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

So This Is Grieving

When I found out, I was halfway through an afternoon shift at my office. One 60 minute appointment to go, and somehow I managed to get through it tear-free. Stunned. Numb. I think that’s what they call “shock”.

Your death was so unexpected. It’s been three weeks, and I still have moments where I forget you’re not here with us, just a phone call away, planning a September trip to Vegas.

Your face (so often smiling, bright eyes twinkling) is still omnipresent: occupying memory in my head and on my phone; online, daily; scattered throughout our house, adhered to stubborn, crispy, yellowed photo album guts. Your fantastical brand of inexhaustible generosity is everywhere, to the point where I can’t take a shit without cracking a smile at a perfectly tasteless knick-knack in the room. Little Brother, you’re the carefree to my uptight, the effort to my ‘meh’, the Fool to my Hermit, and my only regret (if that’s even what it is – words don’t seem to exist to describe the vast glut of feelings in this realm) is that I wish I had given your influence so much (over)due respect while you were still on the other end of that line.

Kind SouI, you should know I miss you daily. The void is real, and today it feels like panic-attack-chest-wrenching. Tomorrow it will feel like something slightly – or entirely – different, probably painful at worst, or uncomfortable at best, and despite the high probability that tears will rain down my cheeks at some point throughout the day, I cannot be angry with you for leaving. You are so deserving of sympathy, love, and understanding insofar as my stunted brain cells are capable of providing. Truly, you are treasured and adored.

Dear Friend, I know I have to become a better person, because you are. I will strive to listen as you listened, and to be as thoughtful and as generous to others as you were to those you loved. It won’t be easy, but I am bound to honor your existence in this way. (Even if I come somewhat close, the world wins.)

Three weeks in, I no longer view the greatest division among humanity as a barrier between the haves and have-nots, political adversaries, or religious ideologues. This boundless chasm lies between the living and the dead. What the latter have forfeited, we are charged with honoring — by crafting the remainder of our own lives in the most kickass fashion possible.

 

To my beloved brother Petey, for all of this and more, thank you.

 

***

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.

Seven things about massage therapy I learned from teaching toddlers.

You think you learned everything you needed in massage school? Forget that. Here’s what six years of working with two-year-olds taught me about being a great massage therapist.

1. Taking turns matters.

You will get your chance to relax, to deal with your personal problems, to break down, to chat about your interests, to cry. But while you’re giving a massage, it’s not your turn. Learn to be patient.

2. It’s mean when you won’t share your toys.

There’s no room for trade secrets in this business. You’ve got two hands, some oil, and a human body in front of you. The rest is just gravy. Playing hard-to-get with your colleagues because you see them as the competition, slapping a trademark on your particular take on deep tissue massage, refusing to mentor students and new therapists for fear they’ll steal your ideas … it’s petty. You’re a special snowflake, okay? Anybody else trying to be you is going to spend a lot of energy and end up with mediocre results.

3. Poop happens.

Also drool, snot, sweat, and period blood. Latex gloves and bleach, my friends. Latex gloves and bleach.

4. Everything can be interesting.

If you’re bored, it’s not the world’s fault, it’s yours. There are ants on the sidewalk, clouds in the sky, and glue sticks have an unusually satisfying flavor. Searching for the causes of a headache is like reading a good mystery novel. Find the wonder. Just because you don’t see it yet doesn’t mean it’s not there.

5. Eventually, somebody’s going to throw a tantrum.

A tantrum is an outsized reaction to a real or imagined problem. If the problem is real, it’s important to fix it. But know that the fixing won’t necessarily stop the tantrum right away. The nice thing about tantrums is that they’re exhausting. They can be scary while they last, but nobody can keep it up for long.

6. Everybody changes.

You will change. You will grow. You will pick up new values and new vocabulary, and learn to do new things on your own. Your body will do things you never anticipated it would do. The same is true of your clients. Expect it.

7. Everybody likes to have their back rubbed before a nap.

Seriously, everybody. Some quiet music, a soft blanket, and a back rub. There’s nothing quite like it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Any toddler understands the value of regular massage. Maybe it’s time we learned that for ourselves.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist and recent Midwest transplant to Dallas, Texas. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you like her writing here, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

Ginger Nubs and Marketing Hang-ups

This is my ginger plant.

I have not historically been very good at growing plants. My mama has a green thumb known throughout her town (or at least among friends and neighbors, who turn the corner at the end of the block and see her garden exploding from the row of grassy lawns that surrounds it). Like me, my brother lives in a city apartment. Unlike me, his windowsills and fire escape burst with lovely green life. Many plants have graced my city sills – bright amaryllises lovingly potted by my mother every Christmas, fresh herbs to brighten my home cooking, flowers brought as hostess gifts – and many have withered in my care. When the topic of gardening comes up, I’ve been known to go a little wistful. My identity, when it comes to gardening, has long been that I greatly admire those who grow plants, but I’m no good at it myself.

