Wednesday, March 20, 2019

In defense of paying a ton to get your nails done

When I was 11 - and I remember the age exactly, because of friend-group fluctuations and which friend this was - my best friend at the time got a gift certificate for mani-pedis, and brought me along. It was... fine? But the pedicure was plainly not for me - too ticklish. Also the whole thing seemed a bit too much like going to the dentist.

In grad school I got a grand total of 3 manicures, one with pedicure. The two manicure-onlies were pick-me-ups of some sort. The first was the French variety, and I remember it as looking great (which I knew even then to be a basic thing to think - a basic style to have requested to begin with) and being impossible to replicate at home. The mani-pedi was when I got married, and again, pedicure, not for me.

But this notion of The Manicure lingered as the ultimate frivolous indulgence. You can, after all, just paint your own nails! (Which I do!) Any bottle of nail polish, even a fancy one, is going to cost so much less than a manicure. I'd both congratulate myself for savvily avoiding this unnecessary expenditure, and feel a certain degree of envy of peers who clearly took themselves seriously enough (Because You're Worth It TM) to think their looks (and their careers?) were worth investing in, in this way.

Aaaand then there was the big exposé about nail salons - how exploitative and toxic most of these places are. At just the historical moment when scorn for sex work (and often, by extension, the people - the men - who patron sex workers) became problematic, the Woman Who Gets Her Nails Done became emblematic of consumerist insensitivity. It all seemed a little hmm. Like perhaps the motivating force here wasn't so much a goal of a safer and less exploitative norm in the nail salon industry, but rather a world where women feel that much more terrible about primping and not primping. (Because it always cuts in both directions.)

Then, back in Toronto, I started noticing a whole new nail-art world. Students at the university where I teach would have these elaborate nails, sometimes with rhinestones (?) embedded in them. It looked neat and fun and... especially impossible to replicate at home. And not all chipped off, like my own DIY polish attempts inevitably were. (I'm decent a painting my own nails, but less so with not absentmindedly fussing with the results during a meeting.) I decided that I would, as a sort of end-of-year reward, go get my nails done, probably at a fabulous-looking place I'd seen on Instagram, on Dundas West. It would be a whole outing, once it was warm out. I would get the famous gel nails, the ones where the polish doesn't chip. With some sort of nail art, because that was clearly what this place is known for.

Then I learned I was pregnant and it didn't fit with my panicked first-trimester mode, when I wasn't even having any coffee, to do this, plus I wasn't awake enough.

Then it was later in pregnancy and I was too tired in a different way, and concerned that there's something where during childbirth they need to measure your blood oxygen so I couldn't get polish that wouldn't come off easily, and if this was just going to be regular nail polish I should just do this on my own.

Then it was the first six weeks, when I was doing fine as it goes, which is to say, only mildly incapacitated, and also had to feed too often to commit to more than brief poodle-walks.

Then it was too cold.

And then somehow, it seemed... possible? But, expensive. Could I justify this? I felt confident the salon was a Good One but not that I, personally, had any business spending over $50 plus tax and tip on my nails.

I don't know what the ultimate catalyst was, but after many visits to, then away from, the booking site, which requires credit card info and everything, I took the plunge.

The outing itself was decadent if not all-out relaxing. (Subway to streetcar-replacement bus, yeah.) But the salon - Naked Beauty Bar - was spectacular. As were - and are, a week and a half later - the results. Actually getting my nails done in this manner - where a manicurist does all sorts of things to your nails and cuticles and all of that takes longer than the polish itself - shouldn't have appealed to me, because aw shucks I'm too low-maintenance for that but given my state of haggard frazzledness upon arrival (or given that I am not in fact too low-maintenance for that), it was just lovely.


Then I picked up tacos to bring home from Good Hombres, home of many a satisfied third-trimester craving, but apparently just as good after the taco fixation had subsided. The whole thing improved my mood tremendously. With tip it was, I believe, $78. Not including the tacos. Frivolous, yes. Shocking, as in, I'm re-startling myself as I type this. But worth it.

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