On Bullies, Adulthood, and Knowing Better

Hi. I’m Andrea, I’m thirty-six years old, and I was bullied the other day.

Six days a week I work out of my very own office. One day a week I work somewhere else, with other people. This is where it happened. Basically, without going into too much detail, a group of women who hang out in the break room every day decided they would enact a new appointment booking procedure whereby (despite my having seniority and being one of the original employees who opened the spa) I would be the last person to book because I deserved the least amount of appointments because I only work there one day per week. (Please keep in mind this has never been the booking policy here, and most likely never will be. Also, keep in mind that these women are all massage therapists, same as me, and do not have any authority over anything.)

Although I am not typically the target of this group, the ever-mired break room crew has been making the work sitch crappy for various coworkers of mine for years. Through the magic of mob mentality and safety in numbers, they take appointments from others and manipulate the book like a game of massage therapy Tetris, the ultimate goal being more appointments in less time so they can make their money and leave early. (We close at 7pm, and God forbid they book a 6pm.)

This crew talks about other service providers and staff members behind their backs constantly, and on rare special occasions, to their faces. It’s very Mean Girls, and I’ve never been OK with it. It’s negative, stressful and draining, and sometimes it makes what should be a great experience working at a beautiful facility with a highly skilled team a flat-out nightmare.

You may be wondering how your humble narrator reacted when blindsided by the mob on this fateful day. Sweet Jesus, it wasn’t pretty. As much as the break room crew was hoping to get their jabs in and head for the hills, I no doubt surprised them when I said we were “going to talk about this now”. And then the ugly cry of a million emotional shit storms emerged, I blubbered some colorful language (not directed at any people in particular, mind you), and basically said if they didn’t want me to work there anymore, they should just tell me. In fact, it went down very much like this emotional episode that I blogged about last month. Then I holed up in my massage room for the next forty-five minutes and sobbed like a wee babe.

You know what was the worst part of this whole debacle? I thought these people were my friends. Writing this down now, I realize how little sense that makes. “Why would I be friends with meanies?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that I see the good in people as much as I possibly can. I remember the times when they’ve been generous, or sympathetic, or funny, or supportive. But now that I see their toxicity and insecurity with new eyes, I question their motivation behind everything, ever. I do not like feeling this way.

In chatting with a bunch of self-employed massage therapist buddies since this went down, I’m struck by how much the avoidance of coworker drama has to do with their decisions to go into business for themselves. Some of them have tried working for/with others, and have experienced workplace bullying firsthand. Some would honestly like to give spa employment a try, but they’ve heard so many stories about workplace bullying and drama that they’re hesitant to go there (and maybe, sadly, rightly so). Spa drama is such a widespread problem there’s even a training course out there meant to address “dangerous drama levels” in the workplace – taught by massage therapist, continuing education provider and spa consultant Eric Stephenson. Imagine that!

Although this post is focused on a sad day in the life of this blogging massage therapist, I’ll grab the opportunity to point out some other irritating examples of bullying in adulthood that I’ve been noticing as of late:

  • wife bullies husband (put downs, guilt trips, extreme negativity, unnecessary conflict and drama)
  • boss bullies employees (abuse of power)
  • manager fears being bullied by bully employees
  • adult child bullies parent or parents (financial gain, manipulation)
  • crooked, shady townspeople bully other townspeople (control of information)
  • grandmother bullies the entire family (pick a reason)

And it makes me sick.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’ll freely admit I was an unhappy teenager. I was judge-y, scowl-y, and mean to a lot of people who didn’t deserve it. In adulthood I now understand that I was depressed, paralyzed by anxiety, painfully insecure, and trying to find my way out of a bad situation in the best (albeit misguided) way I knew how. Now I’m sorry for causing hurt, and I know I can never get those wasted days back. At some point I realized that dumping more negativity on top of my already low self-esteem was a stupid idea, so I evolved. I wonder: Do other meanies want to be happy? To stop hurting others? To evolve?

For my own good, I should probably just give up on trying to understand how other humans think. Instead of wasting time wondering “why did picking on that person ever seem like a fab idea to that other person?” I should be hitting the gym to get my obturator internus in competition form, and learning to play Tiny Tim’s Greatest Hits on the theremin. Yet I continually attempt to make sense of nonsensical human behavior. I guess I feel the need to be more knowledgeable today than I was yesterday, so I can convince myself that I’m making progress as I convulse around our little world in a manner not unlike a marionette suspended by woefully tangled strings.