Similarly, I have never thought of myself as someone who is good at marketing. I have long admired those who excel at it, especially in my own field, but it hasn’t been something I have historically enjoyed. I have, in fact, uttered the phrase “I hate marketing,” on more than one occasion. (I’m sorry, awesome marketing people with whom I share this internet space. I haven’t said it in a long time, but I have said it, and I’m sorry.) The thought of promoting myself, at least in the abstract, still fills me with mild dread. I am not sure of the exact origin of the belief that I’m bad at marketing, but I suspect it has much to do with working for a long time in a field that I didn’t love. In my early twenties, networking felt awkward and forced, and I explained my desk job with rote descriptions devoid of passion. I am a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of girl, and my heart was very rarely in my work, so trying to promote myself (or my organization for that matter) was uncomfortable, and I chalked it up to hating self-promotion or promotion of my business, to not being a “marketing person.”

But here’s the thing: the notion that one can simply not be a “marketing person” is a myth. I remember very clearly the first time I realized this. I was at a friend’s birthday party, fresh out of massage school and newly licensed, wary of launching my private practice (if I built it, would they come?), baby stepping into my new career by working for a chiropractor and at a spa. Someone I had never met asked me what I did for a living, and I told her. She told me about a pain in her neck, and the conversation flowed from there. We talked muscle attachments and trigger points, posture and exercise, different ways to approach bodywork and self-care, and, somewhere in there, I realized that I was being downright effusive, bordering on bubbly. For years, talking about my work with strangers was my absolute least favorite thing to do at a party, a formality to get out of the way before really getting to know someone. Yet here I was, talking about my work, connecting with this new person, and it was the best part of my night. As the conversation drew to a close and she headed out the door, I gave her my card. Wait a minute. Had I just promoted myself and thoroughly enjoyed myself at the same time? My mind, as well as my identity as a hater of self-promotion, was blown.

Alas, a remarkable overnight transformation did not ensue. I did not realize one night that promoting my work could be fun and wake up in a swirl of enthusiastic private practice marketing the next day. A couple of years later, I still have to push myself fairly hard sometimes to generate blog posts and emails and the like. Talking to people about my work is a blast, but making the initial connections that lead to these conversations and ultimately to client relationships is still a bit of a slog for me. But it’s worth it. Working in the treatment room of the yoga studio I love, keeping my own files, bringing people in and having the opportunity to listen and connect all on my own merit is the most gratifying work that I have ever done. When I get an email from someone who has read my blog and thinks I might be just what they’re looking for, it goes straight to my heart.  Really.

What does this have to do with my ginger plant? The internet, with its infinite knowledge, informed me a few months back that it was possible to grow a ginger plant from the very ginger you find at the supermarket (it being a rhizome and all). Brooklyn is not necessarily the ideal climate for ginger, but I had some on hand, and I thought it might be fun to grow a little something. What did I have to lose other than this little ginger nub that was already past its culinary prime, sporting the beginnings of baby green shoots?  I threw it in a pot of dirt and gave it lots of water. For a few days, I covered it with a glass bowl to keep it cozy hot and humid. And it grew! Weeks passed, then months, and my plant is still alive. It is getting tall and lanky now, still sprouting new stalks. It looks like bamboo, a little slice of tropical Zen in my front window. I see it first thing when I come home, and it serves as a reminder of the growth that can happen when you toss out negative old ideas of yourself and try something new.

I’m not saying that my thumbs are now glowing green. I will continue to bring home potted herbs because I like plants, and it’s more economical than buying them cut anyway, and I will try my darnedest to keep them alive, but some of them might not make it. I’m sorry, guys. I’m really, really trying, but sometimes there are aphids and weird molds and not quite enough light and probably other stuff that hasn’t come up for me yet. And I am far from a master of marketing. I might spend a whole afternoon thinking up and writing out a really great promotion or ad that doesn’t actually bring anybody through my door. That’s a thing that can happen, but it’s OK by me. I may not be a master of gardening or marketing just yet, but there’s evidence on both fronts that my efforts are worthwhile. After all, neither plants nor my practice will ever thrive if I don’t give it a whirl.

 

Megan Spence is a Licensed Massage Therapist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She is continually astonished by just how much she loves her work. You can read more about Megan’s adventures in massage and various other things body-related at Bodywork Brooklyn.