly giggling, self-deprecating jokes and praying for the woman masseuse.

Then I lie down on the table and wait for my papaya scrub. A moment later, one of the Hagrids begins smearing my back with oils. I retreat into fruity rumination.

A man does a lot of thinking while donning a tanga and covered in papaya. These thought processes alter, of course, depending on the man. Some men might think about their days on Fire Island, others might embark upon an uncomfortable journey of denial and self-exploration. I am forced to put my money where my mouth is. And that’s the only thing in this room I am putting anywhere near my mouth.

For a man who doesn’t like cars, fighting or electronics, I have always been startlingly comfortable with my masculinity. This comfort has led me to do some traditionally unmasculine things. I sing to my cat. I watch Friends and did a Zumba class. I can sing the entire score to more musicals than I’ll admit to at this moment. I create incorrect, negative adjectives out of the word masculine. I once went on a holiday with two friends that we dubbed Spritzerfest 2009. And, if that is not enough, my sister and I celebrate a made-up annual holiday called Gay Day. Traditionally, Gay Day falls either at Christmas or in the summer, whenever we are in the same country. It is a day on which we enjoy manicures and pedicures, toe dividers, massages and the company of Korean women. I have never felt the least bit less masculine during Gay Day or while humming along to ‘I feel pretty!’

That is, until today. And I blame the tanga. Trained hands rub papaya into every nook and cranny of my body not covered by my man-tanga. My face, wedged into the face cradle, is granted only a view of the papaya scrubber’s rather androgynous feet. As relaxation and pleasure begins to overwhelm my body, I sing the classic, if repetitive, tune: “Please be the woman, please be the woman, please be the woman, please be the woman.”

“You get on your back now,” the papaya scrubber demands. Upon complying, I find that I have the male Hagrid. The three of us share an awkward moment: Me, Hagrid and the tanga.

The last few minutes of my papaya scrub are marked by my inability to get past the homoerotic elements of wearing a tanga and being scrubbed down with papaya by a large Czech man. I do eventually enjoy a spirit quest of sorts during which I solely blame my current discomfort on the tanga. Hagrid finishes and tells me to shower before my massage.

The tanga has become my whole life.

I sense that the tanga has made Hagrid uncomfortable too. There is no octagon in which we may hit each other in the throat so as I embark on my walk of shame in lacy underwear, he stops and says: “You no need tanga for massage.”

“Oh thank you, Hagrid.”  The tanga comes off and I can now relax for my massage. Think I’ll hum ‘The Pajama Game’.

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