I can’t promise you we won’t be blessed with a visit from a bullying internet troll, but I like to think of The Young Thumbs as a relatively safe place to discuss general goings on that don’t sit right with us. Do you have a story to share or some wisdom to dispense? Feel free to unleash it on the comments section below (because unlike humans, The Young Thumbs comments section does not have any feelings, and kinda likes the abuse). <3

Obviously

Last week I spent several days exploring Salt Lake City, Utah. The trip was straightforward and the vibe was laid back – until my brother-in-law and I drove by this billboard and I was left in a catatonic state of bewilderment. Maybe I’m missing a crucial SLC cultural reference or something, but I think the purpose of this advertising gem is to inform grown adults that they should get contracts in writing. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

contracts

Photo by my lovely and very patient bro-in-law, Derron Willison.

I live in Las Vegas, where you can’t drive down the I-15 without spotting at least six billboards featuring artificially busty swimsuit models promoting strip clubs, three billboards advertising shooting ranges equipped with machine guns, two for medical marijuana, and the random billboard that has something to do with cheating spouses and injured genitalia. For me, these aggressive advertising tactics form a soothing cocoon of cheap motel mattress comfort and prophylactic protection. The messages may be R-rated, but it’s home.

Anyway, back to the contract billboard — it got me thinking. Maybe there really are adults out there who don’t know that they should get contracts in writing. Maybe they’ll see this partially-obscured billboard as they careen down the streets of Salt Lake City on their haphazard journeys to enter into gentlemen’s agreements over the custody of their children, and they’ll brake suddenly and shout “Eureka! There really IS a better way!”, and lives change exponentially for the better.

My presumptuous nature isn’t limited to the realm of large scale highway advertising, mind you. I often assume that massage therapists and other assorted spa and salon professionals know a lot of things, only to find out later that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here are some examples of things I thought were obvious to everyone, but clearly aren’t (based on observations made since entering the massage field a decade ago):

  • Double dipping your dirty hands into a jar of product that’s used on multiple clients is NOT okay.
  • Double dipping used wax sticks into hair removal wax that’s used on multiple clients is NOT okay.
  • Reusing porous, disposable items (nail files, foot files, buffers, sponges, natural bristle brushes, etc.) on multiple clients is NOT okay.
  • Flipping or stacking sheets so your next client has “clean” linens to come into contact with during her service is NOT okay.
  • Using essential oils on your own open wounds that may come into contact with a client (in place of a proper non-porous bandage) is NOT okay.
  • Touching a client’s open wounds or scabs during a massage is NOT okay.
  • If you handle your oil bottle throughout your massages, not cleaning it off between clients is NOT okay.
  • Dropping implements on the ground and using them on a client without properly disinfecting them first is NOT okay.
  • Interrupting a hands-on, paid-for massage to perform energy work that was not requested or expected is NOT okay.
  • Talking to a client as if you’re a nurse/chiropractor/mental health counselor/spiritual guru/witch doctor when you do not have these qualifications is NOT okay.
  • Taking a smoke break will mean you’ll smell like smoke for your next client, even if you can’t smell it. This is NOT okay.
  • Using bathroom spray instead of a professional disinfectant solution to clean reusable implements is NOT okay.
  • Texting while performing a service is NOT okay.
  • Reading The Young Thumbs while performing a service is…NOT…okay.

Please add your own obvious tips to the comments below, and keep an eye on those billboards.

Interview with an MT: Lauren Cates Talks Oncology Massage

Recently, Lauren Cates was kind enough to answer a few questions about her massage practice. Lauren, who lives in Arlington, VA, runs Lighthold Massage Therapy, a practice that caters to all types of people, but that also specializes in oncology massage and end of life care. She is also the program director of Healwell and the President and Founding Director for the Society of Oncology Massage. Recently, after watching a video of Lauren going around the internet (below) I contacted her to pick her brain. She is incredibly smart, funny, down-to-earth, and doing important work. In short, she is pretty much what I want to be when I grow up.

Click here for a text transcript of the video.

A:  How long have you been a massage therapist, and what led you to pursue oncology massage training and specialization?

L: It was 9 years in February since I graduated from massage therapy school. My pursuit of massage therapy training was a complete accident, if you believe in accidents, but my pursuit of oncology massage specifically has at least some vaguely traceable path. Shortly after I began the 18-month journey that would be my training in massage therapy I had the unique and humbling opportunity to be with my grandfather at the moment of his death.  I actually didn’t know, at the time, that he had cancer.  I was employing my nascent massage skills working with him in his hospital bed when I watched and felt him take his last breath.  Death and I had always had this sweaty palmed, churning guts kind of relationship, so I was surprised by how natural it felt to be a part of this very human, very death-centric moment.   There was no lightning bolt of moment of “Eureka!  I shall go forth and do oncology massage!”, but there was a feeling of wanting to pursue massage in that kind of environment with people who were at these places of physical, spiritual and emotional crossroads.

