April 12, 2005

On Sunday E.S. and I went to get manicures and pedicures.

I have been after him for months and months to do this with me. He claims always to have been willing but says he “just wasn’t feeling it.” Since he had dragged me to Brooklyn the day before to go to Target–I must be in love with this man if I’m willing to suffer such indignities for him–I told him he had to get a manicure and pedicure with me the next day, or else.

Since there are three Korean nail salons on every Manhattan block, it wasn’t difficult to find one near E.S.’s apartment. The pedicures went exactly as one would expect them to, but then when our nail experts beckoned us over for our manicures, there weren’t two seats next to each other, so we ended up being separated by a thirteen-year-old girl. All was well until, while our cuticles were being trimmed, the girl looked up and over to her mother, sitting on the other side of me, with a helpless expression on her face. “Mom . . . I . . . this isn’t good . . . I want the other . . .” Finally, she managed to express that she was dissatisfied with the job her manicurist had done.

“You must tell me what you want,” said her manicurist in an almost incomprehensible accent. “I ask if you want cut, you say no, I put cut away. If you want cut, you tell me.” The girl continued to look helpless; she was finally able to communicate, by means of half-voiced whines, that she thought her manicurist was incompetent, and she wanted a replacement manicurist to finish her up.

JAP bitch, I thought. With your hair and that nose, you have bigger problems to worry about than fingernails.

The replacement manicurist did a good job cutting what the first manicurist had failed to cut, and began to paint the girl’s nails, a lovely peach color. As my nails were being buffed, though, the tiny sounds started again. “This is . . . this is wrong . . . I should have . . . I should have stayed with the first one . . . could I . . . ?”

The first manicurist said no, she couldn’t. Then she said something in Korean to another manicurist; I didn’t understand it, but it seemed to contain the word “psycho.”

The girl’s face crumpled.

And in an instant my perception of her changed utterly. I felt a rush of pity for her. That’s not whining I hear I thought. It’s crippling doubt. You’re not a JAP bitch. You just have an anxiety disorder.

“Oh . . . this is . . . why . . . why did I do that?”

Her mother answered in a voice dripping with contempt, “Because there’s something wrong with you.”

Scratch that, I thought. You have an anxiety disorder and a terrible mother. When E.S. and I got up to leave, our nails impeccably cleaned and shaped, the girl had the nail polish in hand, trying with trembling fingers to finish the job none of the manicurists in the shop would touch now.

E.S. and I went to have dinner but the whole time all I wanted to do was run back and save her.

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11 Responses to On Sunday E.S. and I

  1. Mike says:

    That makes me sad. =(

  2. Jess says:

    Too late to save her. The mother and daughter both need to be euthanized.

    (What? Too harsh?) 🙂

  3. closetalk says:

    well, yes… am not a child person… so can’t really relate to jap child anxieties.

    the shorts in class episode sounds like fun, though! 😉

  4. David says:

    I thought the Vietnamese had the monopoly on nail salons, no? And what’s with New Yorkers and Target? I remember asking where the nearest Target store was soon after arriving in the city and was bombarded by gasps and looks of horror. I swear, it was like I’d said the ‘N’ word or something. So, how do I get to the ‘T’ word out in Brooklyn?

  5. David says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Maybe she was a JAP bitch with an anxiety disorder and a terrible mother.

  6. Joe Clark says:

    Mustn’t overdiagnose. Frankly, I side with her mother.

  7. anapestic says:

    Of course, her mother wasn’t complaining because the daughter was being a bitch; she was complaining because she was displaying weakness while being a bitch. She won’t be happy until the daughter can reduce a nail technician to tears, extract an apology that includes groveling, and have all service personnel begging her not to tip them.

  8. I agree with David. Maybe she was all three.
    However, at least you could see through the whines to the fact that this girl maybe has anxiety problems.

    Someone very close to me suffers from social anxiety, and it is horrible to see them utterly crippled in public. Unfortunately most people don’t see beyond what’s directly in front of their nose, which can pose huge problems.

    Dammit! I should be a counsellor. I want to help all these people!

    Oh yeah…and, erm… speech please…

  9. birdfarm says:

    oh god, this sounds so awful. of course, most of NYC has an anxiety disorder, so the idea of getting worked up into an absolute panic over whether your nails are being cut just right may not seem so strange, but–take it from one who left and regained some portion of sanity–that is completely insane.

    As is the scenario described by “anapestic,” which of course is completely dead-on and had me laughing and wincing at the same time.

    Ah, “the city.” A boring place to visit, but I do miss living there.

  10. Mike: Me, too.

    Jesse: Or perhaps just cut and paint their own nails.

    closetalk: If you’re referring to the black socks, please don’t ever mention them again. It’s just far too embarrassing.

    David: I think the Koreans started it, but the Vietnamese have moved in. As far as getting to Target, take whatever subway is convenient to you to the Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn. Then look around for the forlorn mall with the Chuck E. Cheese.

    David: It’s certainly possible. But maybe with the second and third items taken care of, the first would go away on its own.

    Joe Clark: Well, overdiagnosis becomes a problem when you’re dating a psychiatrist who diagnoses all your friends. But the mother and I can both be right. In fact, if I’m right, then the mother is too.

    anapestic: That would be a sight to see.

    Long Lost One: If you become a counsellor, just go to any nail salon in New York and wait. The clients will come pouring in.

    birdfarm: I miss your living here, too!

    Todd: Thank you for your comment, which I have deleted to remove all traces of evidence. I’m sure you understand.

  11. Rob says:


    This is fucking funny. Take care and have an awesome day Faustus!


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