Monday Notes: Nail Salon Thoughts 💅🏾

I’m sitting in a nail salon.

Every time I go I feel guilty. Sitting here while Vietnamese women rub my feet and pamper my body seems wrong. Couldn’t I do this myself? I used to. I used to cut my own toe nails and paint them too, with vibrant reds, oranges, and purples. But now? I act as if I don’t know how to reach my toes. They do it better. I’m convinced.

As I sit, I listen.

I want it round, not square. She has to help her because only she knows reflexology. I don’t like this color; can I choose something more nude? This last one comes from a six-foot woman, with a thick accent whose feet were already submerged to her lower calf in the tub of bubbly water. She expected the nail technician to stop working, walk to the front of the salon, and get a new polish for her.

nail_salon
This image doesn’t belong to me.

Every so often, I ignore my book’s pages. The overweight woman in front of me eats her Taco Bell bowl and slurps her over-sized drink  as someone scrapes the bottom of her heels. The middle-aged woman two seats down mmmhmmms and ahas her way through a conversation. She must be going on vacation because she speaks of taking her suitcases down from wherever they’ve been hibernating, while someone massages the tops of her feet with hot stones, turning them cherry red. Another woman lies flat on the black massage chair. An employee shuffles over to slather thick, yellow wax on her eyebrows, eventually ripping it and her tiny hairs off one strip at a time.

I just messed up a toe, another woman whines as she walks towards the front of the salon, with her black terrier leashed beside her. All of the patrons exchange glances. No one knew a dog was there until that moment. Her nail tech says something in what I assume to be Viet-Muong and briskly moves ahead without her.

I wonder why we do it.

Why do we get caught up in consumerism that somehow turns to a perceived necessary part of life…mine and yours? Today it’s pedicures and eyebrows. Tomorrow it’s something else society will have convinced us we need, something women need. It’ll always be something because we women are always in need of improvement. Right?

60 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Nail Salon Thoughts 💅🏾

  1. True. But they’re providing a service and I’m sure that they are glad for paying customers. I really can’t do my own pedicures or manicure due to poor vision and arthritis so I’m grateful for these hardworking Asian Ladies. To show my appreciation I always tip them. I’m also extra polite because I’ve worked with the public for years and I know people can be rude, nasty cruel and problematic.

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    1. DeBorah!!! Thanks for stopping by! Glad to see you here. I know for sure you understand the nastiness the public can offer to the service industry. And you’re right. They are providing a service. I just wish we would be nicer and also realize some of these services are luxuries.

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  2. Love this post and the comments so far too. As long as we are aware it is indeed a luxury and we treat the one spoiling us with respect, than it is ok, right? Because the moment a person starts to feel guilty of such pleasures, I think the person could end up in severe depression. It reminds me again of that wonderful quote you shared: Know better, do better. Know we are privileged and help as much as you can to achieve that same luxury for the less privileged. Not to pay of your guilt, but because it is the right thing to do.
    And since I know you do invest in our neighbors too, I say ‘you go girl and show us a picture of your fabulous pedicured feet’ 😛

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    1. Thanks Patty! So, I do believe that’s the thing. We CAN be reflective, without feeling horrible about what we’re doing, but I’ve learned we often don’t want to think about our part in the systematic ways of the world BECAUSE sometimes there is a thought like “oh man…I might be a part of the problem.”

      lol at my pedicured feet ❤

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  3. This post reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is convinced the nail technicians are talking about her in Vietnamese and brings George’s father to salon to eavesdrop after learning he understands the language. And they were talking bad about her! I get my nails done on special occasions only, like my son’s wedding, partly because of the cost, partly because I hate people seeing my ugly toes, and partly because it seems like every time I go (rare), I end up with a little spot of what looks like fungus that I have to clip and clip until it’s gone. Regardless, your post does resonate with me, as I often feel like a spoiled, privileged bitch when I get them done, which is silly because I work hard for my money and the service is there. It really is no different than getting your hair done, except that feet are involved. I guess it’s more of a luxury though than hair, since most of us would ruin our hair if we tried DIY, whereas the nails are more doable. It’s always interesting when we see ourselves through what might be others’ eyes.