A: What type of training did you find the greatest benefit to prepare you for working with oncology patients?
L: Honestly, (as if I’ve been lying to you all this time) I have been very lucky to have great technical teachers in the form of massage therapists, nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals and I couldn’t do what I do without that foundation, but the absolutely most valuable training I have received is the training in how to fully embrace and love myself. Until I was guided by some kind and skillful teachers of mindfulness, compassion and forgiveness, I had never really met myself and that was standing in the way of how useful I could be to the people with whom I worked. When people are faced with a potentially terminal illness, their eyes can become like mirrors of your own soul. You don’t want *that* moment, when you’re at the bedside of a person with cancer, to be first moment you really see yourself. That was happening to me over and over and it was burning me out…until I pulled back from the work for a bit and went deeper into myself. Being at home with myself is, hands down, the most valuable thing I think I bring to my clients.
A: Is there any aspect of the work that you didn’t expect going in? What has been most surprising to you?
L: Working with oncology clients…and all manner of humans with health challenges…has made my life exponentially more joyful. You can’t lie to yourself about how you’re spending your time and if you’re spending it well when you work with people who are faced with being “out of time” and who don’t have a chance to go back and spend it well. Today is truly all we have and my clients remind me that that sentiment is not a bumper sticker…it’s real life. I have seen that I *will* regret it if I work too hard. I *will* wish I had spent more time with family and friends if I don’t do it now…so I do. I do it now…much more than I did before I met so many amazing people who are trying to make sense of how they’ve spent their time.
A: In what ways does Oncology Massage differ from, say, your typical Swedish Massage?
L: There are so many ways in which the internal experience of giving an oncology massage differs from a “typical Swedish Massage”, but on the surface, if you were watching an oncology massage happen, you may not notice most of them. Oncology massage is about cancer. It’s not about massage. If you’re already out in the world doing some type of massage therapy and then you pursue oncology massage training, you will still do the kind of massage you used to do…you’ll just do it with a greater awareness of the effects of cancer treatment on the human body. You’ll be thinking about lymphedema, blood clots, bone fragility, skin changes from radiation, surgical sites and scar tissue, sensation issues from treatment and any number of other considerations that will make you adapt, adjust and alter your work to provide a session that is supremely client centered and so much more than “just working lightly”.
A: How do you connect with the people who need your services?
 L: Shameless self-promotion. In my practice, I actually don’t do any official advertising. I have built my clientele on word of mouth. I do some community education events at cancer support groups and other events where people affected by cancer gather, but mostly I just do what I do and word spreads. The oncology community, in my experience, is an intensely loyal community. If you decrease a person’s neuropathy or nausea or headache or sense of isolation, they become a human billboard for you because they want their friends with cancer to be free of those issues, too.
A: What advice would you give to a therapist interested in pursuing this field of work?

L: Learn your facts. Know the anatomy. Know the physiology. Know the treatments…and then set them down and go get to know yourself. Snuggle up to your sadness, your shame, your humanity, your mortality. The better you know all of those not-so-popular parts of you, the more likely you are to be of service to people in ways you never imagined.

A:  Any further thoughts?

L: If you’re thinking about working with oncology clients, get training. Please, please, please get training and develop a deep sense of humility, curiosity and openness. The illusion of control will be laid bare in front of you if you’re paying attention…and you’ll be grateful for it.

Courses and trainers can be found on the Society for Oncology Massage website,  www.s4om.org. S4OM is also hosting a 4-day conference for the oncology massage community this fall in Sarasota, FL.

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Join Us In Vegas!

Big news, friends! The deets for July’s Young Thumbs CE workshop have arrived! Allissa, Ryan and I have been working overtime to plan this entertaining, informative and innovative class that gets you 3 NCBTMB-approved CE hours and quality time with, you know, US.

Class size is limited to 20 participants, and we’re giving Young Thumbs readers first dibs. I’ve posted the specifics below. You’ll have to pre-register at Eventbrite so we’ll have your seat saved and your certificate ready for you. It’s easy, it’s affordable, it’s Vegas!

***

Ethics, Schmethics: The Vegas Workshop

(aka Young Thumbs Day)

3 CE hours in NCBTMB approved ethics

Cost: $30 (Yes, you read that right.)

