Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nails R' Us

Yesterday Ben and I walked up to 14th street to buy some baseball cards. It was a beautiful and unusually warm March afternoon. As we walked down Avenue A, I noted the grand opening of yet another nail salon.

How many nail salons can this neighborhood support? There must be one on every block. As a matter of fact, I live next store to one. At that particular nail salon, the nail drying machines are lined up along a bar counter at the front window. Women sit on stools and stare out at the pedestrians walking by. I can't tell you how disturbing this image is. Everyday I walk by this window and look over at the row of women - each of them daydreaming with a remote and forlorn look in their eyes. I've never seen them actually speak to each other - which I find odd. Where is Diane Arbus when you need her?!

I wish they would take their manicure money and

1. buy a book
2. buy a cd of great music
3. buy a movie ticket
4. buy a museum ticket
5. make any of the above purchases and give it to someone who can't afford them

Perhaps my reaction to nail painting is over the top. It just seems like yet another huge waste of time and money targeting women.


Michael said...


We're on the exact same wavelength here, but maybe for different reasons. The disclaimer is that I'm a male who's passing judgment on an almost exclusively female thing.

It just seems so bourgeois (and dare I say typically American?) to peer into one of these nail salons and see a bloated, overweight person being tended to hand and foot (quite literally) by some diminutive immigrant who may be making $10 an hour or less. And yes, I, too, have noticed the thousand-yard stare on the faces of the adorned.

Of all the ways women have of adorning themselves, "nail art" makes the least sense to me. (Again, the disclaimer: I'm a man who's making that judgment.)

As for taking a photo of one of these places, believe me, the thought has crossed my mind, but I can never work up the courage. I've asked to take photos at a few barber shops and have been given permission, yet the nail salon is one frontier I have yet to enter.

Anonymous said...

I was not gifted genetically with fingernails that look good long so have never had a manicure. Also with the things that I do - change diapers for a living, working in the garden or playing the violin, it would be an absolute waste of money and I would rather have the book.
However I've been given certificates for pedicures twice. I don't know what it is - maybe the soft music that is playing, my feet in wonderfully warm water or getting a great foot massage - especially after having foot surgery - but it makes me feel so relaxed. My blood pressure takes a dive south during this and I could fall asleep in the chair (I've never sat in front of a window or had an immigrant person do it. One should also remember to tip generously).
I've never gotten a pedicure on my own dime - would still rather have the book - but I did buy a foot bath after the last visit and that is pretty good also. Just does not keep the water hot enough.

east village idiot said...

Michael - you should definitely take a photo - if only for historic/anthropological purposes. I don't mean to be harsh about it. But I just don't get it. Although I suppose it is an inexpensive way to pamper yourself when you don't have much time or money to spare.

jar - believe it or not - I studied shiatsu for two years. I fully understand the benefit of a good foot bath and foot massage. there is something nurturing in the most primal way when you give a good foot bath and foot massage to someone - frequently the recipient does fall asleep. It's probably the closest you get to the care you receive as a baby. You have a good point. Although, I would say to be careful about getting pedicures/footbaths. One big problem in NYC is that the tubs must be kept totally clean and they frequently are not. My sister developed a staff infection in her toe from a pedicure (foot bath) and had to take an antibiotic for several months!

Kranki said...

I have had one manicure and one pedicure compliments of my mom. I'd not do a mani again but the pedicure ROCKED!! I have never really felt comfortable showing my feet but after all that scrubbing and trimming and GORGEOUS colour and cute little sparkly flower glued on my big toenail I turned into a toe SLUT! And the best part was the benefits of this pedi lasted for several weeks. Well worth the cost and the large tip-I tip well those who have to deal with my feet. Later I tried to give myself my own pedi and I couldn't file my nails evenly and the polish was all blotchy and uneven and the little gem flower fell off after only a few days. Obviously I do not have the gift. This summer I plan on getting another pedi so I can whore out my feet in flip flops and sandals. I will say that I would more likely get a pedi with a friend or my mom as a social thing opposed to doing it alone. My sister-in-law gets her done on her own as she finds it far more relaxing not to have to talk and instead just daydreams.

