Monday, 27 June 2016

Thoughts from the nail salon

It was my friend's wedding this past weekend and what a wonderful wedding it was! Very beautiful and perfect for the couple. It really opened my eyes to what a wedding can be, and set the bar very high for all the weddings that followed. I digress... in order to make sure I was looking my best (and to give myself a little treat) I went and got a manicure and a pedicure.

Oh boy.

I used to get them semi-frequently with my mom while I was in high school, to get your feet "summer ready" and all that, but as I have gotten older, and more aware of the world at large, I find it harder and harder to go to a nail salon. I don't know if it's the same everywhere, but I'll focus on what the nail salon I went to in Toronto, Ontario was like because it pretty much sums up all of my nail salon experiences.

Imagine if you will... a store at the foot of an apartment complex. Lavender walls.


Humungous, horrendously photoshopped fantasy scenes, as wide as a human is tall, framed in crisp white floorboard trim, covering every inch of the place... except for that oddly placed, way-too-large-for-the-wall-let-alone-the-room out of place advertisement. Immediately my mind is flooded with questions: Who the hell thought those paintings were good? Who the hell CREATED those paintings? Who the hell (over the age of 12) paints fairies riding unicorns on a beach at night and actually shows someone else what they have done. Who the hell sold them/agreed to sell them... therefore agreeing that the image was good, and was good enough to take to market because they believed there was a market for such horrible images? Where did the nail salon owner FIND these images, and then decide to PURCHASE them? Was this before or after they applied for a loan to open said nail salon ... because I want to know what bank agreed to lend these people money if they had seen what wonderful artistic choices they deemed as appropriate for business success.

Art by Jim Warren 

Okay. Now that you've got the airbrushed faery/fairy fantasy decor etched into your eyeballs, we add the second, more uncomfortable layer: the staff. All nail salons (except maybe the high end ones) are staffed by immigrant women, usually from Western Pacific countries like the Philippines, or Thailand. If you're lucky, the woman who is scraping away your glittery polish shame can speak English and so you can fill the time with conversations about the weather and summer holiday plans. If not, you sit there and flip through a magazine or watch the horrible low-brow comedy that they put on the TV screens mounted above the fantasy paintings (more on that later).

I can't help but feel bad when I go to a nail salon; everyone's heard the stereotypical story about the taxi driver who was a doctor or a professor back in his home country and then moved to America/Canada/Europe only to have his qualifications not respected, and he is now forced to become a taxi driver to make ends meet. I can't help but wonder if that is the same story of the people who work in these nail salons. I wonder how many of them came to North America not knowing that this is what they would have no choice but to do, here in the "land of opportunity". Maybe it's my white guilt, but I really do not like other people waiting on me, regardless of the form that this service takes. I hate any situation where I feel like I'm in the roll of "rich bitch". (Articles about nail salons being involved with human trafficking can be found here, here and here)

All of this critical thinking/social status inferring thought completely destroys the illusion of luxury that comes with getting your nails done, I find.

Okay, after you've come to terms with your feelings, and have perhaps found piece between the side of you that yearns for perfection and luxury and the other side that has a social conscious... you have to come to terms with the fact that you can only read your book (that was me) or look at your phone for so long. Your time with your feet soaking in your massage pedicure chair will have to end and you will have no other choice than to watch whatever they were playing on the TVs. When I was in the salon chair, it was the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore picture "Blended" that was being served for my viewing pleasure.

My thoughts and expression exactly, cast of Blended.

In the movie, Sandler and Barrymore end up in a resort in South Africa that is the closest thing to a live-action racist 1940s cartoon I have seen in a long time. I really cannot believe that their treatment of Africa was given a green light. At least now we have a failproof system: Ask someone if they liked Blended, and if their answer is yes, end the conversation then and there and walk away.

Welcome to Africa, white tourists!

The other ladies that were in the store with me were a diverse range of the same character; one, a business lady coming in for a polish change, who popped in her headphones and shut out the world; a spacey senior British ex-pat, clearly a regular because they knew her name and she knew theirs, who just wanted a colour change because her travelling British friends are "popping down from Alaska" for a visit; the busy, pushy young girl who had places to be; and the two friends who ordered the nail technicians around, changing colours and demanding nail swatches. Most of the women in the place treated the staff very rudely. I was very uncomfortable and tried to smile and make small talk as best as I could.

In the end, experience aside, I'm torn. I love having clean, well kept hands and feet. I am a 100% believer in the need to keep up your physical appearance because it greatly impacts how you interact and are perceived by the world. My first tutoring job two years ago really awakened me to the importance of clean, well maintained hands. As a tutor and teacher, I work a lot with my hands; often, my hands become the image associated with my voice as I guide students through their work by pointing at places on the page. As a waitress, I don't want to hand a customer a plate with unclean hands. Unfortunately there is just something about getting your nails done by someone else that results in them doing a much better job than you ever could. They don't get hung up on keeping your pinky nail long while the rest of your nails are short just because you couldn't believe you were capable of growing a nail that long; everything is polished and buffed to perfection. The arm massage is a nice touch too. Fortunately, the price range keeps it out of the possibility of a mani-pedi becoming a regular occurrence, so I can quiet my inner battle about it until next year when I need to become "summer ready" once more.

In short. I want to get better at maintaining my nails at home. If anyone has any good tips, or knows of a good tutorial on youtube, please let me know!

How do you feel when you go to a nail salon? Do you go regularly? Have you never been?

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