The adventures of a New Jersey college professor with very strange friends, colleagues, and family members.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hitting The Nail On The Head

Throughout my life, there has only been one thing that I actually like about my physical appearance—my hands. They’re delicate and slender and have long, tapered fingers. I get a lot of compliments on them, and have been asked several times if I’d ever modeled them (I haven’t).

When I was in high school, I decided to try to grow my nails out. It was more of an experiment than anything else—I wanted to see how long I could grow them before they broke. It worked out surprisingly well and they grew to a nice length and everybody noticed them and liked them.

I began to pay attention to them and paint them and buff them and pamper them. I only had one problem; they were very, very thin, and when they got wet, they were as fragile as paper. As a result they literally tore off whenever I took a shower. I even attempted showering with latex gloves, but to no avail.

I struggled with artificial tips for years. I hated them—they looked phony, the glue was messy and they felt weird. Also, they were much too big for me—my ring size is only 3 ½..

And then I heard about acrylics.

I was fascinated by this concept. You can actually sculpt artificial nails? Without huge tips? And they lasted for months? I absolutely had to look into this.

I began talking to other women who had acrylics and asked them how they liked their acrylic nails. That’s when I started to hear the horror stories.

Horror Story #1: Once you start, you can’t stop. (Kind of like meth). You are doomed to having acrylics forever and ever.

Horror Story #2: Acrylics ruin your real nails and they’ll never be the same.

Horror Story #3: Actually getting the acrylics hurts.

Horror Story #4: Acrylics can lead to nail fungus, which causes your real nails to fall off entirely.

This petrified me, and put the idea out of my head at once.

But I kept coming back to it. I kept admiring the acrylics of all my co-workers and I began to wonder if it was worth the risk.

I gathered my courage and called a local nail salon. I asked if they took walk-ins. They said yes.

“Okay,” I said with determination, “I’m walking in!”

I walked in. The nail salon appeared to be run by several middle-aged Vietnamese women who may or may not be related to each other. When they saw me mosey in, one of them came scooting over to me and asked: “Can I help you?” She looked outrageously happy for some reason.

“How much for a full set of acrylics with nail art?” I asked (I love nail art--decals, stripes, foil, you name it).

“Twenty-five dollars.”

Well, you can’t beat that. Hell, two months ago I spent one hundred and seventy-five dollars having my hair highlighted. “Let’s do it,” I said.

“Sit down at my station,” said the Vietnamese woman.

I’m gregarious by nature, and as she drilled and filled and brushed and dipped I asked her her name (Tina), where in Vietnam was she from (Nha Trang), how old was she when she came to America (21), and how long she’d been a manicurist (ever since she got here). What was the hardest part about adjusting to America? (learning English).

I then told her that I was actually an English professor, and she got all excited and asked if I ever taught any Vietnamese students. I told her yes—I’ve taught students from many Asian countries. She asked me if I knew any Vietnamese, and I had to admit I did not. She said, “it’s okay, I’ll teach you!” By the time I left the salon, I had learned how to say “Hello, how are you?” “Thank you,” and “Please take me to the American Embassy” in Vietnamese.

The funny part is this; although she speaks excellent English, she only speaks angry English, as if the person who taught her English was perpetually pissed off. Even when she compliments me she yells. “You have beautiful eyes!” she screamed. “You’re so funny!” she yelled. Whenever I go in for a fill and she sees me she hollers: “You! English teacher! Go sit at my station!” It’s quite intimidating, really.

Three weeks ago after getting a fill, she took me by the arm and whispered to me: “I’m going on vacation for a month. Don’t you go to any of the other girls. You wait for me to get back.” She then told me she wouldn’t be back until October 15th, which was five weeks away. I knew I couldn’t go that long without getting a fill…it would look awful. So, sadly, last week I cheated on her. “Please don’t tell Tina I was here,” I said, nervously. The manicurist just giggled.

As far as the acrylics go…I love them, I have no problem with them, and I’m sorry I didn’t do this ten years ago. They’re gorgeous, and best of all, they’re durable. I can do anything with them.

Sometimes you just have to take a risk.