For this weekend’s read, we’re in a throwback mood and recommending John Jeremiah Sullivan’s 2012 piece for the New York Times Magazine, “My Multiday Massage-a-thon.” In the piece, Sullivan, the author of the 2011 essay collection Pulphead and contributor to publications such as The Paris Review and GQ, first declares himself something of a massage skeptic:

There’s something about massage in general that makes me less, not more, relaxed. The boredom of it, the entrapment. Like you, probably, I know a couple of people who go around parties rubbing other people’s backs, and I cringe at their approaching hands. One of these shoulder-pirates laughed at me for it once, after I flinched, telling me I needed to “learn to receive love,” and I thought, That’s probably true, I’d bet I do. Faux-wise passive-aggressive hippie maxims always seem true and wounding in the moment.

Sullivan, on a challenge from his editor, then undertakes an investigation of the highs and lows of the massage experiences available to him in his hometown, Wilmington, North Carolina, ranging from the familiar facials and pedicures to the more specialized craniosacral massage:

Mindy said, “We generally work in silence.” For an hour I lay in a room while she barely touched me. At times I actually didn’t know if she was touching me. Her hand would hover above my leg, or lie under it, in perfect stillness.

Check out the full piece at the New York Times Magazine, and for further reading, see this 2012 interview with Sullivan over at The Paris Review.