Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Nail-biting Tale

Unfortunately this is not figurative speech or hyperbole.  This is about my very unpleasant habit of biting my nails and picking at hangnails.  Rather nasty fair, I admit.  The result is raggedy fingers and that harried expression of a person waiting to get caught in the act.  Like most people with bad habits, I try to keep them from the public eye, only indulging when I think no one is looking or when I simply don't notice I am doing it.  

While in Washington on my vacation I was waiting to meet up with a very good friend of mine for conversation and the uncontrollable laughter that ensues whenever we are near one another.  I had a bit of time to kill before she would be available and I wondered what sort of trouble I could get myself into in the space of one hour.  I was driving a favorite neighborhood street when I remembered a nail salon just a block away.  What a perfect treat for myself on my trip!  A manicure is the cheapest form of pampering I know and since I was on a strict budget it seemed like a natural.

I walk-in to the salon.  It has low ceilings with water stains and florescent lighting to give everything that "healthy glow."  I don't mind a bit and turn to pick my color.  I go with neon pink.  The manicurist is predictably vietnamese (I am not being racist here, it is simply a common form of employment for that particular ethnicity).  She has a soft voice and a chubby, grandmotherly face.  I am charmed immediately.  

I soak my fingers in warm soapy water and gaze around at the seemingly random decor.  Surely someone picked it all, but lace doilies, nail posters from the 80's and a advertisement for a motor-cross event held last year tacked on the wall?  Oh heck, who am I to question their aesthetic intents anyway?  

We get into the manicure and she asks me questions I barely understand.  There is a lot of nodding and smiling on my part and chattering on hers.  She reminds me of a very plump robin chirping away as she makes a nest or preens her young.  I start to relax.  

We get to the trimming of the cuticle part and she "tsk-tsks" me.  I know why.  

Me: Yeah, I have a bad habit of biting my nails when I am nervous
Grandma Nails: oh, very bad for you.  It hurt?
Me: Not really.  I suppose I don't really notice it too much
GN: ohhh..  Hmmm.  I be very careful.
Me: Okay, thanks.  I will try to stop biting so much.
GN: Yes, you need to stop to make nail healthy.

There is a pause in the conversation as she works and I watch.  Then she says something in a whisper.  I can barely hear her.

GN: I sorry.  I sorry.  It's okay.  (she is patting dry my index finger)
Me: No worries, you didn't hurt me.  
GN: (looks up at me quizzically)...
Me: (I repeat) It didn't hurt.
GN: I know.

She goes back to clipping, oiling and sure enough whispering to my fingers.  It takes me a moment to realise she is not talking to me as a whole human being, but to each finger that has a hang nail.  She is apologising for the way it has been treated and is assuring it that everything will be all right.  My first reaction was to be a bit offended.  What business is it of yours if I have a disgusting nervous tick?  How dare you judge me!

I fumed for a minute and watched her.  And then I had my Ah-ha moment.  First of all, it is her business how my nails look.  She's a manicurist you dipshit (I am saying this to myself)!  And look how much she cares.  She takes this personally.  How often do you come across someone who is stuck in a 10x14 foot room full of noxious fumes and demanding women for 10 hours straight and manages to stay fully dedicated to a monotonous task?  

So, to Grandma Nails.  Thank you for considering my fingers as their own separate entities.  At first it threw me off and although I am into the more holistic view of my body, you got it way more right than me.  Each part of us needs caring for and each part sometimes needs to be told that it is okay.  Things are getting better.  

Needless to say I gave her a big tip and my best lopsided, sheepish grin when I left. 

Not that it has stopped me from reverting to my bad behavior, but I have thought of the way her soft feather words touched each finger and made it a safe place to rest for a moment.  

Art from HERE

No comments: