Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thoughts at the Nail Salon...

Spring - my new nail salon BFF.
I went to a nail salon yesterday here in SLC. It was my second time going to one (same one) since arriving in Utah. This salon is in the shopping plaza right near our house - a 5 minute walk, a 2 minute drive. Very convenient. I was still wearing the same toe polish from my wedding almost two months ago and I can't stop pulling at my cuticles (bad nervous habit) so I thought a manicure and pedicure would be a nice thing to do before I head off to Liberia for two weeks.

It is just a typical salon, nothing really special to write about - just a few observations of Utah and myself - from the experience.

I am a stranger in a strange land. I get into the salon and I am sitting next to two women who look like they could be my age, or maybe a little younger. There is lots of talk about "the U." I have learned the "U" is the University of Utah. It is a big University here in SLC. I assume that a lot of people went there and stayed in the area. So there are a lot of people walking around with a continued strong allegiance and support of the U. It is football season and "the U" is obviously having some big games. There were references to picking a nail color that is red to match "the U's" colors. The women are looking at me and smiling and laughing and I am just nodding my head because I am not from this place and I do not know or feel this fun and connection with "the U." Women my age picking a nail color to support "the U?" Really? Now I guess I can see this if you are in high school or college, but at our age? I guess its all fun. It is just strange to me. I was never into football and I did  not go to one of those Universities that has a football team and a following, so I just never experienced or got into any of that. This experience was a reminder to me that I am a stranger in a strange land.

Teenage girls are a weird, scary creature. Then the next customers that walk in are three teenage girls. They are probably 14. I think about how I and no one I knew ever got our nails done when we were kids. Oh we might have painted each other's nails at each other's houses, but I don't recall going to nail salons and getting pedicures. Was that just me? Or was it because I grew up in a small town and that was the early 80s and it just wasn't the same thing that we have today? I mean I know that we have tons of nail salons and other beauty places these days, much more than when I was growing up because now all of this beauty maintenance is such a huge thing ingrained in our society for both women and now men. I don't have kids so I don't spend much time with teenage girls. Therefore I don't really know their kind and their behavior. They look like the teenage daughter on Modern Family. Cute girls. Reading People magazine and constantly on their cell phones. What struck me was how serious they looked. Little women. And so much drama in their voices talking on the phones. Hysterical, and also weird. Did we look like that at their age? All serious and trying to look and be so adult? I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Although I am sure we were effecting the same drama. That I kind of do remember. 

I wish I understood Vietnamese. I won't be the first to ask this, but I don't have an answer so maybe you do - why is it that the Vietnamese have dominated the nail salon industry in the US? I guess this probably isn't the case in small towns, but I've mostly lived in cities all my adult life and I have yet to walk into some random nail salon and find someone besides the Vietnamese. I just find it interesting. I know that different ethnic groups can tend to take over a business in a certain area because it stays in the family or the community, opportunities being passed on to friends and family - e.g. Ethiopian taxi drivers in Washington, DC and even the Greek extended family that owned a lot of restaurants in my small hometown when I was growing up. It is just interesting. And then the salon is full of these women all speaking Vietnamese and I know (because I've read stories and other friends have told me and I feel it myself) that inevitably there is a time where every woman feels somewhat uncomfortable wondering if these women are talking about them. I wish I could speak and understand Vietnamese so I could eavesdrop on the salon ladies.

I want a woman doing my nails. This salon has a man working there. I think this is only the second nail salon I've been to in the US where a man was working. The other was in Tysons Corner, VA. I am sure you find more of this in NYC and LA and as more men are getting their nails done these days, I bet more men are getting into the business. But it is still an unusual thing in my opinion.

The first time I had a man do my nails was in India. I worked a lot in New Delhi from 2000-2004 and I usually stayed in this lovely hotel that had a beauty salon. That is what they called it - old school. That was when I really first started getting pedicures. I was one of those women who never really had time or thought for that kind of stuff until I was around 40. I just never thought about it earlier in life. The first time I went I was surprised to discover that only men would do your pedicure. Women would always do your manicure, but for some reason the pedicure was reserved for the men to do it. It was so strange. I never understood that. And it felt weird, quite frankly, to have some strange man doing your toes. Eventually I got used to it, and besides, they gave better foot massages (a primary reason to get a pedicure in the first place).

I had this man do my nails last time I was here for my wedding. He was nice, but man oh man did he ask a lot of personal questions. It can be awkward just sitting there, so I realize a lot of salon employees ask questions to make conversation (although in my experience most of the time I get the silent ones). Honestly I don't really want to be telling some strange man in a nail salon about my love life. He was a big flirt too which made it all a little creepy too. He was there last night, but thankfully I did not have him working on my nails. I really would prefer to have a woman doing my nails. Just as I would prefer to have a woman do any waxing or give me my annual pap smear. Sorry.

Kids love me, but I don't want to babysit at the nail salon. I love kids and they love me. I think maybe its because I don't have kids of my own. Maybe I bring some new kind of enthusiasm and interest that often is beaten out of their parents and other adults who have kids and are living that every minute of every day. Or maybe it is just that I am a freak and they find me entertaining. At the nail salon there is a little girl dancing around my chair and staring at me. Her mom works there. So I smile and say hello and start talking to her a little. Her name is Spring. Well next think you know she is sitting in the chair next to me asking me to explain to her every single button on the giant remote that controls the crazy massage chair. I can't even figure it out myself, but Spring is not to be ignored. She is my new best friend. Sigh. I came to the salon to veg out, but I guess now I am part of informal daycare. 

Final thoughts...
  • Sorry to those of you who have them, I think fake nails are really gross. Gluing this plastic onto your nails and then sanding them off? Gross.
  • I always mess up my fingernails. Always. Which is why I never get color on my fingernails.
  • Call me a bore, but I am too old for flowers on my toes. This place always asks me if I want flower decorations on my toes. All the teenage girls got them, of course. I think unless maybe I am going on a tropical beach vacation, flowers on my toes would look very strange at this place in my life.
  • Getting your nails done is much cheaper here in SLC than it was in the Washington, DC area. Not a big surprise.
  • I have now talked to two of the nail salon workers. Both are immigrants who arrived in the US and came straight to Utah. Both hate it here. For some reason both of them want to live in either California or Maryland. Maryland? I am going to hit up everyone who works there over time and see if all of them hate Utah and want to move to Maryland. Will keep you posted...

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