I was snug as a bug, nestled in a massage chair and getting a milk and honey pedicure when a woman noisily plopped down in the chair next to me. She was an older, heavily made-up woman with big hair, dripping with blingy, expensive-looking jewelry and wrapped in a giant fur coat that she refused to take off. She sandwiched herself into the chair, dropped her heavy Birkin bag to the side, and kicked off her loafers — the Gucci Princeton’s, with the fur trim. I wondered how she found her way to this random no-frills nail salon on Christopher Street, but when her nail tech greeted her with air kisses, it was apparent that they had a long-standing relationship. After small talk about husbands, kids, and holiday plans, the chat turned to a more serious topic: the health of the older woman in the chair.
“I had the test on Friday and got the results on Monday. Thank heavens that the test came back negative,” the woman said. “But let me tell you what Jeanette did. You remember me mentioning Jeanette, my best friend? We went to high school together. Best friends for 40 years!” The nail tech smirked and offered a barely audible hum as she pushed her shoulder against the side of her cheek to wipe a stray lotion splatter on her Hello Kitty smock. She then nodded as she continued to massage lotion onto the older woman’s liver-spotted feet. The older woman continued. “Jeanette knew I was having this test, and she knew I’d get the results on Monday. But she never called me! Monday came and went, no call. Tuesday passed by, and she never called. Wednesday came, still no call.” The older woman was getting worked up as she relayed the story, slightly raising her voice and emphatically waving her manicured hands around. “Would you believe that Jeanette waited until Thursday to call me? Can you even believe that? I was so mad at her. The gall! The audacity! Jeanette has some nerve, eh? When she finally called, and I saw her number on my phone, I sent her straight to voicemail!”
The nail tech continued rubbing the woman’s feet and looked up at her. “Why were you waiting for Jeanette to call you? Why didn’t you just call her?”
“Because she should have called me to check on me,” the woman said tersely. “We’ve been friends for 40 years, and she didn’t bother to call!”
“And you didn’t bother to call her, either. You’ve been friends for forty years,” said the nail technician as she gingerly fumbled with a cuticle pusher. “Forty years and you’re still keeping a scorecard like you’re still in high school. Isn’t that exhausting? Forty years is a long time to keep track of all of that tit-for-tat.”
The woman in the chair didn’t say much after that. As the nail tech scrubbed her feet, the woman fidgeted, occasionally poking a finger into her stiff bangs. I, on the other hand, sat in my chair wide-eyed, contemplating the unexpected enlightening exchange I had just overheard. As my pedicurist wrapped my calves in steaming-hot towels, I wondered about all the tit-for-tats in my relationships. I thought about the times I’ve felt slighted by people. I thought about the times I’ve not returned phone calls or stubbornly withdrawn from friendships as a juvenile retaliation. I pondered my lost relationships, the unspoken words, and all of those missed chances to clear the air.
I made eye contact with the older woman in the massage chair next to me and she sort of half-smiled. Her lips slightly parted and I thought she was going to say something, but instead, she sighed with resignation. Her weary eyes were heavy with worry and sadness. It was at that moment that I realized I’ve got to let it all go. I’ve got to stop allowing my fragile, defensive ego to take the wheel while I sit in the passenger seat, keeping score of all the times I’ve felt wronged.