Thursday, September 27, 2012


Salon Chit-Chat

I'm in a wedding Saturday, which is one of the rare occasions I get a mani/pedi instead of painting my nails myself.

I get my eyebrows waxed near my house at the cheapest place ever. It's run by a bunch of Asian ladies who wear these funny smock-shirt things with no actual shirt underneath, so I can see all their bras. My hair grows at lightning speed, so I'm in there roughly every eight days. Every eight days, I walk in and it's packed but quiet except for the sounds of foot scraping and that machine that smokes when they take off fake nails, and every time I walk in, the owner lady, who wears a mask is usually doing someone's nails, asks, "Manicure, pedicure?" And every eight days I answer, "Wax." And then sometimes, even though I KNOW she heard me, she says, "What?  Manicure, pedicure?" And I have to go, "WAX."

So anyway, during these visits I've seen that mani/pedis are ONLY $27 dollars for both, and with the wedding coming up of course I've thought to myself, "This is a perfectly affordable way to probably contract a nail fungus."

Everything is fine until the foot scraping part. I hate this part. I've always had lots of callouses, and when I was in junior high my mom used to say it was just because I was athletic, but I think she was lying like a good mother should. My friends were in sports with me, and it's not like I was training for the Olympics on the side. Also, the first time I ever got a pedicure I was 20 and the woman picked up my foot and goes, "Do you RUN?!?" Of course I didn't run back then, so I said "Yeah." And secondly, my feet are so ticklish it hurts. When the lady squeezes my foot and buffs it, I can't breathe and I clench my feet, and I do little kicks and alternate between saying "sorry" and making a laughy "ehhh" noise.

So finally it was manicure time and there was an older lady named Pam sitting beside me. Pam had a short gray bob and a mustache and was kinda boisterous/chit-chatty. She reminds me of Kathy Bates's character in Fried Green Tomatoes who shouts, "TOWANDA!!!"

Pam was the only one talking/shouting in the salon, and I heard her ask the mask lady, "How many kids do you have? Just the one?"

Mask Lady: One.

Pam: ONE! Just ONE???

Mask Lady: Yeah.

Pam: WHY?

Mask Lady: I too old.

Pam: Oh, I figured it was because in China you can only have one.


(In my brain: OMG, Pam! That's kind of an awkward thing to say, right? Maybe it's not ... I don't know. Wait, am I the one that's ignorant for thinking this is specifically something you SHOULDN'T say? Maybe it's perfectly acceptable — what's wrong with me? Wait, is Mask Lady for sure Chinese? Are they friends? Wait, no, you definitely shouldn't say that ... Hmmm ... Wipeout is on TV ...)

Pam: You can only have one there, right?

Mask Lady: Yeah.


Mask Lady: Too many people China.


Pam: Just one. What do they do if you have two ... kill it?

(OH MY GOD PAM,  just stop. That has to be crossing the line. Oh my god. Nobody is answering!)

(dead, long, dead dead silence)

Mask Lady: (looks at me with weird smile, I think mocking Pam but I cannot be sure) Yeah. Surgery. Remove.

Pam: Wow. I can't believe it. You can only have one ... Huh ...

Mask Lady: Yeah, too many people.

Pam: Everybody goes along with that?


Pam: One's probably enough for ya. Wait, you have a brother don't you?

Mask Lady: No.

Pam: Yeaaah, YOU have a brother!

Mask Lady: Yeah. That was before.

Pam: Oh, that was before the rule? Well I'm glad your brother got outta that China! How many kids does he have? Just ONE?


Pam: One kid, huh. What if you have TWINS? THEY KILL ONE TWIN?!? Just one kid, I can't believe it.

(long silence)

(longer silence)

(PHEW. This is over. That was really intense. The nerve some people have! Such a sensitive topic, I'd think. Relax, Hillary. Phew. Pam's watching Wipeout on the TV now and isn't talking anymore about killing kids and it's over. Everybody's okay. Why didn't I just go get a mani/pedi with Kari tomorrow morning instead of this crazy place? I'm hungry. I don't have any wine at home. I don’t have to work tomorrow, woo hoo!  Maybe I’ll just go to bed. Sleepy.)

Hillary: Wait, so what if you get a divorce and then marry somebody else — can you have another kid with that person or what?

(WTF did I say that for?!? Stop!)