When: Thursday, July 24, 2014  1:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Where: Emergency Arts, 520 East Fremont St., Downtown Las Vegas (aka not The Strip. This is way cooler than that.)

What: Hospitality nut Andrea Lipomi, video powerhouse Ryan Hoyme and marketing geek Allissa Haines will be in attendance to head up this new and innovative ethics workshop.

We know what you’re thinking. We’ve all taken ethics classes that promise to be interesting and not the same old ‘don’t-sleep-with-your-clients’ schtick. Then it turns out to be the boring ‘don’t-name-your-clients-online’ class.  Ammirite?

This workshop is different. No, really.

Are you on the prowl for simple ways to up the hospitality quotient in your practice? Are you losing the battle with burnout? Could your professional life use a boundary makeover?

Attendees will be surveyed well before the workshop day to determine their specific needs. Each attendee will be asked to submit a question for the class, and we’ll all work through it together.

Part structured mastermind group, part freestyle learning, and part extremely confidential peer counseling, this workshop is about collaboration with minimal lecture and zero stuffiness.

***IMPORTANT: You MUST pre-register for this workshop at eventbrite.com. Class size is limited to 20 participants. Registration ends July 10th, 2014.***

But wait! There’s more! We’ve decided to make a fun-filled day of it, so you’re also invited to join The Young Thumbs for the following optional events:

11am-1pm

Lunch at Eat.

Please bring cash to pay for your own meal. Separate checks will not be available, IRS compliant image of receipt will be provided via email to each attendee after the meal.

6pm

Dinner and Adventuring! (Details TBA, but we promise it’ll be a blast.)

Please bring cash to pay for your own meal. Separate checks will not be available, IRS compliant image of receipt will be provided via email to each attendee after the meal. Dinner will NOT be fancy or crazy expensive.

***Please visit The Young Thumbs Facebook page regularly during the entire week of July 20th. We’ll have lots of last minute Vegas shenanigans to announce – and we want you to join us!***

DOWNTOWN LODGING: The hotels on and near Fremont St. would be happy to have you. We can personally vouch for the lovely, recently remodeled rooms at the Downtown Grand.

CARPOOLING: If you’re staying on or near the Strip, we may be able to help with transportation to get you to the workshop. Please email Andrea at helpinghands@confidentmassage.com by July 10th, 2014 with your situation and we’ll try our best to be of assistance.

REFUNDS: If you require a refund, please submit a request to helpinghands@confidentmassage.combefore July 10th, 2014.

CONTACT: If you have any questions, please contact Andrea at (702)468-5886, or at helpinghands@confidentmassage.com.

We’re so excited we can barely contain ourselves! See you in Downtown Las Vegas this July!

(Andrea Lipomi is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork as a continuing education Approved Provider, #451780-11.)

The Young Thumbs Take Las Vegas

During Wednesday’s episode of The Massage Nerd Show, Allissa, Ryan and I made an announcement worthy of attention from the finest massage therapy news outlets and celebrity gossip magazines:

ON JULY 24th 2014, THE YOUNG THUMBS WILL TAKE OVER LAS VEGAS…AND YOU’RE INVITED!

That’s right, friends! Starting around noon on the day following the World Massage Festival’s four-day Vegas run at the Tuscany Suites & Casino, we are going to eat, workshop, eat, drink, conspire, eat, and shenanigize our hearts out! The festivities will be centered around the Fremont East neighborhood of Downtown Las Vegas, an area north of the Strip and home to lots of exciting, new and innovative development.

We’re still working on the deets, but so far we’ve decided:

  • This day will revolve around fun. If you’re looking for boring, we will only disappoint you.
  • Components of the event will be optional. Want to lunch with the crew, but skip out before the workshop (topic TBA) begins? Not a problem! Care to meet up later on in the evening instead? DO. IT.
  • The day’s expenses will be minimal. You’ll be responsible for paying for your own eats, drinkies, and any extracurricular entertainment. Know that we are totally committed to keeping the workshop super affordable too, because we love you.
  • Emergency Arts will be accommodating our workshop space demands. They are located at 520 East Fremont St., Las Vegas, NV 89101. If you’re looking for lodging in Young Thumbs territory, there are gobs of (affordable!) hotels in the ‘hood.
  • Further details will be posted on theyoungthumbs.com as we get closer to the blessed event.
  • Any questions? Please ask ‘em in the comments section below.

Watch the three of us talk about this stuff (and more).

