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.

 

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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

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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.