When I graduated the massage therapy program in June 2011, I was all too eager to get into my first job under my new vocation. The profession of “massage therapist” seemed all too promising. It was one of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation, the average pay was much higher than that of other jobs some, if not most, graduates from regular colleges find themselves in, and the seemingly soothing, stress-free environment of a spa was enticing. Much better than the chaos and bullshit I had to put up with working retail at Macy’s.
This is not going to be a post on why I hate my job. Hell no. I love my job. It may not be my ultimate dream job (you know, trophy wife to Rafael Nadal while moonlighting as a dominatrix to celebrities that need some discipline), but it’s great for now. Rather, this post is about my typical day in the life of a professional bodyworker. Who happens to work at one of them chain spas. And anything that happens to be a “chain” of something…well, hear me out.
*Drive For Your Dough*
I live 40 miles away from my job in Marin County, first up. I’d work closer to home, but I live in an area that’s not a spa destination, and the place close to home that is (Napa Valley) have spas that are stupidly finicking in who they want to work for them. (Some spas want MTs that have 2-3 years of experience, “preferably in a luxury spa/resort setting”, with a minimum of 300 schooling hours. Which MAKES. NO. SENSE! 300 schooling hours doesn’t make you a state-certified therapist, just a practitioner! I am not kidding on this.) And so I drive for my dough, four days a week. I’ve done five days before for a few months; I’m surprised I survived.
And if you think 40 miles to and from work is a loooong drive, there’s a girl that lives 15 miles further from where I live. That’s 55 miles one-way to work, over 100 round-trip. She used to do five days a week (!), but she has since cut her schedule to three days now that she’s attending college.
I prefer to work afternoon shifts. I never work a morning shift. But I have before. I’m surprised I also survived that. It’s a pretty drive to make given the route I use to go to work during sunrise, but not so pretty when you’re half-awake and driving with one bloodshot eye, wanting for the caffeine in your coffee to get going in your system. I agreed to it but only because I was a then-new hire, and the spa needed coverage for a Saturday morning shift. I work at a spa that doesn’t require us MTs to work both Saturday and Sunday, so the blessing to working that Saturday morning for the first seven months at the spa was that I can sleep in that night. Being a not-morning person, that still sucked, though.
There are MTs that can be very picky with what room they work out of. All but one room in the spa is primarily used for massage (the lone room is for the esthetician, as we also do facials at our place). Each room has its charm, but some people really like certain rooms. It’s this kind of stubbornness, however, that can lead to shit getting started. We have a girl that always needs to have a certain room whenever she’s there. I’m not a big fan of this particular room, so I don’t know what she sees in it. And when someone else is in this room when she’s around, oooh, she gets pissy. Since she’s been around the spa for a while and happens to also be one of our most-requested MTs, she does have some clout to where the rest of us don’t mess with her and her need to have this room. I personally adore this girl, and have seen her for massages (she’s really good at what she does). That being said, I wish she wasn’t a room whore. She’s not above that shit, and I sometimes feel like she thinks she’s above certain things.
Another reason to not be stubborn in what room you choose when working at my spa was a case that turned ugly. A fellow MT wanted to have another particular room, but it was occupied by another MT, who was nearing the end of his shift. The fellow MT expected that this guy was gonna get out of his room 5 minutes before the top of the hour–which is the protocol at my spa. He didn’t, and fellow MT (I’ll be calling him that, ’cause he’s a good buddy of mine, too) got ticked off with this guy. So when he confronted him as he got out, things got ugly to where zen ran off in hiding because it got shit-scared. Not that there was fight, but words were exchanged. I’m not fond of the guy that was in that room initially, but I felt it was the fault of fellow MT. There were other rooms open in the place, and he could have gone in those rooms instead! Fuck, he had a couples’ massage that day; he could have gone in the couples room where there’s much more space! I asked fellow MT why he likes that one room he wanted to get in: “it’s more spacious,” he said. Shut your front door, dude. The couples room is the biggest room in the spa; there’s much more space there than the room he wanted!
The moral of this bit is: never be a room whore at a spa.
More juicy bits next page.