All in all I am not a very girlie girl. My fingernails are short and unpainted. I rarely wear make-up. Wearing skirts is almost unheard of. But there is something about throwing on some jeans and a t-shirt with some comfy sneakers knowing that under it all I have fancy feet that makes me feel very fem.

Now my beef is Starbucks type establishments where you see people consuming 6 dollar (in Canada anyway) coffees all day. To me that is a total waste of money. However I know this is a dangerous opinion as folks are very passionate about their caffeine consumption.

jin said...

Another added benefit those lovely women get from the fake nails & airbrushing is that all of those wonderful smelling chemicals absorb directly into your bloodstream through the cuticles.

Ok, ok...I admit many (many!) years ago I frequented the nail salon every few weeks. I think it was to make up for being overweight. I figured the nails would draw attention away from me. LOL!
About 4 years ago I found an old appointment calendar of mine from one of the years when I was single & obsessed over hair, nails & make-up. I had every appointment written in this book & I decided to go through the entire year & add up what it cost me. OMFG!!! It was insane. I'm SO glad I grew out of that phase fast.

I admit to being obsessed with my feet looking perfect at all times (DAMN! And my husband isn't even a foot guy! Woe is me.) but I take care of them myself. I even cut my own hair now; I think I feel the need to 'repent' for for all the money I wasted! HA!

I never polish my fingernalis although they are naturally long. Don't want it ending up in the pastry! ;-)

Funny thing is though, I look back at pics of myself when I was in my *beauty phase* & I don't think I looked even half as good as I do now (and I mean that in a totally unsnobbish way! :-).

Great post topic evi! You elicited lots of thoughtful response from men & women alike! Who knew we all had such strong opinions on nails!

east village idiot said...

kranki - you have a good point. if it makes you feel happy and fem - then it's worth it for you.

jin - I know what you mean about bells and whistles keeping us distracted from what is really going on with our bodies and our lives. Lots of women in my city live in a state of constant paranoia about every inch of their bodies - while they sink deeper into depression about themselves. It sucks.

Michael said...

Now I know we're leading parallel lives. For a time, I wanted to study shiatsu and general massage, with an eye toward entering a new career or supplementing my income. The years I spent in Japan more or less inclined me toward shiatsu. I like the emphasis on touch in some Eastern cultures (though, oddly, Japan isn't one of them).

ellesu said...

I wish I could remember the name of the documentary--it was about an Orential (I think) young woman who came to Mississippi to finish high school and hopefully get a college scholarship.

I don't recall the details, but she ended up in New Orleans at Tulane, but her money ran out. After that, she started giving pedicures in the Quarter. Then she moved north to live with others from her home country. Her parents wouldn't allow her to come home because she had failed. It was so sad.

I tried the false nails thing once, very briefly. Maybe they've been improved, but back then the nails popped off so easily! Instead of sporting beautiful long nails, my fashion statement ended up being wearing band-aids around most of my fingers--holding the nails on until I could have them repaired....

You have such a comforting way with words. I think one of your jobs in this life must be as a healer.

OHN said...

One of my lovely friends always has beautiful nails. She convinced me to get "acrylics" because they don't chip etc...what she failed to tell me is that I had to go every freakin week to have "filler" done or they look hideous...after about 2 weeks and $40.00 I decided there were MANY other things I wished to spend my hard earned money on..oh, like feeding my children. I am back to plain jane and loving it.

Dr. Deb said...

Oh EVI, I feel the same way. Whenever I do go in for a mani or pedi I always shake it up a bit.

JT said...

I got my first manicure at age 13 for my junior high school graduation. It was my idea. I made the appointment over the phone, and I had to be driven to the salon. I think my next manicure after that was in my 30s. I didn't even get one for my wedding, just sat in my grandmother's bathroom, hours before, and clipped my nails with nail clippers that were probably older than me, didn't even file or polish them. I was a grungy bride.

Those nail salons have the worst aesthetics. I have to admit, though, I do enjoy getting an annual pedicure on my (summer) birthday.

Linda said...

ditto! and you know the real east villagers DONT get their nails done. it's invaders. blame them!