I HAVE AN ISBN!

It is my first ISBN and I am very proud of it! “Becoming Beast” (with Grace&Victory) is coming out October 2016. It’s a genderbent YA “Beauty and the Beast”, but after the fairy godmothers are all dead. I do need to think of a snappy catchphrase for that kind of setting. Post-fairytale? Anti-godmother? sigh.

In other exciting news, I’m also going to be in Volume 1 of Time Alone Press‘s LET US IN anthology of horror, also slated for October 2016! Basically, ghosts are the worst.

IF THAT WERE NOT ENOUGH, edits have gone through for another weird Western starring Sterling Acton and the talking snake at STUPEFYING STORIES. Not sure when that’s coming out, but oh man am I excited for it.

HOLD ONTO YOUR KNICKERS because ANOTHER (the FIRST!) Sterling Acton story has also been accepted by Empire & Great Jones Little Press for EMBERS: A JOURNAL OF LUMINOUS THINGS. Again, I’m not sure when it’ll be ready for release, but I will definitely be yelling about it when it happens.

There are many reasons I love autumn, and it’s nice to know autumn loves me back. Happy sweater weather, everyone!

(except those in the southern hemisphere. um. y’all are cool too.)

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The Logical Fallacy of Gift Certificates

You’ve decided to give your spouse a gift certificate for a massage! What a thoughtful gesture! You feel good. Your spouse will feel good. They come out of the treatment and proudly hand over their thoughtfully-boughten gift certificate.

And then they ask for an insurance receipt*.

And then everyone’s day is ruined.

“What do you mean, I don’t get an insurance receipt?” they say.

“You got a free massage!” we say. “What more could you want?”

“But my spouse, then – surely they got an insurance receipt when they paid for the gift certificate?”

“Certainly not,” we say. “Why, that would be fraud!”

“This tip, then – the tip wasn’t included, so I tipped you out of my very own pocket, surely that can be given an insurance receipt.”

No.

NO.

pleasegoaway

Welcome, all, to the hell that is gift certificates.

The very idea of a gift certificate – so I would think – is that it is a gift. A thing given without expectation of reciprocation. A free thing.

The entire point of an insurance receipt is that you pay for a massage and then get reimbursed for that expense. (Full price, a portion, whatever, I don’t care.) Follow me closely here, because this is where shit starts to get real: a GC means you got that massage for free. YOU got it for free. So if you get an insurance receipt for it, that means you’re essentially being paid to get a free massage.

Why yes, that does sound lovely! That is exactly what you were going for! You were very clever to think of it and definitely no insurance provider would ever think that is an unreasonable situation.

Okay yeah great but it is FRAAAAAAAAUD. And that’s something that will get the RMT unregistered and out of a career. Not to mention whatever multiple-thousand dollar fine that we have to pay for your shenanigans.

No, the spouse doesn’t get an insurance receipt, either. Why? Same thing. Free money.  Not cool. Stop looking so kicked-in-the-teeth.

So why even bother with GCs, if you can’t get anything out of them?

Well, it’s a nice gesture for people who aren’t under each other’s insurance policies, you cynic. Mostly it works in the company’s favour, since they get the money without needing to worry about whether or not they’ll actually need to back it up with a service.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: when you’re buying a GC for a massage, you are not actually buying a massage. You are buying a physical or electronic chit which can then be redeemed for a massage. The massage at this point is entirely theoretical and one-step removed from the point of sale.

So say even after having this uninspiring anti-pep talk, you still want to get your spouse (or whoever else in on your insurance plan) a massage, but you do want that sweet sweet insurance receipt that goes with it. WHAT DO?

Welcome, all, to the second circle of hell.

You can set up an account under your name. You can set up an account under your intended recipient’s name. Then, you can put money directly into your intended’s account. (You don’t even need to set up your own account if you’re okay with your intended getting the insurance receipt written out under their own name.)

Given that a GC essentially puts free money into a person’s account, what’s the big difference between purchasing a GC and not getting an insurance receipt and just giving money directly to the person and getting an insurance receipt?

WELCOME, ALL.

WELCOME TO HELL.

Frankly, you could do this for your friend, too. Just put money on their account and BAM, they can use it for some sweet insurance receipt action. (You don’t get the insurance receipt, but it’s a nice gesture for your friend, if they want to use the theoretically reimbursed money to take you out to dinner.) You could do this for anyone. Wouldn’t that truly be the greatest gift of all!

