Sunday, I splurged. I went to the nail shop and paid for a pedicure. I say "splurged" because I am notoriously cheap, especially for things that I consider to be luxurious, like paying someone to cut and polish your nails. But on Sunday, I had a beauty emergency. My nails had been chipped for a week, I was embarrassed every time I put on my summer sandals or open-toed high heels, and I had an audition the following day.
Why didn't I do them myself?
Well, my schedule was
busy, and did I mention that I can't
to do my nails? I never know what to do with the accumulation of dead skin cells that eventually populate the crevices of my toe nails. (TMI?) Sorry. And when I
take the time to do them, they look better, but not much.
For years I have avoided the nail shop. I've never wanted to be the all-too-typical American woman consumed by her looks, plus I haven't wanted to be the black "ghetto girl" who couldn't go out for the weekend if her hair and nails weren't done and she hadn't spent at least $100. Plus, I didn't like the dynamics of most of the nail shops in "urban areas" commonly known as "the hood." Picture this: nearly a dozen non-English and barely-English speaking Vietnamese women with hunched backs, each scraping black and brown feet, with white masks protecting their nostrils from (toxic?) fumes.
One could easily make a case that it is a legalized sweat shop. Breaks are taken, but they are neither long nor frequent. And although the women probably make minimum wage, it's probably no where near a living wage.
How do they survive?
I sit down hesitantly. "You want nail done?" "Yes," I respond. It doesn't feel right to start reading my book right away while a woman sits hunched over my dirty feet. So, I begin a conversation. The woman tending my feet is named Mary Anne. She arrived from Vietnam six years before; She has been working at the nail shop for five years. I try to ask her more questions, but she doesn't understand me. She just smiles and looks at me.
I smile back and eventually begin to read. Twenty minutes later, I thank her, profusely. My nails look great. Better than anything I have ever done. I give her a generous tip and walk out of the door, hobbling so that I don't mess up my paint job.
Now, every time I look at my toes, I think about Mary Anne. Does she make enough to support herself? Does she live in a house with other immigrants? She said that she likes the States, but is life here better than the life that she had in Vietnam?