The Manicure


Photo from the internet, not my local salon.
Tina's been taking care of my nails for just about as long as I can remember. Our relationship began perhaps twenty-five years ago, when she worked for Kim. Both women -- and the other women who worked at the salon -- are Vietnamese. 

After the Caucasian woman who bought the salon from Kim treated Tina disrespectfully, she left for a different establishment about a half-mile down the street, and I followed her. We didn't miss a beat, or an appointment, until the pandemic.

The new salon is busier than the old one, with more employees, all lovely young Vietnamese women. About two-thirds of the customers are African-American. There is a smattering of customers from the college further down the street. The prices have gone up since the pandemic -- to be expected -- but still a bargain. 

My nails had been trimmed and shaped. My cuticles had vanished. That wonderful hot towel had been applied (for not nearly long enough!) and the cherry blossom scented lotion had been worked into my hands. Tina had just reached for the polish bottle when the door beside me opened and in walked a big white man wearing a loose coat. His hand were in his pockets and he had a kind of scruffy look about him. He did not look like a typical customer A feeling of fear and panic began to rise within me, but before I could give way to it, Tina was on her feet, greeting him and arranging an appointment for a pedicure later in the day.

Thoughts of the Atlanta spa shootings had flashed like lightning through my mind. They had lasted fewer than thirty seconds. 

Very soon my nails were finished, beautifully polished and dried, and I was on my way about the rest of my day, leaving Tina and her coworkers behind at the salon. 

These ladies see and hear and read the news, just like I do. What must it be like for them -- some very young and working their way through college, others mature and ensuring their own children's college, some with great skill but limited English, and all working hard for low wages, and all Asian -- to get up every morning, remembering what had happened to their Atlanta peers? 

Question: How do they do it? 

Answer: They may have no alternative.

I'm learning more about white privilege all the time.


Janet O. said…
Oh, how I appreciate this post.
Barbara Anne said…
Sadly, so true. As Peace poles in gardens around the world have written on them (in several languages): May Peace Prevail on Earth.

May it be so.

Quiltdivajulie said…
Beautifully expressed - we've all felt that moment of fear when someone unexpected appears but with things the way they are now (and our state idiotically/stupidly/without law enforcement's support moving to a permit-less carry policy as of July 1), that fear is sadly more than a momentary flicker.
Shasta Matova said…
I am glad you were able to get your manicure uneventfully. I can see how scary it would be with each new stranger who walks in the door.
Nann said…
There are nuances to "customer service" that don't occur to us. (But, on the subject of pedicures: my husband is a convert. He goes to the barber for haircuts but to my salon for his pedis.)