I’m not a woman who spends much time pampering myself. I like good quality clothing and shoes, I got to the hair salon every six weeks, and I take care of my hands and nails. I usually do my manicure and pedicure myself. If I have a Junior League meeting, a class reunion, or a date, I might have a professional manicure, but since those events occur infrequently the amount of time I spend “soaking in it” is minimal.
I had my first professional manicure when I was working at a Medium-Sized Corporation in Waltham, Massachusetts. Two of the women in the office said “hey, let’s go and get manicures at lunch!” and we were off. It was a typical nail salon, with big pictures of posed hands on the walls.
“Pick your color.”
I was having a manicure and my co-worker, Christie, was having a pedicure. Suddenly, the nail technician working on Christie’s feet shouted “Foot fungus! Foot fungus!”
Christie was pretty easy-going and she played along with it. She opened her eyes in wide amazement and said “What? I have foot fungus?”
“You have foot fungus! Foot fungus!” Twice for emphasis, I guess.
I was embarrassed for her and sunk into my nail soak with mortification.
Fortunately, the nail technician had a remedy for foot fungus and she sold it to Christie for a cool twenty dollars. Cash and product changed hands, things quieted down, and our procedures were expedited. We zipped down to Domenic’s for take-out sandwiches after that and laughingly agreed to cross that particular nail salon off our list.
After I stopped working in Waltham and moved to The Big Corporation Up The Road, I worked for a very well-manicured woman. She would cast occasional disparaging looks at my chipped nails from time to time; was she trying to tell me something? She said she went to a salon called “Monterey Nails” and said “you should go there.”
It was summer, so I decided I would go for a manicure and a pedicure. After my manicure, I was escorted to the pedicure chair and told to take off my sandals and put my feet in the bubbling foot soak. The nail technician said she would be over in a few minutes so I sat and soaked. There was a good-sized Tee Vee on the wall and they were watching the movie Titanic. With a Vogue magazine to read, I would flip through the pages and squint up at the Tee Vee every now and then. As Leonardo DiCaprio sunk into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, my technician came over and told me to give her my left foot. I lifted my foot out of the soaking tub and with the same gleeful tone as Christie had been diagnosed with foot fungus, I was told “you’ve got big feet.” Once would have been enough, but then she laughed and repeated “YOU’VE got big feet.”
There are many things I could have said, like “well, I’m almost five feet nine inches tall, so they help me from falling over, rude girl,” but I said nothing. I looked up at the movie and watched the final minutes of it intently. When my pedicure was over, my BIG feet walked me out of Monterey Nails forever and I vowed never to have another pedicure.
I’m naïve; apparently, name calling is common at nail salons. One of my co-workers has been labeled “Tonya Big Toe” by her nail technician, and another friend is called “Susan Short Toes” when she goes for her monthly pedicure.
Not all nail salons are frightening dens of trauma and bullying; the Wet Paint Nail Spa in Cambridge is bright, cheery, clean, and friendly. It’s practically like doing your nails at a slumber party and there’s no name calling. It’s got a fun atmosphere and no Tee Vee. If I lived closer, I would have a standing nail appointment at 143 Huron Avenue and my Junior League BFF and I would finally get caught up on the many intricate details of our lives and we’d plot a few schemes to save the world.
Last night, I looked down at my garden-ragged hands and decided I needed a manicure. I’ve been digging and planting more than I’ve been soaking. I passed a small nail salon on the way home and it was complete with garish posters of posed hands. After I signed my nail salon name “Sally Preston” on the sign in sheet a man told me to “pick a color.” After a few minutes, he ushered me over to a booth and put a Dixie cup-sized dish of cold water in front of me. I looked at him quizzically.
The dish was so small I actually thought it might be a set up for some name calling. I stuck my hands into the water and waited to hear cackling laughter and the words “You’ve got BIG hands!” Fortunately, it didn’t happen; a tiny technician sidled over and said “Don’t you want Shellac, honey?”
“No Shellac, thank you,” I said.
“Shellac lasts a long time,” she said.
“Yes, I know, but it damages nails.”
She took a cuticle tool and pretended to push the cuticles on my right hand. The cuticle tool didn’t even touch my nail; she was just going through the motions and I looked at her glazed eyes and vacant expression; was she on drugs?
I looked around me. There was the flat screen Tee Vee, there was the fish tank, and there was the long row of pedicure chairs; everything was as expected and yet everything was skewed. I stood up, wiped off my hands and said “I’ve got to go.”
Nail salons are like gas stations; there is one every couple of miles on the Seacoast and I headed to another one closer to The Coop. This one was brighter with fewer hand posters and the Tee Vee was bigger and newer. We watched The Travel Channel. My big soaking dish was filled with hot bubbly water and the assigned nail technician was alert; she even tried to push the Shellac on me twice.
I demurely declined.
The only freakiness was at the end of my manicure when I was sitting with my hands under the drying station. Two small black dogs trotted out and started running around the salon. It was late, I was tired, and since they didn’t bark or bully me, I didn’t say anything. I contemplated taking their picture for the blog, but my inner Libertarian decided against it.