An Open Letter to Anderson Cooper

An Open Letter to Anderson Cooper

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27:  CNN anchor Anderson Cooper attends the launch party for CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" at Robert atop the Museum of Arts and Design on September 27, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Dear Mr. Cooper,

I’m a massage therapist and massage teacher in Chicago.  I’ve been made aware of some comments you made on Live! With Kelly Thursday morning concerning the industry of massage therapy.  I’d like to start out by assuring you I have a sense of humor.  I can even make jokes about this job that I love so much.  But I would like to address some issues.

First, I’m truly sorry you haven’t had a good massage experience.  One of the first things we teach our students is to speak as little as possible during a massage session, and I don’t know who worked on you, but that behavior is certainly frowned upon.

For the most part, though, we all love our jobs.  It can be physically demanding, sometimes it can be emotionally draining, but we love it.  We love that with massage, we have to take , to speed up their recovery time after a workout, to reduce their stress and anxiety, to slow the progression of certain chronic diseases, and even to improve productivity in the workplace.  In fact, this is the only job I can think of where people are always happy to see me (aside from the occasional snarky silver fox).

The portrayal of our profession has been skewered for a very long time, and I get it, we’re an easy target.  People take off their clothes and let us touch them.  It’s like we’re gifting you the setup and then half of the punch line, too.  But it’s a profession that has been around for over five thousand years.  There are hieroglyphs in Egyptian tombs of pharaohs receiving massage.  I’m not going to run down the whole history here, but our field has been repeatedly legitimized in the medical community for its therapeutic benefits, and many hospitals even employ massage therapists to aid in a wide variety of conditions (cancer victims, stroke victims, spinal cord injuries, etc).

Of course, for every step forward in changing the public’s opinion of massage therapy, there is a Jennifer Love Hewitt portraying a massage therapist prostitute.  Two steps back.  And for every person we help on the road to recovery there are ten people making jokes about “happy endings.”

There are many people like me who work very hard in a profession we believe very much in, and it’s very difficult to see it trivialized over and over again.  I know you were just having fun on a morning talk show, and look, I hate when people are too sensitive about jokes, too.  But I can’t help it.  It galls me.  It galls me that I have to keep defending this field that has given me so much.  It galls me that the jokes are never that creative.  It galls me that, after teaching massage for nearly five years, I have students who I believe have the power to change people’s lives become discouraged by the attitudes they face from their friends, families and strangers.  It galls me that my very gifted female students will at some point have to face off against men who, because of the media’s prompting, believe in the over-sexualization of our very professional and regulated industry.  It galls me that this isn’t the first letter I’ve written, and it probably won’t be the last.

All that being said; I am a fan.  I side with your progressive views pretty much across the board.  I just wish you’d turn that progressive eye towards our field.

Again, I don’t write this with any hard feelings towards you, just with the wish that you’d maybe be a little more open minded about my profession.  Yes, there are some bad massage therapists.  But there are also some bad TV journalists, right?  I promise when you find the right massage therapist your feelings will do a complete 180 (and then stop there!).

If you read this, thanks for your time.  I appreciate it and I appreciate you.

Sincerely,

Jason VonGerichten

Clinical Massage Therapist

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