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    1. Kim, I read this when you first posted it, but I’ve been busy. I laughed heartily the first time I read it, especially the “spoiled, privileged bitch” part because yes, that’s what I was getting at. It’s like SOME people instantly have this air of importance because someone is rubbing their feet lol Anywho, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I understand completely.

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  4. great subject, K E, whether mani/pedis do it for us or something else. I forget where you’re at – I’m in Los Angeles where the workers are all Vietnamese too – sometimes I get the impression they’re complaining about customers…

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    1. Thanks da-AL! I’m in Florida. I’m not quite sure what the history of nail salon workers becoming Vietnamese is, but it is interesting, especially if you’re seeing the same trend on the West coast. I’m willing to bet it’s a combination of them just speaking their language (comfort) and sometimes complaining lol because there’s lots to complain about there.

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  5. I would like to think that the employees in that salon chose to do that job – whether they are happy doing it is another matter. There are many ways to put food on the table, not all of them enjoyable as we all well know. Sometimes a ‘neccessity’ might not seem like one to the person who can pick and choose whether they wish to partake, but to the person who wants to earn a crust in this world, it becomes a necessity. We as humans have become very resourceful at surviving, and creating ‘necessities’ in our lives. It then becomes a matter of opinion for those who have the time to discuss this on their blog. And Kathy, that last is said, very much tongue in cheek – not having a go!!

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    1. lol – yes to all of this, including the idea that I have the “luxury” of participating in and complaining about the very act. I figured it was tongue in cheek because you didn’t call me Katherin lol

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  6. You’re right, it’s amazing how quickly a luxury (that we didn’t even know we wanted) can become a “necessity” in our consumer-driven society. I suspect it has a good deal to do with human nature, and how we are so rarely satisfied.

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  7. Kathy, I’m taken with your descriptions of everyone as you sit and ‘people watch’ – a timeless activity! As for pedicures, I’ve never had one as I fear I will giggle and twitch (and possibly accidentally kick someone in the face) as I’m so ticklish. I have had the occasional manicure whilst at a spa hotel with friends, but then always on a one-to-one basis with professionally employed staff … it’s lovely to be pampered now and then!

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      1. I’m definitely in the “fear kicking someone in the face” category too! Self-care is important and so is making yourself a priority. However, that doesn’t mean putting yourself above someone else and treating them rudely! And self-care is a whole lot more than a mani-pedi day in my books, but that’s a whole different topic lol.

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  8. I wonder about this too, and then there are the commercials out that show nail salons and the voice over says: not all human trafficking is for the sex trade (or something like that), indicating that the workers are possibly forced labour. How would one know?

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  9. It is funny how once-in-a while treats turn into needs… like how I loved my simple basic Honda, the one I’ve driven for the past nine years, until my hubby bought a luxury car with heated seats. Now I can’t sit on that cold Honda seat in winter without feeling a tad disappointed, when I should feel grateful to have what many don’t have–a reliable car. 🙂

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    1. That’s EXACTLY my point here! Well, part of it. All of a sudden you need heated seats lol I just think it can’t hurt for us to take a minute and examine all of these “needs” we somehow have come to require, without judgment because we all have them, you know?

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      1. Great way of putting it. “Examining our needs.” That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I “need” my iPad, iPhone, and my Netflix. Yes, I could give those up too should this crazy administration reduce my social security funds, but for now my tech devices are my selfish little pleasures. During the last hurricane my power was out for over a week and we had nothing. It was like I was an addict going through detox without my phone since all the towers were down. I read books in the heat and survived. So…Needs and wants are quite different. We are a spoiled society and aren’t we lucky for that? As Soon as the power came on I got right back into the swing of things. 😉

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  10. I do need a pedicure. For one thing, I am on my feet so much and have ankle and foot issues, and it’s nice to get them taken care of with a soak and massage. Also, the workers at the salon just do my nails better than I do. And I can reach my feet, but with some trouble (esp. on the left). I never feel guilty about getting my feet done. I am kind and courteous to the nail techs, I tip generously, and I deserve to have something that I do for me and that makes my life easier. Plus, on the shallow tip, pretty feet are pretty, esp. out here in these sandal streets.

