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Manicures, money, and moving on …

Yesterday, I used a gift card I’d been given for a local salon, to have a manicure. I rarely get a professional manicure; just never enough dollars in the budget and even if there were I’d probably rather buy bird food than have my nails done. (Not much of a girlie girl, huh?!)

But, I was going up for the big shoe in Tampa today and figured a mani might calm my jitters and be a good way to spend my $25 card.

The woman who did my nails, let’s call her Cindy. In her fifties, talkative, nice enough. As she filed and buffed and trimmed my raggedy nails into something approximating presentable, she told me her story.

She was from Rhode Island originally. Had moved to Sarasota more than a few years back, but she was soon to be packing up again and heading back up north to be with — possibly live with, it seemed — family members.

Why is she leaving Florida?

She just can’t afford to stay.

She’s losing her house to foreclosure. Her budget is so tight there’s no room to breathe. No amount of stimulus, she says, is going to save her now. She just has to cut her losses and move on. Or, in her case, move back. She voted for Obama and says she’s standing by her man, but she’s not sure the billions of dollars will stimulate much of anything. What would it mean to her, she asked? $13 bucks a week if she’s lucky?

“I don’t know what I’ll do next,” she said, then paused in her work to look me in the eyes, “I’ve never been this scared in my whole life.”

We talked the entire time she did my nails — about Obama, the need for hope, the greed in corporate America, the greed of the average consumer, and how as she put it “You used to be able to tell who people were by what kind of car they drove, or what bag they carried, or where the lived, but not anymore.”

She’s right. Our credit-crazy, status-symbol society has given everyone the addiction of looking and living rich, even when they’re not. We’ve become addicted to living beyond our means so that we can pretend we mean “more” in the eyes of others.

Wasn’t I kind of doing the same thing? Having my nails done so I’d look “good” for the people I’m going to meet today, when it’s something I can never afford to have done in my regular, day to day life? I cut myself some slack by saying I had a gift card and it was a once in a blue moon thing and it was for professional reasons. And it makes sense … until you realize we can all justify the reasons why we live beyond our means, but it really boils down to this: we live beyond our means, so we can feel better about who we are in a world where we — and others — value the superficial over the substantial.

I felt really guilty sitting there having my nails done when this woman was soon going to be without a home. I felt like putting my arms around her and saying something profound. But what? What could I say? I’m pretty worried too. I’m hanging on by a shoelace too.

When my nails were painted to a high shine and looking spiffy, Cindy walked me to the front of the salon and wished me luck on my television debut (yes, good grief, I had to tell her about it — can’t help it, I’m excited!) and then she stopped and said, “I probably won’t be here if you ever come back; but I’m going to be okay — I mean, it can’t get much worse anyway.”

I thanked her, gave her as much tip as I could spare, and left the salon.

My nails looked great, but my heart felt like it’d been cracked. I felt like crying for this woman who, for almost an hour, had held my hands in hers.

I wished somehow I could return the favor.

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Posted on February 13th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
3 Responses to Manicures, money, and moving on …
  1. You did by listening ,being you and perhaps giving her some hope in your hour with her.

    Reply
  2. You got her fired.

    Reply
  3. I doubt this is true, Daisy — that I, or anyone else can “get” someone fired. But I’ll look into it. Thanks for posting and being interested in the story. If you know any more about this — any details, you’re welcome to post more information and/orwrite to me at mccoolidge.com. MC

    Reply

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