*Creeps And Racists*
When one thinks of Marin County, phrases like “affluence” and “rich bitches” come to mind. And you’re right, but I happen to work in the side of MC that’s both rich-bitch and ratchet. Case in point: the parking lot of my spa, that sees its share of luxury cars and panhandling hobos.
For the most part, I adore my guests. Some more than others, because they’ve become my regulars. (They see no one else but me, which warms my heart.)
Then there are the guests that I prefer to never see again. Occasionally, I get someone difficult. Over a year ago, I took a walk-in newbie (meaning someone who’s not a member at our spa) and did my massage that I thought she was enjoying. That is, until 50 minutes into the session, when she tells me to not use my forearms and elbows. This girl, who wanted deep pressure, by the way, wanted me to, from here on out, use my fists, hands, and fingers to give deep tissue. That is going to strain my ass; it’s better to use your forearms and elbows for deep tissue massage. So, whatever, I did that shit. A few days later, my manager tells me of a review this bitch left for me. In short, I was called the (I shit you not) “worst therapist ever” in this review. After all I did for her! I gave her the full time, did what she wanted me to do, and it looked like she liked me–hell, she said “thanks” afterward and tipped me something. Then she turns around and becomes a cunt to me. This chick, who says she gets massages regularly, who actually referred her IT band (the muscle along the side of your upper leg) as the “PT band.” Haha, lady, now get lost forever.
There are other cases of difficult guests:
“Massage Divas.” Kind of like the case above. They can be both female or male, the ones that are so goddamn finicky in everything. From which places to massage and to avoid to the kind of pressure for each of these places…and then tell you to go harder when they originally told you to go light on, and vice versa. The ones that want deep tissue but only want you to use your fingers or hands not in a fist. No elbows or forearms. And now you know why I call them “divas.” (They are also cunts if, after all you’ve done for them, they tip really shitty afterwards, like $5 for two hours of playing indentured servant to them.)
“Total Fucking Creep”. To a female therapist, a non-member middle-aged/elderly male who walks in/calls in same day for a massage. Usually ask for a session during evening/closing hours. Typically out-of-shape,with a hairy beer belly, that either shows you their belly from their low-rise pants and short sweater or starts taking their clothes off during consultation (the time talking over a guest before a massage). Adding to their TFC-ness is when you massage them and, in certain spots, they moan and sound suggestive doing so. (The trouble with this is that it’s a tough call if a guest like this–or any sane male guest–is emoting naturally or hinting at something else.)
“The Racist.” Yep, even in this day in age, this very rare case has dropped by. It look 17 years into joining the workforce that I first experienced a racist bout on the job. It came from a guest who’s a member/regular of the spa. I was assigned to her–this old, white lady with a hump back (no, really, she does have a hump in her back). She seemed kind, and the consultation was going well until she asked me what’s my nationality. I said “Filipino.” She then remarked that, “oh, you guys make great nurses!” Um…
It was just last year that this happened. 2014. 20-fucking-14. I will say that, a year ago from this, my closest friend in the place, who’s black, was going to get a guest who was a newbie to the spa. This guest, according to my friend, was a middle-aged white male. She never took care of this guy because, from what she told me, the guy looked at her when she came out, and then asked, “uh, do you have anyone else?” My friend saw through his words and was really pissed off at it. (Needless to say, she didn’t work on him; he, too, didn’t want to see her.)
I later found out that there’s a miniscule part of Marin County that’s still backwards in these kinds of things. Yes, progressive Marin County–that same one.
*Homies and Attention Hos*
I’ve been at my spa for over 2 1/2 years. And in that time, I’ve developed some nice friendships with the MTs that have been around for that long. In a seemingly relaxing, pampering environment like the one I work in, the last thing you want is tension between therapists.
But because some of us, me included, can be bitches (for a good reason, hear me out), things don’t work out smoothly sometimes.
