I tried acupuncture for the first time today. You see, reader, I have the spine of an 82-year old coal miner. Tying my shoe the wrong way could result in temporary paralysis. Growing up, it seemed every sitcom would show at least once instance of an adult character doing something mundane like picking up a pencil or a toy from the floor that their irresponsible kid left behind and suddenly they’re unable to stand up straight comically howling, “My back! My back!” Can you see Patrick Duffy of Step By Step or Mark Curry of Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper doing this? Me too, and I thought that was preposterous… until it happened to me.
Like any normal person, needles penetrating my skin isn’t what I’d call a fun time, but I’ve dealt with this lumbar situation since my early-twenties and am willing to try anything including acupuncture.
A healthier-than-average friend highly recommended trying this voodoo and from that, an appointment was made. I envisioned some hippy with a stethoscope inserting the tiny needles into my lower back and black smoke emerging from the holes left behind. Like magic, all of the toxic evils and years of pain seeping out slowly healing the entire region. Clearly, I was delusional and ignorant to the process, but I had high hopes. I filled out the extensive form with questions ranging from “how regular are your bowel movements?” to “are you often cranky?” After checking off over a hundred boxes proving my emotional instability, I was ready.
It appeared all of the patients, a rare breed of trusting New Yorkers, left their shoes and belongings in the open waiting room. Just, no. I continued into the examination room pretending I hadn’t noticed the barefooted patients wandering around and shoved my purse under the massage table.
It turned out to be one communal room with each patient sectioned off with a folding cloth screen large enough to provide privacy and prohibiting me from peeping something gross.
A white woman with dreadlocks approached me, she was my magical hippy! She instructed me to lay face down on the table, “I’m now going to use my hippy witchcraft and cure everything wrong with you,” she said. Hooray! Maybe she’ll miraculously make my left boob less creepy looking?! I settled in and she began inserting the needles one by one into the base of my spine and hips. It was all good until she continued the process in the backs of my knees. This, for whatever reason, grossed me out. Alas, I took deep breaths and returned to my fantasy of black soot rising from my spine like signifying an unsuccessful vote for a new Pope. I loved the prospect of her supernatural healing power that I didn’t even think to wonder if she was even qualified. Can one become not-so-temporarily paralyzed by allowing a hippy to shove needles into your spine?
My sorceress screwed in the final needle and left me for other patients. It was understood that I’d have to lie patiently like this for nearly an hour, so I forced myself into my world of calming happy thoughts avoiding focus on just how fucking dreadful this all was.
“Hchechhh!” a guttural sound brashly rose from the other end of the room.
“HHHEEECCCHHH!!!” it happened again.
A warlock dashed over to the source of the noise: a woman compiling the largest loogie I’ve ever heard since a junior high spitting contest. Ungracefully, she blurted out, “When the needles went in, the phlegm came up.” I’m not sure if these two actions related to one another but, the concept made me squirm with silent giggles.
Rule #1 of Acupuncture. Don’t giggle. I suddenly felt all twelve needles moving inside me under my skin sending a surge of dizziness to my squeamish head. I felt like I’d pass out from the sensation, yet conveniently already lying down.
“Hhhhhech!” she hocked again. And a wave of giggles passed through me once more.
Phlegm. Giggles. Grossness. Light-headedness. Rinse. Repeat.
I equal parts laughed and felt squeamish for the remainder of my session as the woman continued to expectorate her way out the door. To dodge any sensation of the miniature stab wounds implanted into my knees, I became rigid and by the time she left (or died, who can tell?), my back was more tense than when I walked in.
Sorcery failed me. No black smoke or even a healthy steam arose like a combusting manhole cover from my open flesh wounds. How disappointing. I guess I should discontinue believing Elizabeth Montgomery was a real witch.