Taocheng Wang

Massage Near Me

October 18 - December 20, 2015

Opening Reception: October 18, 6 - 8pm

Press: Art Viewer, Modern Painters, Sinovision

 

After Lisa found out my age, she burst into laughter and stopped: “Oh my dear, you can be my auntie now! I really don’t understand you. I don’t get it. I feel … I feel that you are so alone, almost like a female version of the Himalayas … I mean … here and now, Yang, Lucy, we all have relationships and love … and you are so beautiful …. your life would be much easier if you had a boyfriend who could help you out … do you know that? You should really think about it. Everything that I’m striving for is a settled down life: a nice house, a nice country, a nice man, nice money … I don’t get you, Tao! Thirty-four years old and you still do massage with us?”

 

I work at a Chinese massage salon in Amsterdam. Growing up, I never would have imagined that I would do a massage job to make a living. I think this job (since it is seen as a very low one) is for someone who uses their full identity because the communication / connection between people is based on touch rather than polite, daily conversation. The client will always know if the masseuse is focused on who she is massaging or not. He will know whether or not she is a professional. Should I continue for another half hour or not? he will think. Is she in a good mood? Is she sexy? Is she relaxed or nervous?

 

To the other masseuses, I’m an outsider. But, since we are all Chinese, we are all outsiders to each other—and to the Netherlands. I listen to them talk about their lives as immigrants, the good feelings and the bad. They complain about so many things. They scare themselves by making others scared of their love, of their problems with power and ego and dignity and human history. Gossip! For example, one of them wants her local Dutch boyfriend’s love and wants to keep it for as long as she can, but she also wants the old traditional right of marriage—a concept she inherited from her own culture. She says he should give her money and make a baby for a nice, stable future. Our boss is the most privileged person in this tiny society because she is a Dutch national and owns a few houses in Amsterdam. She wields her power over others who are still awaiting their immigrant visa, but because of her adherence to tradition, she cannot freely love the man whom she has fallen for and so she has become jealous of some of her employees who can.

 

This is a tough job! You receive only a third of the massage fee and there are three girls with whom you must rotate. When it is busy, you work until you are sore and mentally exhausted from the claustrophobic environment of the partition of thick curtains. You labor over the man’s body against his sweaty skin and the smell of Chinese soy and garlic and cheap perfume with a background of repetitious electronic music. If it is not busy, you have to wait for a whole day—up to thirteen hours—for work and then you will likely only earn few bucks, though your energy will be wasted simply from waiting around. This is not exceptional. But all jobs that use the flesh, whether you sell your intelligence or your body are actually are the same.

 

I never had to work such a difficult, physical job before. When I started, I didn’t have any experience as a masseuse so I was only allowed to work on tourists or new clients. Old clients are picky. Sometimes I cannot do it well and need to practice more, but without payment. This massage salon only hires girls, cisgendered girls. I am not one of those girls so I have to “pretend” and “perform” as one. I am afraid of being recognized and fired everyday. The majority of clients are male, many of them come for massage only because of sexual desire, which means they do not really want a normal massage. This makes “my identity” a very difficult and embarrassing situation. I still need to smile at them and make them feel happy.

 

—Taocheng Wang

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