The things we do for vanity

After a slow start to the morning, Dee’s dad calls to see if I would like to meet them for coffee.  It is growing into a nice day outside, so I figure why not.  JC said he doesn’t want to go.  Of course not.

I get showered and dressed, desperately trying to ignore the growing dust on my bedroom furniture.  I really must get stuck into doing some housecleaning, but seriously, my body just ignores my mind when I tell it to reach for the vacuum cleaner and duster.  It must be an affliction of some kind, probably fatal (for the house).  I make a mental note to look up the cost of the cleaner and suppress the screaming voice that is shouting “LAZY WOMAN!” to the back of my mind.

The shopping centre is not as crowded as I imagined it would be, given that it is school holidays.  I make my way to the coffee shop where we always meet, order three coffees and pumpkin soup for me.  I have not had breakfast and realise I am hungry.  I sit down at a table and wait for Dee’s folks.  I love this little coffee shop.  In the year that I have been coming here, I have always loved its atmosphere.  It isn’t a great place, but for some reason I do love it.

Dee’s folks arrive.  They are jovial as usual.  “We bought you a leg joint, love.  We’ll drop it off on the way home, okay?”  They are always buying us meat that they find on special.  Dee’s dad loves meat and particularly when it is on special.

“Thank you, that is really very good of you.  Please let me know how much I owe you.”  He waves his hand as if to say we’ll talk about it later.  I must remember to let Dee know to give his dad $20 or so.

We chat whilst we drink and eat up.  Dee’s mum decides on pumpkin soup as well.  Dee’s dad just has coffee.  I like to catch up with them and Dee’s dad is looking so much better after his operation.  I comment on it and he seems pleased with how things have gone.

After a while, we get up and kiss goodbye.  A momentary interlude in our day.  “Are you off home then, love?”  I think of that layer of dust waiting for me.

“No, I think I’ll just have a wonder.  It’s been a while since I was able to wonder around the shops on my own.”

“Okay, we’ll just let ourselves in and put the meat in the fridge, okay?”  We each have a key to each other’s home.  I nod.

As they walk towards the car park, I make my way into the centre.  I wander around the big department store for a while, looking at the toy sale thinking I should be putting stuff aside for Baby C’s christmas presents.  Christmas presents in July!

My hands feel grimy and I suddenly have a brain wave.  I’m going to have a manicure and get that new shellac nail polish that Tee was telling me about.  I walk into the nail bar.  All nail bars that I have been into in Australia are owned by Asians and all the staff are Asian, and their english is very limited.  Normally, this is not a problem.  You just ask for what you want in one word – acrylics, refill, shellac – you get the idea, they wave you to whatever seat they want you at, work on your nails, you pay and you go.

This time, however, I needed more information.  “Do you do Shellac?” I ask.

She nods.

“How much?” I ask.

“Thirty dollaaar”

“Is that including a manicure?” I ask.

She shakes her head.  “Manicure $20 dollaaar.”

“How much for both?”

“Fifty five dollaaar.”

A quick calculation tells me that she has overcharged me by $5.

I decide to just go with the shellac.  She waves me to sit down, grabs my hand rather unceremoniously and starts to “shape” my nails.  I have very short nails.  I no longer bite them but for the life of me I cannot grow them.  I have fine, balding hair and I guess my nails are similar.  They just don’t grow.  Shaping them was always going to be a challenge, but the speed and lack of attention to actually trying to shape them left me feeling a bit ripped off.  Perhaps I should have gone for the manicure instead.

“Actually, I think I will have the manicure as well.”

She looks up at me.  “You want manicure?”

“Yes.” I say.

“Okay, fifty five dollaaar.”

I shake my head.  “It’s fifty dollars,” I say.

She shakes her head.  “Shellac velly expensive.  Fifty five dollaaar.”

I breathe and prepare to explain.  “Manicure is twenty dollars, right?”  She nods.  “Shellac is thirty dollars, right?”  She nods.  “So twenty and thirty is fifty dollars, right?”  She thinks for a bit.  The penny drops and she laughs.  I laugh too.