If you’re expecting a grand explanation as to why GCs aren’t equivalent to direct money in the account, alas, I am no philosopher. The best I can throw out is that when you purchase a GC, you are purchasing an expensive piece of paper which can be redeemed for a service, not the service itself. And you don’t get an insurance receipt for a tip (not even if it was included in the price of the GC, or indeed with any purchase), because that money is assumed to also be a gift – a very wonderful and welcome gift to your therapist, who has given you a wonderful and welcome massage, and you tip out of the goodness of your heart without expecting anything in return. Because god damn the whole transaction will turn into a perpetual motion exercise of one gift being given in exchange for another gift and on and on and on until quite frankly your GC can go to hell.

Where you already are.

Because gift certificates.

#

So what’s the recommendation here? Bottom line, if you want an insurance receipt and the recipient is on your insurance plan, put money directly into their account and they can be given a 3rd party receipt. If you want the recipient to get an insurance receipt regardless of your insurance plan, put money directly into their account and they get an insurance receipt all to themselves. If you want an insurance receipt and the recipient isn’t under your insurance plan, find another recipient ’cause you ain’t gettin’ sheeit.

About the only time I personally my own opinion would buy a GC for a massage is if the place is not set up to put money into someone’s account or if it was a gift. You know… that thing that you give when you can’t expect anything in return.

(And also I would put a tip on that GC because ain’t nothing more awkward than when you tell your client everything’s been paid for and they ask if a tip was included and you have to say, “Welllll, nnnnno, BUT THIS WAS A GIFT SO PLEASE DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT” and they say “Oh no please I insist” and you’re back to cursing the logical fallacy that is gift certificates again.)

#

also please whatever cash exchange you and your friend want to do in order to get an insurance receipt please don’t do it in front of us, these mental legal gymnastics are splitting my mental crotch enough as it is

 

*I’m going to keep saying ‘insurance receipt’ instead of simply ‘receipt’ because they are two different things and these waters are murky enough thank you.

How Naked Can I Get?

It’s your first massage therapy session! How exciting! It can be pretty nerve-wracking, too. Probably you don’t know this massage therapist very well. And now they’re asking you to undress to the level of your comfort! WHAT IF YOU ARE NOT VERY COMFORTABLE BEING UNDRESSED.

Well, the first good news is that the therapist is going to leave the room to let you undress in private. Legit RMTs are not interested in seeing you between the states of clothed and snuggled comfortably between the sheets of the massage table.

Second, ‘to the level of your comfort’ is exactly that. The only caveat is that if you choose to wear no shirt but keep the bra on, that bra really is best coming off. Not because RMTs are creepy and weird, but because we don’t want to get oil or lotion on your nice underthings, nor do we want to risk snapping the straps or otherwise wrecking your clothes.

So let’s talk underwear for a second, whether it be thongs, panties, briefs, boxers or those stretchy mid-thigh-length things that rugby players wear. Is it best to keep them on or take them off?

GUESS WHAT

IT DON’T MATTER NONE

Really! Either there’s enough slackness in the material that the RMT will casually tuck the top sheet into the underthing and hike it up a little so they can get to that skin underneath, or they can just keep the sheet over top of the underthing and work through both sets of fabrics.

“Well then why not do the entire massage like that?” you ask.

You can. It’s a thing you can do. Because it’s your massage and you are in control of what gets done to your body.

But going back to the why, there’s a couple of reasons. Most massage techniques involves a lot of wringing the muscles and sliding along the muscles and stretching the muscles. Fabric gets in the way of how much wringing and sliding and stretching can be done. The movements will be a lot shorter because the collar of your shirt is pulling against your neck, because jeans aren’t terribly stretchy, because we don’t want to ruin your clothes by stretching them out or wrinkling them terribly. Also you’ll be a sweaty mess at the end and have to go home like that.

(“But Thai massage is done through the clothes!”

So is craniosacral therapy. I’m talking about Swedish massage. They all have different techniques suited to what’s being worn. Calm yo’self.)

