War and manicures by Sue Robin, Los Angeles, California
My mom and sister had manicures for as long as I can remember. I came late to the game. It was a luxury I could not afford, neither the financial cost nor the time. A single mom, juggling several jobs and a private practice, den mother, baseball or basketball. no time and lots of other priorities before a little beauty treatment. Now. with my son grown with a family of his own, my retirement returning my time to me, I can afford the guilty pleasure of a mani-pedi every couple of weeks. Tina is the family manicurist and a dear friend. She is the epitome of calmness as she nurtures us and treats us with the utmost respect.
So, on Thursday, February 24, the day Putin invaded Ukraine, as I sat with my hand in Tina’s, I was horrified when the front door of the salon bursts open and a distraught woman rushes in, yelling at the top of her lungs. (No one taught her to use an indoor voice, I guess.) Part of me wanted to yell back STFU, but my better nature prevailed, and I allowed that she was feeling (and acting) out of control and deserved a bit of compassion as we all do during a time of crisis.
Tina and I were talking about the invasion just before the dramatic entrance. I told Tina that my grandparents were refugees from there in the 1800s and that it saddened and distressed me that this was happening yet again. War is a painful part of her history as well.
The woman remained agitated as she came over to the manicurist next to us shouting, “Putin has started the war! He invaded Ukraine!” The volume remained high and the tension in the shop was palpable. I hoped she would settle down — just as I had hoped Putin would retreat without firing a shot — but he did not retreat nor did this woman stop. Her tirade continued.
To bring down the temperature, I turned to her, politely noted that we were all upset by the happenings, and then asked her if she would mind lowering her voice a bit. With that, she turned to me and yelled: “I have been deaf since age two!” (Meaning, I think, “That is why I am yelling,” though she did not have the telltale signs of language difficulty that my deaf sister-in-law has.) Still trying to connect, I mentioned that I also wear two hearing aids. To which she replied, “Bite me.”
The woman then stalked across the room toward her manicurist. About half-way there, she turned and yelled out, “Bitch!” She then sat down and started talking in a normal voice with her manicurist, which proved that the deaf thing was a ploy.
It is a little more than a week since the incident and my jaw is still agape. For those who do not know me, I am a 4’11”, 74-year-old woman who is most always soft-spoken or silent. I am used to people returning my smile, but not used to them being rude to me. So much for the calming joy of a Tina manicure! I was trembling.
It has been eating at me all week, though I know she was off the rails. I wake up thinking about her. An unwelcome visitor in my private space. What ugliness lives in our world! Maybe it would have been better had I just said STFU (or not), or maybe she wasn’t distraught, but just a bitch.
Or maybe war brings out the worst in all of us and taps into the unconscious anger that is part of human nature. I abhor war and yet find myself wishing that Ukraine would sweep in and blow up that whole convoy of Russian trucks — but then I think, those trucks are filled with people and those people have families, and I cry because I have no answer for the unjustness of war nor the woman in the salon.