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    1. lol @ “out here in these sandal streets.” I suppose we shouldn’t feel guilty about whatever we choose to do; however, I do find it interesting that quite a huge chunk of society (women) have deemed this a necessary part of life.

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      1. I don’t think you’re wrong about the consumerism part of it (it’s really like makeup for your feet or toe jewelry, as I like to call it, and the idea that women must have pretty feet is all patriarchal/sexist stuff, for sure) but a pedicure is also a really nice thing for me to do for myself, so I just go with it. I also do massage therapy because if I didn’t my shoulders would live up by my temples and my terrible posture from work would go uncorrected. Some may call it a luxury but I really do need it. 🤷🏾‍♀️

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  11. You “nailed” this post, Katherin! I actually found a great situation where I have my nails done while I am having my hair colored. It saves me time and that’s valuable. The nail job is cheaper, too – there isn’t a massage chair, but I’m fine it.
    I started having them done when I turned 50. I have been a nail biter my whole life and mani/pedi’s help me to avoid that. 🙂

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  12. Yes, Kathy, there ARE some rude clients in nail salons, but I’m not one of them. When I choose to pay to get a pedicure, for me, it’s a nice 30 minutes of pampering. I’ve given pedicures to elders in my family, and I’m also pretty good with back, shoulder, and neck massages. We do lots of things for ourselves and others – sometimes its nice being on the receiving end of the treatment😊!

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    1. Oh Leslie, I’m sure you’re not lol I agree that pampering is a nice gift for oneself and others; however, I just wonder when it became something that seems to be required for many of us.

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  13. If its “me” time and that is what helps a person relax, I say go for it. If having those services fill your cup and it makes a you feel good, then why not. It does bothers me when people treat the women who are providing this service as invisible or as if they are their personal servants.

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  14. You described this perfectly. I stopped going after I retired telling myself it wasn’t a luxury I could afford. But the truth is, I miss it. Sitting back and having the massage chair gently caress my back. The foot massage, yes, the entire experience. Except for the rude people in the chairs next to me. Your description of the creepy, selfish people who plop themselves down on either side of me and act like they own the world. No, I don’t miss them. I felt guilty sometimes too. And sorry for the women having to do the pedicures. All to make us look pretty in sandals. I loved this post. You reflected my feelings perfectly. Now I do my own again unless I have an event to attend. But, I sure miss that massage chair.

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    1. Thanks Lesley! I’m glad you could relate to what I was saying here. I used to go every month, but pared down to every other month. Thanks also for calling it a “luxury.” That’s what it is but somehow, it’s become so accessible that it’s a “need” in many eyes.

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      1. Yes, so true. It was a need while I was working. For decades it became the norm. But teachers don’t get a huge pension and so I made the choice to stop when I retired, after 36 years of teaching, to help my grandchildren. What I spent on manicures and pedicures each month I now have deducted automatically and it goes directly into the Florida prepaid college fund. So each month I actually pay the same amount to each grandchild’s college fund as I did for my nails. In a couple of years both my grand daughter and grandson will each have one year of college already paid for. Pretty great. (Florida allows family members to break up years and pay separately.) My ex-first husband, and I each do that so the grands will have two years of college paid and my oldest son will pay the other two years for them. I figure their education is far more important than my manicures and pedicures. It was an easy choice to make. Kind of puts everything in perspective doesn’t it?

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  15. I love my monthly pedicure and I won’t apologize. I think everyone has a luxury or self indulgence that makes them feel good. We shouldn’t feel bad about doing something that makes us feel good, especially if it’s not illegal or immoral. Treat everyone you meet with respect. That’s what we should all strive for…

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