Back to underwear’s special status. Many of the massage techniques used on the glutes function equally well clothes or unclothed. Unless you have a specific problem in your glute that you want worked on, the RMT’s hands and elbows can remain fairly static on the glute muscles and still do a decent job of working out the kinks. Underwear fabric tends to be stretchy enough that it’s not going to interfere with the range of motion the RMT wants to get.

Also, some people just don’t want their butt skin being touched or don’t like the thought of their genitals being ‘out there’ (please note: they will never be Out There. Genital massage is not a thing that gets done. Ever).

“Won’t the therapist be weirded out if I’m not wearing underwear, though?”

Nope! We don’t care. Your sensitive bits are always covered up anyway (‘sensitive’ being the genital area, the gluteal cleft [or ‘buttcrack’] and nipples [except during breast massage, which needs special and specific consent beforehand, and in any case the nipples and areolae aren’t touched]), so it’s not like we’re missing out.

Let’s recap: in a Swedish massage (which is the standard massage, using oils or lotions), you’ll be expected to undress. Bras need to come off. Underwear is optional.

So now the RMT is out of the room and you’re feeling a breeze. There’s a massage table with sheets and a blanket and pillows and some sort of doughnut-thing at one end. AW SHIT NOW WHAT?

Get yourself between the sheets! That doughnut-thing is for your head when you’re lying on your stomach. Put your face in it. The pillow should be under the bend at your ankles. If there’s another pillow for your stomach, it should… I dunno, be somewhere that feels all right? I hate using stomach pillows, but whatever. The RMT is knocking on the door. You’re ready to be massaged!

OR ARE YOU?

Remember when I said to get between the sheets? Remember when I said your sensitive bits are always covered up? Now is not the time to play Helpful Hector with your RMT and leave your butt hanging out for them to gaze upon when they return. They will not thank you. Pull those sheets up and let the RMT uncover what they need to work on. Butt cracks should remain a mystery.

So the RMT has finished working on the first side. It’s time to get turned over and continue this sometimes baffling ballet of How Much Naked Is Naked?

Well, the RMT is going to make sure the sheets are up to your neck and down past your toes and there’s a lovely foot or so of cloth on either width-wise. They’re going to hold onto the sheets while you execute a graceful turn onto your back. You’ll need to scootch down the table so that pillow is now under your knees and your head is out of that doughnut-thing. What comes next?

Next is you leave that sheet where it is. You can move your arms to be out of the sheets if you’re feeling a bit warm, or you can adjust the top so it’s not choking you, but don’t give the RMT an eyeful of your rippling chest and certainly don’t shove the sheets down to your waist. Let your nipples be as unto your butt crack.

“But I’m constipated and need my abdomen worked on and the RMT said we’d be doing abdominal massage and I’m too hot and I want to be helpful!”

And all that will be noted in your file! But if you’re too hot we can just remove the blanket or uncover your feet or put a cool damp towel on your forehead. When the RMT needs to work on the stomach region, they’ll put a towel over your chest and in a dazzling display of magician-like talent slip the sheets out from under it and leave your nipples in the dark. It doesn’t matter if they’re man-nipples. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a mastectomy and there are no nipples left. Is it the region where nipples are traditionally viewed? Then it stays covered. Those are the rules the RMT governing college has laid out and your whinging is not worth our career.

“BUT I WANT TO BE HELPFUL!”

Listen.

RMTs

fucking

hate

to be helped

when it’s not asked for.

#

It should go without saying at this point, but wait for the RMT to leave the room at the end of the treatment before you hop off the table.

#

Let’s recap! How naked can you get? AS NAKED AS YOU WANT! Just as long as your nakedness stays between the sheets.

The Soul-Crushing Conundrum About Proper Tipping

Oh man, you want to tip us? Thank you.

Thank you.

While (hopefully) not dependent on tips in the way those in more servicey service industries are, I think we can all agree that extra money is not something to be sneezed at. However, as with literally everything that exists about massage therapy (except for the rule about not having sex with your clients), there is always room for discord and different opinions.

Let us now navigate the thorny mixed metaphorical waters of tipping in the massage industry.

What is a good tip? How little can you get away with while not looking cheap? How little can you get away with and don’t care about looking cheap? Can you not do it at all?

Well guess what!

IT DEPENDS.

