Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tales from the nail salon

When I lived in London, I think I could count on one hand (or should that be foot?) the number of times I went for a pedicure. It just didn't seem like a priority, and I only got my nails polished professionally when I was going to a wedding or some other smart event that required more than my own efforts at toenail painting.


But here it is a different story. While I wouldn't say that Long Island mommies are more glamorous than those in London, when it comes to the feet they are decidedly more high maintenance. In spring and summer, everyone sports perfect-looking painted toenails and sleek-looking feet, so if you have chipped nail polish and heels like leather you are definitely going to stand out. Going for a pedicure is also a fairly social activity; many women go with their girlfriends and have a catch-up while they sit there, and you also see mothers and daughters doing it together.


(This may be a sign of the times, but when I was growing up I don’t remember my Mum ever suggesting I went for a manicure or pedicure. Indeed, I'm fairly sure she never went herself; although she was always well-groomed, with nails she filed herself. But now it is quite normal to see mothers dropping off their teenage daughters at the salon – I’ve also seen little girls sitting alongside their mothers having their tiny toenails done.)


So yesterday I took myself off for the first pedicure of the season (no, I don’t do it year-round – what’s the point when your feet are encased in boots all winter?). I’m probably being a bit optimistic because it certainly isn’t sandal weather yet, but it felt like time and, having my first week off work since January and with the Littleboys esconsed in a sports class, I felt perhaps I deserved a touch of pampering.

The nail salon is also a great place for people watching. On a rainy Tuesday morning I was the sole customer (no pun intended), until Sweatpants lady walked in. In many ways she was so typical. Huge cup of Starbucks in one hand, iPhone in the other, dressed in her gym gear. She was midway through a phone conversation as she walked in, and proceeded to chat loudly for the first five minutes while the nice Chinese salon lady waited patiently to ask her what she wanted done. (Nail bars here are always run by Chinese or Koreans).

Sweatpants has a cursory look at the colours on offer and then asks ‘Don’t you do 'Minx'?”. The Salon lady looks blank. “It’s like, a sticker that you stick on. It lasts for two months. It’s so fabulous.” Salon lady shakes her head again. Sweatpants carries on about the wonders of Minx, although quite clearly it isn't on offer, until she runs out of steam. But then: drama! She can’t pick a nail colour. Cue long, long conversation over which colours will last longest. Eventually she picks two colours – plum and silver. “I can’t decide – I’ll decide while I’m sitting here.”

At long last, her pedi begins. But we aren't quite there yet. It’s nearly time for the colour to be applied. Then she looks up. “Did I see ALL the new colours?” she asks. The nail lady shrugs and gestures back to the shelf where she had spent at least 10 minutes. “Oh, I didn’t see those ones round there!” she exclaims. And she leaps up, mid foot-scrub, to take another look.

I left the salon at this point, so I’m afraid to say I can’t reveal what colour she went for in the end. But I did wonder if she made the right decision. And I'd also love to know what the salon staff (who have a habit of talking very fast in Chinese while glancing furtively at you, which convinces me they're sharing how appalled they are by the state of my feet) had to say about it......

11 comments:

SaintTigerlily said...

I've had my nails painted while sitting next to this exact woman multiple times. She also works at my dentist office. She also came to my wedding as a guest of my father and seemed to be sitting in several places in the room at once.

A Long Island woman in the wild...

diney said...

This awful female hss her hair done in Newcastle upon Tyne too! Rude and spoilt.

PantsWithNames said...

I LOVE the US ease of having a pedi. It seems like so much more of an effort here. Such a shame as it really is sandal weather here now and my feet are looking right manky.

Tamara said...

NappyValley I haven't read your blog in ages, but sine hubby finally bought me an iPad for Christmas ( received yesterday!) I am catching up. I love your writing style and enjoyed your blog v much. Laughing as the nice Easter hols weather back in Blighty has meant I actually painted my nails a couple of days ago. I only have the one colour so decison making was not too hard!! Now I wish I had gone to a salon in case tracksuit lady had been there ( hopefully complete with Long Is accent) it would have made me chuckle!

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Haha, you have described the nail salons down to a tee on LI - and I would love to know what those Chinese and Korean women are saying about their clientele - probably ripping them to bits most likely!

My mom grew up on LI but was one of 7 kids, all well groomed but in the habit of doing it themselves. In fact it was me who brought my mom to the nail salon for the first time before a wedding we were attending, and now she occasionally treats herself.

I do like the treat of having my nails done but usually do it myself and was a bit surprised when in high school I realized it was such standard fare for so many women and girls of my age. I'll never forget the first time I went to have my nails done before a school dance; I left in tears because the lady cut my cuticles and made my nails bleed!

Mud in the City said...

I must be a late starter as I had my first pedi living in Singapore last year. I love having prettily polished nails in flip flop weather - but HATE having them faff around wiht my cuticles etc. And the Asian fashion is for pointy toenails. Just NO!!

Calif Lorna said...

I didn't have a manicure or pedicure in the UK but I do try and go more often here, especially as we're in flip flops year round. Plus, everyone is so polished, I feel so ashamed if I look down and my feet aren't beautiful!

The other thing is that it's so easy, we're surrounded by nail bars and you can just walk in. No need to make an appoint. That makes a huge difference.

nappy valley girl said...

Saint Tigerlily - yes, I'm sure I've met her before too. And not just in America....

diney - see above. Yes, she is a certain type!

Pants - Here there are a LOT of places to choose from. Whereas in London it felt like something you had to book weeks in advance.

Tamara - thanks! Glad to meet you. Yes, it was worth it for the amusement factor (and blog fodder).

Tanya - haha yes I'd love to know what they say about us all. It does seem to be standard practice here - so they must all be doing rather well.....

Mud - pointy toenails? That's gruesome.....

Lorna - exactly. You feel like a cave troll if you don't do it. And it's so easy - and cheap....

Sally said...

Hi
Just wanted to say congratulations and let you know that your blog has been nominated in the MAD Blog Awards for UK parent blogs.
If you’d like to find out more about the awards and the prizes on offer, then head over to www.the-mads.com.
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Sally
The MAD Blog Awards

geekymummy said...

We have four nail bars in my neighbourhood. Here in SF nice toenails are de rigeur all year round. I'm going to get mine done this weekend, I think. I take geekygirl too sometimes, one salon even has teeny massage chairs for the little ones! It seems a bit decadant, but I always tip well. I wonder why it hasn't taken off in the UK,.

Muddling Along said...

My best discovery ever is a friend who can do pedicures and comes over after the girls are asleep - lovely feet and very convenient but sadly without the people watching opportunities

What on earth is minx though?