“Fifty dollaaar,” she says.

She grabs my hand, plops it in some water and proceeds to lightly, very lightly, well, decidedly half-heartedly really, push my cuticles back.  She does the same with my other hand.  She then starts to remove my cuticles with the cuticle scissor thing that is used for that purpose.  I notice a drop of blood oozing from my left little finger.  I am beginning to wonder if she knows what she is doing and if I have any legal rights in this situation.

That was the sum total of my manicure.  Literally two minutes.  I am then motioned to the next seat where the shellac is applied to my nails.  First a coat of clear stuff is applied.  I am told to put my hand under a UV light whilst she does my other hand.  The UV light beeps and goes out.  “Take hand away! Take hand away!” she screams at me.  I immediately jerk my hand out of the UV light machine in case my hand is about to spontaneously combust.  The same thing happens with the other hand.  “Take hand away!” she screams.

“Is it safe?” I ask.

“Velly safe,” she laughs.

The colour is applied.  I have chosen an extremely pale pink because my nails are so short.  “Velly pale,” she says with a distinct tone of distaste.

“My nails are very short,” I feel compelled to explain.  “When they grow, I will have a brighter colour,” I promise.

The final coat of clear shiny shellac is put onto my nails and as it is hardening under the UV machine and I am praying that it isn’t going to cause me to get skin cancer, another nail technician walks over.  She starts talking to my nail technician (and I use that term loosely).  Actually, she starts shouting.  Before long they are shouting at each other in what I think is vietnamese.  Of course, I have no idea what they are talking about, but when the standing nail technician grabs my hand, swings it about like the rest of my body wasn’t attached to it, I realise that they are arguing about my nail job.

This goes on for a couple of minutes – my hand being swung around, them shouting at each other.  I decide that now is an opportune moment to mention that I wasn’t best pleased with my so called manicure either.  I mean, I didn’t even get the hand massage, which is the best bit.  I know my nails are short, but that doesn’t matter, I want my hand massage.

The standing technician shouts more at the sitting technician and the word “massage” is mentioned.  I feel guilty, but also self righteous because after all, I’m paying $50.  Suddenly, the standing nail technician swipes her hand over my thumb nail and the shellac which is meant to be rock hard and last for three weeks, comes off.  Clearly, the procedure hasn’t worked.  By now, I am really concerned about the safety and quality of this procedure.  My nail technician is shaking the bottle of nail polish I chose at the standing technician and I am getting the distinct feeling she is blaming my colour choice.

I pull my hand away.  “I think I’ll just have the manicure and forget the shellac,” I say.

“You just want manicure?” the standing technician says.

“Yes, I say.  Just the manicure.  I’ll come back for the shellac.”  Just in case they won’t let me leave.

She nods.  “I’d like you to do it,” I say, convinced my technician is obviously a student and has no idea what she is doing.

My technician stands up, shouts some more and proceeds to another woman waiting to have her acrylic nails filled.  Poor woman, I think to myself.

The new technician takes my hand gently and soaks my hand.  She shapes them, somewhat better than the first, then redoes the cuticles, thankfully without drawing blood.

“Is she new?” I ask, feeling guilty at the furor, trying to make conversation.

“No, she do nails four years now.”

I say nothing, but am dumbfounded.  How on earth can that be possible?

“You want shellac?” my new technician asks.

I shake my head vehemently.  I am not risking that UV machine again.  I smile sweetly.  She applies clear nail varnish.  When they dry, I pay my $20 and go.

Of course, I feel like I should have been given my non-manicure for free, especially as my nails look like I did them at home.  In fact, I think I probably could do a better job.  The only positive thing was that I got to wash my hands, which meant they didn’t feel grimy any more.  And therein lies the lesson. When your hands feel grimy, go to the bathroom, wash your hands, then go home and do your own nails.

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