Nails on Fleek

beauty, life

It took me awhile to find a nail salon that I could be faithful to. I’m talking about that deep-rooted relationship where the salon workers greet you by name and you greet them by name. Where they remember that you alternate between dark and light colors every visit and usually like to add in a ten minute foot massage. Where they know that that one toenail on your left foot is constantly getting bruised and falling off. And that they need to paint that little sliver of toe that’s missing the toenail to make it look like you have a nail. Without you having to ask. That’s the beauty of nail salon monogamy.

I’m a bi-monthly gel manicure and regular pedicure kind of gal. 


I’ve probably been to every salon in the twenty-three mile stretch between Woodland Hills and Thousand Oaks in the past six years. Typically, I would visit one a handful of times before something about it would turn me off. Usually, the nosiness or bosiness of its nail technicians. I love the little Vietnamese nail technicians but they don’t mince words. 


“Nails so short, why? What you do? Wash dishes? I know you wash dishes! No wear gloves? You wear gloves when wash dishes! Wear gloves, ok?”

I started wearing gloves when I washed dishes. The length of my nails did not increase. The nubbins remain nubbins.

“What happen to you? What happen to cuticle? Cuticle not good, lady. Cuticle grow slow. Nail grow slow. You pick nails? I know you pick nails! Damage cuticle when you pick nails. No pick nails, ok?”

I’m still not certain I know what a cuticle is, where it stops and the nail starts, and how it relates to the growth of my nails. I just solemnly nod in agreement and swear to not pick at my nails, cuticles, fingers, and hands in general. 

“Big toe bad! Ingrown toenail. Why? What you do for work? You use your feets? No good. You don’t take care of feets. Need to take care. Ingrown toenail bad.”

Left Foot is my problem child. While Right Foot is obedient, Left Foot foments rebellion. It encourages Big Toe to grow itself into the side of my foot, resulting in an ingrown toenail every other month. It celebrates when its neighbor, Second Toe, mysteriously gets bruised every quarter, first turning a horrendous shade of black and purple and then shedding itself like snakeskin. This cycle does not break and repeats itself into perpetuity. I can’t remember the last time I actually had a normal nail on Second Toe. 


Third Toe and Fourth Toe don’t want to be upstaged so have banded together, literally, and started to lean precipitously into Second Toe. Instead of the capital letter I, these guys now resemble lower-case Cs. Which not only impairs my balance since these fools are now curving into Second Toe, but painting them is a fool’s errand since the nail polish gets smudged as they caress themselves against each other and Second Toe. Pinky Toe is no better and has decided to just stop growing all together. It’s the size of a Cabbage Patch doll toe and has stubbornly refused to grow any longer. So instead of “painting” Pinky Toe, the nail technician “dots” it with one dot of varnish. 

“Woah. Woman with big feets! How big your feets, woman? What size shoe you wear? So big. How you find shoes?”

With my go-to shoe heavens that are Zappos and DSW, these size 10 – 10.5 feet have an endless array of outfits, thank you very much. 

“You back again so soon! What happen? You did gel manicure when? Last week? What you do with nails to make them all fall off? Don’t do whatever you did, ok?”

My mother’s gel manicure can last up to a month without issue. She washes dishes without gloves, she gardens without gloves, she cleans the house without gloves. Her gel fingernails regularly double as a stand-in pick, hammer, screwdriver, and knife. And they don’t peel or break off. My nail nubbins, on the other hand, shake off their gel coats within a week after a new application. I could wear mittens for a week straight and not touch any surface with those nails and somehow still the gels will start lifting. 


“Black nail polish? No, not good. Your skin pink. You pink, lady. Listen to Thuy, I tell you right. No good with black polish. No match. Go pick pretty color. Don’t pick black, ok?”

I am my own agent and yet, I take direction very well, especially coming from a bossy beezy like Thuy. I did not choose the black nail polish but went with a brilliant emerald shade that Thuy said would compliment my piggly pinkish undertones splendidly. Sadly the result was more putrid vomit than precious gem. And this is one of the times I was happy to know that my finicky nails would shed this beastly color on their own in a few days time. 

“You walk in sandal? No? Yes you do! You walk in sandal, lady! See? Many callous. Everywhere callous! Phuong, come here Phoung, look at her callous! No wear sandal, ok?”

Phoung, we live in Southern California in a time of blazing global warming. Sandals are the default footwear and the only option in 100F heat that don’t marinate your feet in a puddle of your own sweat. I will continue to wear my sandals, callouses be damned.

“Watch out. Phone fall in water. No phone in lap! Or phone fall in and no work no more. No phone in lap, ok?”

There is no chance this phone will fall through my thunder thighs and into the pedicure basin. I haven’t seen a thigh gap since the day I was born. And I’m fairly certain I didn’t have one then either.

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