…because I was in the nail salon and forgot to get cash. Yes, I had a mental fit over this. Allow me to explain.
This past weekend has been rough emotionally, as it was a weekend where the things that were bothering me had to do with being black. There are days when I don’t let it get to me, but then there are times where I feel like the world is imploding around me, like this weekend.
For those that are unaware, there is this preconceived notion that black people don’t tip, or tip poorly when it comes to anyone giving a service of some sort. Sometimes workers will decide how they’re going to treat you just by looking at you. I’ve worked jobs where I have had to rely on tips to supplement what I wasn’t getting per hour, so I know what it feels like when you don’t get tipped. Couple that with this idea that service persons have of black people, and you end up having a anxiety attack/mental meltdown in the nail salon, a place where you should be enjoying yourself.
I don’t know if anyone could tell I was freaking out and chiding myself for not getting cash, but it slipped my mind. I hadn’t been to a nail salon in 4 years, and had forgotten that they don’t take tip on cards. For non-POC, this is excusable. For me, not so much. It brought back memories of being in hair stores, which are mostly run by Asian people. I felt like I was being judged and watched, even though I would never steal from or rob anyone! Then I started thinking that the staff was ignoring me, when they really weren’t. I was so in my head that I was brushing back tears. The young man that did my nails helped pull me out of that just by being his smiling friendly self. He has no idea how much that helped me.
I promptly left the store to get cash so I could tip about 25%. Could I afford it? Not really, but he did a great job. Besides, it was nice not to be scolded for my nails being so short or for wanting them short. Female nail techs always get on me about that.
Sunday didn’t get any better. I was in church, and wasn’t sitting towards the front, like I usually do. I was on call, so I stayed towards the back. A young white man with a hoodie was in service worshipping with us. I don’t know why, but I felt a pain in my chest, which I know was anxiety. When I saw him, all I could think of was that church shooting in South Carolina. The shooter was white, and purposely targeted black people.
White people have come and gone from our church and I never thought twice about it; why was this bothering me today? I remember watching him for any unusual behavior, and taking notice of all the exits. I never recall feeling like this. Was I right to be suspicious? Why now and why with this particular person?
If I could sum up this past weekend in a word, it would be this: unsafe.
I’m not safe from people’s perceptions of me. I can’t be spared from people’s prejudices and how they’ll treat me based on how I look. There’s no reprieve from being black; it’s an every day thing. I hate how talking about it makes white people uncomfortable. Trust us, we don’t want to try to make you uncomfortable. If you do feel this way, maybe you should ask yourself why that is, because it probably has nothing to do with me.
I tossed, turned, and cried last night in bed, fretting about this. It’s something that’s not so simply changed. I wish I could talk to my counselor because she is black and could understand how I’m feeling, and she helped me get out of my head a bit. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to talk to her anymore.
In a world where being black could mean not returning home again, I feel lost and alone. I need my counselor back.