My husband begged me not to go.  In fact, he implored, walking after me in the driveway as I pulled away, reiterating the dozens of reasons why it was a bad idea.  Although I heard his mansplained concerns, none of which were health hazards, I ultimately gave him a kiss on the cheek and left for my appointment.  

The reality is, he was right.  Going to get my eyebrows done with a mask covering three-quarters of my face by a person who had never seen me before was probably not the brightest of decisions, especially for someone like me whose eyebrows are without a doubt their ‘thing,’ aka obsession.  Thank you bulliers in middle school.

Regardless, when the salons opened, I simply had to get myself cleaned up, if for no other reason than my own sanity.  Little did I know how insane the whole experience would make me, and not because of the virus, but because my thick SpItalian eyebrows were whittled down into nano thin arched pencil lines, i.e. sacrilege.  At first, I was infuriated, livid at the woman to whom I believed I had given explicit instructions.  Then I broke down into tears, hiding my face from my husband for as long as I could to avoid the dreaded “I told you so.”  And then, believe it or not, I raged right through my outrage…

This rollercoaster of emotions, a manic trip of the sorts one would hope we would be immune to after this year, is thanks to Nadia.  Or perhaps it is all her fault; it depends on how you look at it.  

Nadia fled Communist Romania many decades ago, giving up her job as a highly respected nurse at one of the best hospitals in the country in the name of freedom, freedom of opinion, freedom of economic gain, freedom of expression.  Unable to transfer her nursing certification to the United States, she tackled a new career, becoming a revered esthetician in New York, handling the brows of everyone from Mary Tyler Moore, to Barbara Bush, to Jackie Kennedy, to most recently, plain old me.  Her first husband left her for a younger blond in the office, her second husband and soulmate passed away in a tragic accident, she has been unable to return to her native country or see her family since she left, and she commutes two hours a day, six days a week, standing masked on a bus in bumper to bumper traffic to work.  Yet, Nadia never complains, replacing the doldrums of negativity with flurries of bright energy, her smile consistently bursting across her mask through her eyes.  Oh, and she is ninety years old.

Nadia cares deeply about her work; she takes pride in her skill, demeanour, and reputation.  Despite my utmost respect for everything she is and does, Nadia and I come nowhere close to finding a middle ground with regards to my brows.  She holds one view, I stand by another.  For this, there is no one, no thing to blame... except freedom.

While we have polar opposite opinions on what is to both of us a crucial, albeit superficial, issue, I have come to ask myself, how can I be angry at someone who cares so much? How can I disrespect someone for expressing their personal, let alone, professional opinion? How can I hate someone for doing what they genuinely think is best?

The reality is, I cannot.  I should not.

There is a lot of peer pressure to be a hater right now. Or at the very least, to be angry.  Angry at the state of affairs, at the virus, at society.  Hater of leadership, of the opposition, of each other.  

Alas, as I have learned through a myriad of personal and professional challenges over the years, anger is anything but unifying.  Anger is corrosive. Hate is divisive. Ire is toxic.

Opinions and determination, on the other hand, are pure beauty; they are the core of freedom.  Disagreements, the ignition for inspiration.  Conviction, the fuel for innovation.  These are forward looking, positive emotions that are as powerful as anger and hate, but can take us, as individuals and a collective, some place better, that place we all want to be.  

Although anger is human, giving in to it is oft pointless.  I, for one, vehemently discord with my current state of eyebrow affairs, among other more important global issues, but am determined to not let anger overcome me or infect someone else.   As Nadia told me the second time we met, “You cannot solve anything if you are angry.”  

Remembering this wisdom, I passed by Nadia’s office on a whim the other day to say hello.  To my surprise, she was quite unsettled after a tough week filled with resentful, acrimonious clients.  She lamented on her correlated insomnia, the animosity eating into her REM cycle, dimming her usually glistening eyes with the grey fog that anger spreads.  Unable to give her a hug, I beamed her a smile with my eyes, and reminded her that the only thing worth being angry about is allowing oneself to be taken over by anger itself.  

A few days later Nadia left me a voicemail, her sweet accent and renewed energy reverberating through the phone. She emphatically signed off, “I love you!,” leaving me pondering how two people that started off with a sea of rancor and disparate views between them ended up shifting the tide, allowing humanity to transcend.

If that was possible, how could I not love her, this fellow compatriot of life, too?