Please save the date, and pack accordingly. :)

***

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

#AndreasBeautySchoolAdventures

This wasn’t how I expected my six month stint in nail school to end. Today was a surreal, jacked up day for a lot of people, and I feel a little bit guilty about being the luckiest girl in the world.

 

***

 

8:00 am: Ms. Lorraine, my nail technology instructor, sat on the metal steps outside the entrance to Destination Academy, a lit cigarette held with the assuredness of a military veteran turned hairstylist with a combined 40 years in the trenches.

“I’m glad you came to school today.”

“Ummm, why?” I asked suspiciously.

“It’s your last day. They’re closing down the school. You’re going to be the last graduate.”

“Oh shit.”

What followed was a chaotic morning of classmates (hair, skin and nails) arriving at school to be met with a frazzled “Pack up your stuff and hurry! The constable is here and he’s going to lock the doors. Your hours will be forwarded to the state board. Take everything with you. Quickly!” Teachers and office employees wore the same shocked expression as students. Panicked tears fell and tempers flared.

Some students had pre-paid their tuition in full (anywhere from $4,000 – $20,000), and still had several months remaining before they were scheduled to graduate. Teachers began planning their day’s trek to the unemployment office. The ethical office employees took responsibility for locating and rescuing everyone’s paperwork that proved their attendance. Countless boxes, cases and computers were shuffled out of the building into waiting vehicles.

Destination Academy is (was?) located above Destination Manhattan, a day spa and salon owned by the same person. Upon emerging from the second floor, it became obvious that the shitstorm that had enveloped Destination Academy was relatively mild in comparison to the bedlam laying waste at ground level. Here, dozens of employees and chair renters scurried to remove their belongings – including large items, like furniture and stationary massage tables – from the building before the ever-present yet even-tempered constable had the locksmith change the locks.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, moving trucks pulled up one after the other while fuming beauty professionals directed the movers on where to haul cabinets, bins, and gigantic hair dryers. Cell phone use was ubiquitous, as friends and family members were summoned to listen, calm, and ultimately show up in pickup trucks. Appointment cancellation calls to clients came next, and without warning. Not surprisingly, Gary, the hairstylist turned salon and beauty school owner — who apparently hadn’t been paying the rent for who knows how long – was nowhere to be found during this entire debacle.

I could tell you that this turn of events came as a complete surprise, but that would be a lie. I attended Destination Academy in 2008 to be educated in the science of skincare, and rumors of school closure ran rampant back then, too. Just last year, a handful of trusted sources informed me of bounced checks (both payroll and payment to vendors) and declined company credit cards. Kits and textbooks for newly enrolled students were on “backorder” for months, and basic items (gloves, hair color, facial products, etc.) necessary to perform basic services (hair coloring, facials, etc.) would run out, never to be replaced. But we tend to get lulled into a state of complacency when at the 11th hour we manage to make do with what we have. I mean, the lights were still on in the damn building as recently as 7 o’clock tonight, and rumors are just rumors, right?

As for how this affects your humble narrator, I just really hope it doesn’t. Thanks to my lovely teachers (and for everything it’s worth, I consider you ladies friends to whom I am eternally grateful), I was able to sign off on my attendance sheets proving 600 hours of instruction before I went home today. Hopefully the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology accepts my paperwork without incident, at which point I can schedule my written exam, and after that my practical exam (where I have my way with a fake plastic hand while state employees observe with a critical eye). If I can maintain any semblance of luck at all, I will be set up to do natural nail manicures and pedicures at Feetish Spa Parlor sometime this spring.

And that’s pretty much it for #AndreasBeautySchoolAdventures. I had begun working on a rather boring and uninspired blog post last week in anticipation of my red carpet-walking, certificate-receiving graduation extravaganza, but apparently life detests a dull blog post even more than I do. As a reminder, you can hit up #AndreasBeautySchoolAdventures on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to take a gander at how I’ve spent five long hours per day, five long days per week, over the last six long months. Hopefully the 202 morsels of hashtagged wonder that pop up prove that it hasn’t all been bad, or all for nothing.

 

finaldestination

What a day.

 

***

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

Lessons in Randomness, 2013 Edition

The year-end recap is a clichéd concept, I know. But these nuggets were hard-earned and I’ll be damned if I don’t bust out Young Thumbs style with what I’ve learned over the past twelve months. (Disclaimer: I’ve always been the last girl in the room to get her hands on a flip phone, LA Gear kicks or a clue, so please forgive my passion for the obvious. My next post will be more quasi-intellectual, I promise.) Onward!