(get used to hearing that phrase)

I’ve worked at a spa where tipping was verboten. Completely not allowed. Like ‘gets you fired if anyone finds out’ not allowed. This policy was on the website’s FAQs page. There was probably a discreet placard at the front desk stating this. Basically (this is what we the staff were told), the idea is that the client pays for their service/s up front and doesn’t have to worry about any ‘surprise’ additional charges when they were ready to leave in a cloud of blissful zombieism. What clients were also told is that we the staff got good enough wages that we didn’t need tips. (At the time we got paid a minimal wage for our non-massaging time, on the premise that we would be doing various chores around the spa.) Whether or not this latter excuse was true didn’t make a difference: tipping was right out and so help you if you left a little something in our rooms when you left. A couple times that happened, we brought it to the front desk and had them put the money on the client’s account, ’cause $20 is not worth our job. But thank you!

(Remind me to do a comic about the client who left me a Bible day planner as a ‘tip’.)

However!

I’ve also interviewed at a hotel where tips (rather, gratuities, thank you) were added onto the service/s. Like 18%? Again, it was on their website. They would like your money, thank you, and they are going to be upfront about getting it. Which is cool! Oh man 18% on high-end hotel massage prices would be pretty nice.

However!

Currently I’m working at a place that has no tipping policy. Which is to say, tips aren’t mandatory but we accept them anyway, because we have big ol’ accepting hearts.

However!

This can cause confusion. Since we don’t have a policy, we don’t state our policy. WHAT TO DO?

assssssssssssk.

Just ask. Never be embarrassed or ashamed to ask.

Is there money involved? Then yes, ask ask ask, very good idea to know what is expected.

Now, because I am a kind-hearted and sweet-tempered individual who would never ever wish to fleece the unknowing public, I’ma offer you a couple ways you can go about tipping that hopefully leaves everyone, client and therapist, satisfied.

First, you can go by percentage. I tell people to do whatever they do at a restaurant (while adding off-hand that that’s in the 10%-15% range, because I know some of you have no regard for waitstaff).

Second, the $2.50-per-15 rule, which I made up, so don’t expect to find it referenced anywhere else. What this means is, for every 15 minutes of massage, add a $2.50 tip. Getting a half hour massage? That’s a $5 tip. 90 minute massage? $15 tip. 45 minutes? $7.50. When clients ask me though, I tend to say $5 per half hour and hope for the best. It’s the same thing, but $5 is easier to parse in a hurry than $2.50.

Third – you can not tip, too, and that’s okay! That’s why there’s the little NO option beside the YES option on the POS machine. (Or, as I invariably call it, the money-taking machine. I have a highly technical mind.)

“WHAT!” I hear you yell, outraged. “NO tipping? AT ALL? These people!”

Well, quite frankly, while I super do love extra money and like it when people show their appreciation and gratitude for a job well done with cold hard cash, the thing is, if shit ain’t mandatory, you can’t really complain when you ask for volunteers and no one steps up.

Alternately, I’ve heard a couple RMTs says that they don’t accept tips as a personal thing anyway, because massage therapy should be seen as equal with things like doctoring and dentistry, and THOSE professions don’t sully themselves with taking filthy unearned extra lucre, and if you take tips then aren’t you worried that the clients will be worried that you’ll treat them differently and give different goodness of skill of massage during their treatments and isn’t it shameful how tipping equates us with such ‘professions’ as waitstaff and aestheticians and-

BRAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Brah.

Chill.

sounds like you could use a massage

Now, even though I love me some free money, there are definitely ways you can give someone free money and still come off as douchey and insulting. (Remarkable, ain’t it?) Like, say, if you get an hour massage whose total comes to, like, $97 and you give the RMT a hundred-dollar bill and winsomely tell them to “keep the change”.

gee

can you spare it

If you do wish to tip (which you don’t have to!) (unless it’s stated you do!), at the very least, throw in $5. If that seems like too much effort, or hey, if you super don’t have the extra money and this is all through insurance or WHATEVERRRRRRRRR. then… just don’t tip.

I mean, I’m going to take your money regardless. It’s mine now. That 8 cents? You’re not getting it back. You gave it to me. hsss, fffft.

(Yes seriously $0.08 on debit, plus $3 cash for an hour massage. No I do not understand the thought process there either.)

So that’s how to tip! Don’t! Or, preferably, do! Or, ask!

Money etiquette, amirite??