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

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

******

I still don’t know what I was waiting for

And my time was running wild

A million dead-end streets

Every time I thought I’d got it made

It seemed the taste

Was not so sweet

David Bowie

 

I’m sitting here at the Toyota dealership, waiting for two hours while they change the oil in my trusty ride. I’m four days out from Young Thumbs Posting Day, which is about ten days behind schedule, according to my manic brain calendar.

I’m not implying that YTPD is a dread-inducing event. To the contrary, the opportunity for catharsis is of immeasurable value to me (and hopefully to you, too!). I’ve just been busy on a few fronts: some good, some shitty, some personal and off-limits, and some made up of an enticing blend of personal-meets-professional-meets-business-meets-art-meets-community-meets-fun-meets-good-great-awesome! Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Friends and lovers, I am starting my own damn business. I view this as a huge step for your humble narrator, because although I’ve been e-pubbing, hanging out on the faceplace, and grading online continuing education quizzes at ConfidentMassage.com for a solid year or more, that stuff has all been virtual, and safely nestled within the protective cocoon of distance and quasi-anonymity that shields one from taunts predicated on shoddy off-time grooming habits and cheesy jammy-sportin’. Now things are gettin’ really, really, real.

 

When it’s all too late

It’s all too late

Change

You can change

Tears For Fears

 

A brick-and-mortar spa biz of my very own. A small enterprise; a nugget, if you will. A special space designed to my own specifications, with a service menu to match. A creation I’ve been dreaming of for years, kept sitting on its shelf, aging like a fine wine or cheese, until playing it safe was no longer safe, and I was ready to identify and seek out the optimal conditions to prepare for lift-off.

10…9…8…7…

 

 

Fear is a self-defeating emotion. I am not afraid of challenges, but I am aware. I am aware that entering into a living, breathing building – no, community – full of creative people and strong personalities can come with an adjustment period, and that the interpersonal unknowns and complications that come from interacting with any group of humans can be interesting, to say the least. But shit, this happens every time I start a new job, or meet a new client! I got this!

6…5…4…

 

We’re tribal companions, you and I. I hope I can rely on support from my usual, trusted sources, and I look forward to finding support in new and unexpected places. Looking back to the very first Young Thumbs post on putting your authentic self out there, naked and exposed, feedback be damned, the words ring just as true in this situation. I’m honing my schedule, and reallocating assets like time, energy, and brain space. If you’re not on board, someone else wants your seat. Kindly make room, and thanks.

3…2…

 

 

This journey began for me 30-something years ago, blanketed in the warmth of parental love and healthy touch. Today the caravan includes my supportive spouse, who has done more to fire up the engines on this small business adventure than I thought possible, exceeding my expectations in every way. And you’re here too! I will do my best to make you all proud! Please stay tuned, and for chrissakes, if you get the impression that I don’t have as much free time to spend with you as I used to, come find me in the construction zone that is now my office. We’ll drink hot beverages on overturned paint buckets and catch up.

1… . . .

 

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

******

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.

Dr. Pimple and Mrs. Glide (A Narrative on Dual-Licensure)

Back in 2006 and early 2007, when the Las Vegas housing market was near its manic peak and Bentleys with blacked out windows shat hundred dollar bills from their tailpipes whilst cruising down nondescript suburban streets, the Las Vegas spa industry reached a corresponding crescendo.

Caesars Palace upgraded their outdated spa to the 55,000 square foot, 51 treatment room Qua, complete with a mineral water infinity pool with integrated light therapy, and an Arctic Ice room that shed faux snow precipitate from a ceiling vent. The wheels were already in motion for the opening of the Canyon Ranch Spa Club expansion at Palazzo, the opulent spa at Steve Wynn’s Encore, diamond-infused massages at Trump, and the Mandarin Oriental’s 5-star spa facility at City Center when 2008’s economic outlook knocked the wind out of Vegas’ sails. As new properties rolled out on The Strip, a to-die-for spa was a non-negotiable amenity for any high-end resort with a desire to compete for precious tourist dollars.

I was working as a full-time massage therapist at an unofficially 3-star, off-Strip Las Vegas resort spa in 2008. Economic times were tough across the country, and especially tough in the Las Vegas valley, where unemployment exploded and still hovers between 11% and 13% to this day. Construction, sales, real estate, and tourism folk were feeling the pinch as homes sank underwater, homeowners gasped for air, and visitors to the land of sun and sin clutched at their wallets with death’s grip. I went from $400 and $500 days of doing 5, 6, and 7 massages per work day in early 2007, to $50 and $150 days of doing 1, 2, and sometimes no massages per work day throughout the following year. I was lucky to have maintained full-time employee status with health care benefits, as many massage therapists at different properties were downgraded to part-time and on-call status during this time. Believe it or not, it was a stressful time to be a spa employee.

