Friday, June 8, 2012

Snark Allowance

When I started futzing around on this thing, I promised myself that I wouldn't post all grumbles and snark.  I wanted to use this space to explore significant experiences as my massage career developed, and maybe come up with some Big Thoughts about touch, compassion and humanity.  Besides, other people do much better snark than I do.

But I can't hold this back.  Within the space of five minutes today, I was privileged to hear the highest concentration of spit-take-inducing ridiculousness I have ever heard.  I need to share this.

Quick background:  today I was working at a spa.  It is a nice place, and the other therapists are very talented, but because of the environment, it is not nearly as weighty as my other workplaces.  Example: on our breaks at the spa, we read People Magazine, while at the clinic, we use our breaks to look in Pub Med for articles about neuropathy.

The speaker of the following statements is in her late twenties.  She is a massage therapist at  the spa, and this is her first job.  Ever.  In her life.  (No, not even a summer at a fast food place.)  I will refer to her as "Zsa Zsa."  There are often things she says or asks that make some of the rest of us roll our eyes inwardly -- things people who have had jobs already know.  Today, Zsa Zsa was in rare form:

Zsa Zsa was eating a black bean burrito for lunch (which another co-worker picked up for her.)  She looks down at the burrito after a couple of bites and shouts: "Oh my god! Why is this black!"

Zsa Zsa on the proper way to hold a baby shower: "Aren't you supposed to rent a gigantic hall, like the Palmer House or something?"

Zsa Zsa on skin care: "I'm black and I go to tanning beds."

Zsa Zsa on Tori Spelling: "I hate her 'cause she's skinny and pregnant."

Five minutes for all this snark fodder.  Fabulous work, Zsa Zsa*.

(*-In the interest of fairness, I would like to say that Zsa Zsa is a very effective, often requested massage therapist.  Just not so good at the activities of daily living stuff.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tom Dooley

Once a month, I work in the memory care unit of a nursing home.  My business partner and I have a couple of hours to squeeze in massages between everything else being done to residents after they eat lunch.  ( Despite some recent person-centered training, this staff still does most things "to" residents rather than "with" them.)

One thing that happens every time we visit is the Sing Along.  The activity aide puts in the same familiar VHS tape with the same familiar songs.  She goes around trying to cajole residents into singing, moving, dancing, or shaking one of the many bells-on-a-stick things they have floating around.  For the most part, this is effective because music itself is enlivening.  I have seen  people who can't speak their own first names sing every word of some obscure song that was popular in their youth.  I fully expect that when I am in memory care, the staff need only mention "Friday" and I will be off with my own warbling rendition of "Friday I'm in Love."

As I am trying to finish up some massages with less responsive people during the Sing Along, I don't often listen to the music or pay attention to the video.  Today, I found myself facing the overly gigantic TV screen as the video played.  I was mesmerized by the home basement office green screen effects and the main singer's unfortunate porn star mustache.  This video also featured the lyrics to every song as subtitles.  I tried to concentrate, but the person I was working with had fallen asleep with his hand gently, but firmly, wrapped around mine.  He seemed content with simple human warmth, so I watched the video a little more.  I looked up just in time to learn the full lyrics to "Tom Dooley."

Holy. Domestic. Violence.

Did you know "Tom Dooley" is about some guy who lured his poor girlfriend to a secluded place so he could stab her to death?  The song is about his upcoming public execution.  It's a deceptively cheerful little earworm.  I used to find myself whistling it in the car on the way home from the nursing home.  Today I realized how deeply strange it was -- this song about a murderer playing on the big screen while one woman sang along with every word in a bright, clear soprano, tapping out the beat on the arm of her chair.  On the other side of the room, the activity aide had another woman up, dancing a shuffling two-step while Mustache sang about the "white oak tree" where Tom Dooley would hang.  To death.

Music pulls us together and is powerful enough to expose our hidden humanity, as this recent video shows so powerfully.  On the other side, though, music tells our darkest buried stories.  ("Strange Fruit," anyone?) It gives us a framework to relate in the daytime things that would make us cower in shame or fear if we tried to speak of them in conversation alone.  Music wraps our nightmares in foam and crash pads so we feel safe enough to fall right into the middle of them.