  • Snap photos. Use your phone, roughed-up point-and-shoot from ’03, or camera obscura if you’re lucky enough to have one. When you see something beautiful, interesting, horrifying or hilarious, capture the moment. (You never know when you’ll need it for a blog post.)

    Dollar store photo ops. Take 'em.

    Dollar store photo ops. Take ’em.

  • It is possible, over the course of thirty days, to gain five pounds, lose your mind, and skip an entire menstrual cycle due to stress.
  • Say no.
  • Just because it happened just now does not mandate that you post it just now. Enjoy the moment and the company you’re in.
  • Whole Foods will raise the price of OJ $3 overnight. You will think you’re at Kohl’s.
  • Engaging in honest, hours-long-face-to-face convos could be the most accessible way to inject fresh bravery and fear-conquering intimacy into your life. Try it.
  • A random encounter can lead to magical things.
  • It is OK to ask that loud, obnoxious person to keep it down.
  • Your absurdity demands a bone-crushing embrace and resplendent laughter.
  • Say yes.
  • Just when you think you get Google AdWords, you don’t.
  • Every one of us is a microcosmic niche market.
  • It is perfectly fine to pick up a journal you last touched during 2009 in 2013, and half-fill it with sloppy handwriting and incomplete sentences.
  • Forgiveness: be beggy. Permission: no asky.
  • You are never too old to learn a lesson, to train yourself to do something new or be something new or think something new, or to go back to school — but you’re kidding yourself if you think any of this will be easy.

Here’s to a delightful 2014! <3

***

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

Found in Translation: A Transgender Rights Primer for Massage Therapists & Spa Folk

I.

At age eighteen, I was an activist. I was a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, and an active member of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). I womanned tables during The Vagina Monologues, attended punk rock feminist conferences across the country, marched on Washington, and Took Back the Night. I went to massage school, worked, and volunteered. This was what I did during my last decade in New York, and I loved it.

My dear friend Alicia and I, brides for equal marriage. Rochester Pride Parade, 2005. Photo by Davette Glover, http://zectaproductions.com. Used with permission.

My dear friend Alicia and I…brides for equal marriage! Rochester Pride Parade, 2005
Photo by Davette Glover, zectaproductions.com. Used with permission.

Then I moved from Rochester to Las Vegas. My NOW ladies encouraged me to remain active with the organization by way of the Vegas chapter. This didn’t happen, mainly because I looked for but didn’t find the level of community involvement and outreach that I had become accustomed to in Rochester. Besides, I was setting the foundation to begin a new life in a new city, and these things take time. I focused on meeting people, going back to school and working – and had become a slacktivist of the highest order, with a side of soul-sucking, conformist banality.

Things started to change in 2009, around the time of my non-traditional, Herve Leger bandage-dressed Vegas wedding (and you’ll notice I’m still—and always have been — a Lipomi, thank you very much). Convinced it was bullshit that a straight screw-up like myself could tie the knot while same sex couples were denied the right, my better half and I registered with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) instead of with Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Kwik-E-Mart, etc., so our wedding guests could make a donation for marriage equality in our names. We raised some cash, and avoided ending up with mismatched china and six toasters.

Now here I am, four years later — once again a student, and now a business owner – feeling the irresistible pull of community involvement. Thanks to the other activists (and just all-around inspirational people) I’ve met over the last year or so, the volunteerism fire in my soul has been stoked, and I’m ready to get out there and do unto others without collecting a fee once more.

 

II.

I like good people. I like it when good people fly in the face of convention and challenge the misguided status quo. I like it when good people are able to live their respective truths, and my heart breaks for people who can’t, for fear of violence, abuse and/or pain.

Recently, in chatting with a massage therapist friend over hot beverages, the topic of transgender massage therapy clients came up. My coffeemate pointed out that it’s tough for trans clients to find service providers they can trust. I thought back to the multiple instances during my years in the spa industry when a co-worker would burst into the employee break room and shout “I think there’s a he-she in the relaxation lounge!”, or a receptionist would yell “Did a he-she come in today? Because I couldn’t tell if they were a man or woman on the phone, and I said ‘sir’, and then they said they were female! WTF?”, or any number of equally ignorant-sounding vomitisms. It turns out this petty stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, with the more substantial, submerged portion of the ‘berg being something I hadn’t given too much thought to until this coffee convo took place.