A couple years ago, our spa had this MT that was a total hag. And an attention ho. From the guest reviews of her, she wasn’t even a good therapist to begin with. But back to the attention ho part: she really wanted attention. Even when some of us held chats among ourselves, she’d have the nerve to eavesdrop and butt in, as if she had something important to say, even if she didn’t know what the fuck we were talking about. One time, an MT was saying something to her guest after a session, and attention ho had the nerve to butt in and chat with her. That wasn’t her fucking guest to begin with! (This MT was pissed with her; she hated attention ho’s guts, too.) My hatred for her went as far as to me leaving the break room when she was in it, yapping away. Did I mention that she was also a liar? (She was no stick figure, but she nonetheless had the audacity to say she was a size 6. Yeah, a size 6 times three.) And that she also smelled? Like, a-shower-a-week (I’m being generous here) stinky. Even the manager noticed it, and bought some spray deodorant just for her. (Altogether now: hahahahaha)
On top of this, bitch was lazy. She was late a lot and kept calling “sick” from work. Listen, in my 2 1/2 years in the place, I’ve called in sick three times. (Two of which I was actually sick–the other was a flat tire issue.) This bitch called in four times in a month one time. This, naturally, became her undoing, and she eventually got the boot by the manager. Although, if you ask me, her firing came way too late.
And now you’re probably asking me: so management sucks there, too, right? Let me finish!…OK, I’m done with that attention ho. Yes, management has been crapping recently. Namely in the assistant manager position. My times in the spa has taught me one interesting thing: anyone can be an assistant manager. In any other occupation, to be qualified for such a position, you have to have certain credentials: like an associate’s degree and a lengthy work experience in the specialized field. But at my spa, to be an AM, start out as a front desk person, look like you’re working hard and professional, and you may get that chance to co-run our spa. Seriously, that is how you can get to that position. At least, that’s how two of the past AMs I’ve seen become AMs. Our current one is this two-faced swine we’re stuck with. She’ll hate your guts and hug you at the same time. In turn, you’d want to grip her neck tight until she says “sooouuuu-weeeeee!” If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that no AM has ever stayed in their position no longer than a year. All of them have had to move. Here’s hoping this trend continues with the two-faced swine.
If I started at my spa today the way I was (professionally and mentally) when I started over two years ago, it would be so tough. When I started, I was lucky to have the supportive staff that we had then. We also had a good, understanding manager and AM. The veteran presence was so helpful and kept things pro; naturally, they were an older bunch. And while I don’t like to equate older age with maturity, in our place, it was the big reason why I felt the first year at my spa was much more comforting that the last six months. You don’t know how many times I’ve reminisced over the spa’s “good ol’ days.”
Thank goodness for my homies there that keep me sane, and the place tolerable to work at. The ones that I’ve worked with during my entire time, as well as the ones that came after me that I’ve been super-cool with. There may be one or two there that I’m not really close with, but thankfully there’s not one that sticks out as the one I want to get rid of. Maybe it’s because all my hate these days is towards that swine of a so-called assistant manager.
Those who think working at a spa is one of the best environments to work at, well…you’re right and wrong. It all depends. I’m sure there are other spas out there that have better work environments than the one I’m in. And if they got an opening, you bet your ass I’ll be taking that job (and more so if they pay even more than the pay I currently get).
I’ve thought about leaving before. It’s been a recurring notion in my head for the past, oh, eight, nine months or so. I will say that when I first started thinking about it, those times weren’t as bad as they are now. I guess what’s kept me from leaving were the great MTs I’ve worked alongside with, and my regular guests I enjoy seeing. I can be clingy with these kinds of things. Despite all this, I honestly don’t want to be working at the spa I’m at by next year, if not by the end of my second year at the spa (which is this July). I really want to be somewhere else, that will pay me what I truly deserve (not that what I’m getting is menial–it’s a whole lot more than minimum wage), where everyone from management to employees get along, where it’s a spa environment and NOT a corporate one that calls itself a “spa”, and that’s also closer to home. Either this, or my writing career takes off to where I don’t need to massage bodies for a living anymore.
Until then, I must get ready for another day’s work tomorrow. I got a full shift then, and a couple of my guests that day want super deep tissue massages. They’re gonna wear the hell out of me, so I need the sleep.
**UPDATE 2/2: what I didn’t mention before was that our spa used to have a cleaning crew. They were extremely helpful with all the laundry we go through on a daily, as well as keeping our spa nice and clean. Well, thanks to our new ownership and management, they got rid of our cleaning crew. Reason was because all the spas our new ownership owns must be the same, and the other locations do not have cleaning crews. Now the front desk girls have to take care of all that. Just another reason why I’m looking at the front door more often.