With nothing but time on my hands, and in light of Qua’s reputation for hiring massage therapists who were also licensed estheticians (skin care professionals), I decided to pursue an education in skin care, so that I too could become “dual-licensed”.

I continued to work full-time at the resort spa while I attended esti class in a beauty school facility that also trained hairstylists and nail technicians. Thanks to the intelligence of my instructor, and the mature yet fun personalities of my classmates, I really enjoyed myself. I almost didn’t mind dragging my ass through 10-hour days of all things spa, 7 days per week, for 8 months straight.

After I graduated and passed my licensing exam, one of the fabulous estheticians at work took me under her wing and gave me some much appreciated on-the-job training. With the support of my management team, I was now performing facials, waxing, makeup applications, and body treatments, in addition to our full repertoire of massage services. I was making extra money selling skin care products to our guests, and the added service variety was giving my anatomical massage tools a well deserved break. This was fun!

What? Do I have something on my face?

Time warp with me…through 2009, when I went to work at a brand new 4-star resort spa as a massage therapist, but kept my dual-licensed position at the original spa…through 2010, when I worked two jobs like a mad woman, but saved enough to put some cash toward buying a house…through 2011, when the tourist dollars started to come back to Vegas and a damn shoulder injury forced me to scale back, allowing me to publish my first ebook as it sadly relegated my esti career to the back burner…through 2012, when I dedicated myself to working on continuing education projects, creative outlets, and the birth of a new dream involving my beauty school license, hope, and a funky business plan unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s way too soon to predict how 2013 will play out, but I’m always almost irritatingly optimistic for the future.

 

Have you ever considered adding esthetics training to your massage therapy toolbox?

 

Let me start by stating that everyone’s dual-licensed experience will be entirely unique.

As far as training goes, it’s up to you to measure the ROI on dedicating 6 to 12 months of your life, and between $8,000 and $12,000 on a second license (not to mention recurring licensing fees and any applicable continuing education.)

Finding spa employment as an esti, at least in Las Vegas, is generally tougher than finding massage employment. When money is tight, I’ve found that people are usually more likely to splurge on a massage over a facial or body treatment. That being said, there are waxing boutiques here that specialize in bikini and Brazilian waxing, and they seem to be doing really well for themselves. Waxing clients tend to be very loyal once they find someone who gives them just what they’re looking for. Research your local market before you commit.

If you work for someone else as an esti, you usually can’t pick and choose the services you’re down with performing. You’ll likely be expected to do facials and different kinds of waxing, and sometimes body treatments and makeup applications, regardless of whether you enjoy doing them or not. Again, do your research locally.

A few of the single-licensed estis (and a handful of massage therapists) that I’ve worked with over the years appear to harbor a certain level of resentment toward dual-licensed individuals. Maybe these single-licensed spa personnel fear that dual-licensed therapists are threatening their usefulness, or are making them appear to be less motivated, or are taking appointments that should (in their eyes) belong to them. I’m not sure, but haters, look: I’m really not that special. If I can go to school for two different things and maintain two different licenses, so can you. That being said, some spa management folk prefer to avoid rocking the boat, and forbid departmental crossover. You shouldn’t assume that getting hired as a massage therapist necessarily means you’ll be able to whip out your wax sticks just because you’re dual-licensed. If you have a dream spa job in mind, it can’t hurt to book a service there and politely interview your service provider about these things as a preemptive strike.

If you’re working on your own and you’re interested in becoming dual-licensed, I’d recommend pursuing it. It’s likely to give you more flexibility in the services and packages you can provide. You’ll also enrich your knowledge base with skin care skills and product ingredient prowess, and your focus on facial massage techniques will no doubt lead to marriage proposals and gifts of delicious pastry.

If you’re a guy and you don’t think this applies to you, think again! Male estis are the minority, but becoming an esti and rocking the Y chromosome is not unheard of. (FYI: It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gay. And you’re probably already a male massage therapist, so you should be used to any and all client assumptions regarding your every waking moment.)

In addition to variety and cash, one of the best things that my esti license has given me has been a sense of freedom. I’m less worried that I’ll suffer a career-ending injury, and I’m less concerned that antiquated local massage establishment laws (that still associate therapeutic massage with sex work) will keep me from opening a business of my own if I choose to do so.

According to many financial planning gurus of our time, diversification is an important concept to bear in mind when planning for the future. In a similar fashion, it’s not unwise to keep learning and adding skills to our massage therapy portfolios if we plan on making a living doing what we do for years to come.

 

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.