Some things* I’ve recently become aware of:

  • Transgender rights can vary greatly from state to state, so you really ought to look into your state’s laws regarding gender identity and discrimination. You can do that here. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nevada is among the more enlightened states located in America the Beautiful.
  • In Nevada (and several other states), it’s illegal to deny trans folks access to “public accommodations”. A driver’s license that lists someone’s sex as “male” does not necessarily mean they MUST use the men’s restroom, locker room, changing room or spa, if they identify as female. If someone identifies as female, for chrissakes, they should be allowed to use the women’s facilities.
  • Different states have different requirements for changing the sex field on a state-issued ID, like a driver’s license. You can read more about that here.
  • Spas have been reported and/or sued after denying trans customers access to gender-specific facilities. Here’s a story about a spa in Virginia, and here’s one about a spa in the Chicago area.
  • Ignorance of transgender and genderqueer issues in the workplace reeks of hospitality failure. Will “sensitivity training” (barf) on LGBTQ issues ever be a part of employee orientation curriculum in the mainstream workplace? I’m thinking it’s time.

I could go on and on about society’s related gender issues — centered around a collective fear of feminism, aggro females, sensi males, penises, and nudity in general – but I won’t, because there’s a short-blog-post soapbox right here with my name on it, and I only have two feet. <3

(Many thanks to the intelligent, talented, wonderful people who helped me with this piece. You know who you are.)

*Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney. Antidiscrimination laws change all the time, so do yourself a favor and do your own research specific to your own situation.

***

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

Me, Depression & World Mental Health Day.

stormy cloudsAwhile back I saw a colleague melting down. I saw it in a way that only the age of social media can provide, through Facebook status updates. I read the erratic, emotional posts that ranged from extreme sympathy-inducing sadness to manic over-activity to occasional rage-filled lashing out. I saw it in a way that only someone with mental illness can. A cringe, some familiarity, recognition that gives way to concern. I debated what to do about it. This wasn’t someone I had a warm fuzzy relationship with and I wasn’t sure how well my concern would be received. But I decided to speak up, because really, if this chic drove herself off a bridge, I would feel pretty damn bad about not speaking up.

So I sent a message, phrased as gently as possible, including a bit about my own experience with depression, making note of concern and asking if I could be of help. Because, hey, I’ve been there. It was not well received. It was tossed back in my face, and I was told that just because I’m sick doesn’t mean everyone is. It was stated in less kind words than that. So I moved on.

In a recent group conversation, this same colleague suggested she was of great character for not telling everyone about my mental illness.  Specifically, ” {she}…said the same thing about me and I do not have a mental disorder, some by people who admit to having one…I don’t talk about those that have admitted they have one and smear me saying I do.”

There are a few things really messed up about this.

  1. The notion that sharing my experience and concern is an ‘admission’ of something I should feel guilty or embarrassed about.
  2. The notion that privately expressing concern equates to ‘smearing’ someone’s reputation.

And frankly, it pisses me off that a massage therapist thinks this way. Aren’t we supposed to understand basic health issues? Does a wellness professional really think mental illness is something someone should be ashamed of? The very idea that knowledge of my depression is some kind of secret weapon she could choose to unleash, is nine kinds of fucked up.

But I’ll diffuse this weapon right now. I have Depression. As in: Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder; or as recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes thanks wikipedia!) I am not ashamed of this. I am not embarrassed by this. It is not a secret, and I have publicly made reference to it before.

I am fortunate that my particular variety is pretty mild, well controlled with a reasonably healthy lifestyle and sometimes with medication. I am surrounded by friends who keep an eye on me. I am usually able to recognize when I’m falling into an episode, I notice quickly when my day-to-day functioning gets wonky. I am capable of asking for help when I need it. Again, I am very, very fortunate.

You cannot hurt me by sharing this information. It is not a weapon. And since an estimated 1 in 10 adults in the United States suffers from some kind of depression, I’m gonna guess I’ll be getting a handful of emails today saying, “Hey, thanks for speaking up on this.”

Know what else is awesome? Massage can be useful in treating depression (and anxiety). Really. My friend Dr. Christopher Moyer can fill you in on that here.  Or go one step further and check out his brilliant book, Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice, co-authored with Trish Dryden. They’ve got a whole chapter on it!

But I digress.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The team at the Alternative Marketing Project was thrilled to focus our blog post and a graphic on that topic this month. The content is free for people who subscribe. But I’m in a good mood (thanks ssri’s!) so I’ve decided to let everyone see and use the October content, even if you haven’t subscribed. You can check it out here.

As for me? I’ll be joining Ryan Hoyme and Irene Diamond, two people I greatly admire for their willingness to talk about mental illness.

Bonus: Here’s a kick-assk TedxTalk from Amber Naslund, “Mind games – Transcending the messiness of mental illness” Watch it. Share it. Learn.

And to the colleague who thought she could shame me I say, “Your absurdity and incompetence is showing. May wanna tuck that in.”
Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Fifteen Commandments of Mobile Massage and Personal Safety

  1. Thou shalt: not be afraid of thy clients, as most of them are normal, harmless individuals and perfectly lovely people. Being prepared for a bad client is not bad juju, negative thinking, or paranoid.  It is simply cultivating the tools you need to go into a potentially dangerous situation confidently so that you and your client are both at ease.
  2. Thou shalt: understand that most people seeking sexual services are not violent, and can be avoided with clear communication.
  3. Thou shalt: understand that de-escalation and removal of oneself from any dangerous situation is the first goal.
  4. Thou shalt: understand the predatory mindset, and realize that most victimizers go after easy prey so projecting steady confidence may be an effective deterrent.
  5. Thou shalt: always inform a colleague, friend or family member (exit buddy) of where they are, and when they will be checking in. In addition, always have detailed instructions for the exit buddy in the event no call/text is received. (How soon to call, when a 911 call is appropriate, etc) and consider making two safety calls: one when the service has concluded and one when safely in his/her vehicle. If texting, thou shalt consider including a specific code word or phrase to verify identity. It may not be a bad idea to delete these text messages immediately after they are sent.
  6. Thou shalt: feel comfortable with screening clients thoroughly and not be afraid  to ask over the phone: “Just to be clear, are you seeking sexual services?” if you have a feeling they are. If asked such a direct question in a polite manner, most creepers will either hang up or say “Yes”…at which time you can politely let them know you don’t perform those services and to have a good day, then hang up. Do not be rude or scold…that is simply feeding the troll and may result in some unwanted flak. Firm, yet polite, is the best policy I’ve found to avoid harassment. You are not condoning their behavior, you are simply refusing to engage with them. and there is nothing wrong with that.
  7. Thou shalt: get all pertinent details about thy client at the time of booking and NEVER be afraid to refuse service at the risk of offending someone, when thy personal safety is an issue. Pertinent details include: First and last name, phone number, address, name of community (if any), gate code (if any), service length and type.
  8. Thou shalt: feel comfortable both googling a client and mapping the address ahead of time on google maps to verify the location if they have any apprehension.
  9. Thou shalt: not accept wishy washy crap from anyone when booking and shalt not be afraid to say the word “No.”. Examples of wishy washy crap include:

    Q: Can I decide how long my massage will be when you get here
    A: No, I need to know how long your appointment will be ahead of time so I can schedule other appointments that day.

    Q: Can I decide what type of massage to get when you get here?
    A: No, I need to make sure I bring the right supplies for the service…which ones were you trying to decide between?

    Q: Can you met me in the hotel lobby?
    A: No, I check in at the security desk before and after each appointment and they need to know where I am in the hotel for security purposes.

  10. Thou shalt: create or obtain and use a written client intake form including an informed consent specifically stating that sexual innuendo is not tolerated and will result in the termination of the session without a refund.
  11. Thou shalt: be aware of thy surroundings, including other people in the space, exits, and possible red flags. If thou shalt spy visible condoms, an envelope marked gift, or any other sexual paraphernalia thou shalt resist the urge to become visibly indignant and leave as quickly as possible.
  12. Thou shalt: never enter a dark room in front of a new client or turn thy back on a new client.
  13. Thou shalt: consider obtaining training in self defense, including but not limited to: martial arts, verbal judo, and firearms or other weapons training including (very importantly) weapon retention. Thou shalt understand all local laws and that in close quarters and without proper training, an attacker is much more likely to disarm you and use your weapon against you.
  14. Thou shalt: consider carrying non lethal personal safety devices such as high quality personal alarms and pepper spray. Thou shalt understand local laws regarding these devices and substances.
  15. Thou shalt: understand that avoidance is a form of self defense. The goal is to be prepared for any bad situation that arises, but above all else to avoid putting oneself in a dangerous situation in the first place. Trust your instincts.

    Image Courtesy of vudhikrai at FreeDigitalPhotos.com

    You could always bring him with you…but that may be just a tad off-putting.

Resources:
MassageCop.com
Article by Butch Watson of MassageCop.com
Interview with Butch Watson on The MassageNerd show
MassageTherapy.com/Outcall Safety
Massage Magazine Reader Advice

 

Please note: all content provided on this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for training or legal advice. The author will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The author will not be held liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.