This was supposed to be the end of my story, but I will tell you the answer:

Mask Lady: If one person have kid and one don't, you have one kid. If both person have kid, can't have kid.


Hillary B. lives in Chicago with her cat.

Photo via Flickr/dno1967b

79 Comments / Post A Comment




Talent right here.@v


I remember asking Ladymom these questions once. I was ten.


Oh god I am breaking out in hives over here.


@yeah-elle Yes, hives. Ahh, is Pam still out there in the world thinking that one out of every two twin babies in China gets murdered? Pam, this is what Wikipedia is for.


@TheBelleWitch Yes! Google has save me from asking so many inappropriate questions!


I'm actually imagining Pam from Archer as being the Pam from this story; it sort of makes sense volume-wise.


@SarahP Is Pam from Archer the one who is played by Lucille Bluth? Because I'm imagining Lucille Bluth as the Pam from this story and it makes it less horrifying.


@SarahP Pam doesn't bother with salons. They won't let her bring her crock pot.


@SarahP No, Pam is the HR woman who sleeps with anyone/everyone and is dumb as rocks and incredibly inappropriate and gossips.


@SarahP This is definitely what I was hearing in my head.


@gobblegirl That could also describe Cheryl/Carol though


@gobblegirl She is not dumb as rocks!

40oz in my lap and it's freezin' my junk


@SarahP Holy shitsnacks!


@Inconceivable! I love saying holy shitsnacks so much guys. I think it has made the world a better place.


Strangers touching my extremities and cringey conversations going on in my general vicinity are two of my worst fears! This is why I never get mani/pedis, or go to happy hour.


Exactly what happens in my mind every time I'm near an awkward conversation and then when it seems to be all over, and everyone is recovering, I open my mouth and drag it out.


I thought this story wouldn't give me the chills any more than "the sound of foot scraping," but I was wrong.

The Lady of Shalott

I actually got my first pedicure of my life on Monday and it was DIVINE.

But it was divine because I was there on Monday morning and I was literally the only one there, so it was just the nail girl and me and it was lovely and quiet in the salon and I had an hour to just chill and read my book (The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down) and now I have lovely soft feet and a nice paint job that I didn't have to scrape off the rest of my toes the next day like I usually do.

/run-on sentence

I don't think I could have borne it if I had to listen to this conversation on the side. I would have left, even though it was only 10 outside and my feet were soaking wet. Just run, run out of the salon with cold wet feet!


@The Lady of Shalott

OH MY GOD this is totally off-topic but HOW ARE YOU LIKING THE BOOK

(It is my favorite non-fiction book, although it feels weird to say that about a kind of crummy and sad subject.)

The Lady of Shalott

@frigwiggin It was really really really good! I LOVED it, and I talked at my boyfriend about it for like twenty minutes just rambling about it. But I wish there had been more backstory at the end! Did you know that Lia Lee just died last month?


@The Lady of Shalott Ah, no! I didn't! Noooo, Lia. :( It's so easy to just pretend that things stopped at the end and they all remain in time-suspension gel. I feel the same way about the Lacks family.

The Lady of Shalott

@frigwiggin Yes! http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lia-lee-dies-daughter-of-hmong-refugees-changed-american-views-of-medicine/2012/09/16/44f1a9e4-0011-11e2-9367-4e1bafb958db_story.html Her father died in 2003.


@frigwiggin Me too. Despite being a sad book it's FASCINATING though! I read it for the best college class ever, Folk Religion.


@The Lady of Shalott Oh no :(


My friend found us a place that gives us mani-pedis for $16!! (In New York!! Well, Astoria, but still!!) And they've always been pretty great.

This reminds me that I have a $200 gift card to a spa that I won in a raffle. I should use that soon. I can get a mud mask!


Ugh, now I just finished the whole story. Why are there always talkative weirdos at salons?


@meetapossum WHERE. TELL ME, PLEASE.


@thatgirl Perfect Nails on Ditmars. I also suggest going to Martha's Country Bakery afterward and getting a baked good and/or gelato.


@meetapossum That may be where I go in a week or so, once my bitten-off nails have grown back enough for it. And it's only a few blocks from my place!

Lush Life

@cosmia Pam from Archer is the H.R. assistant who says "HOLY SHITSNACKS" a lot (voiced by Amber Nash).


Evelyn (Kathy Bates's character in Fried Green Tomatoes) would never ask questions like that. Why, she can't even look at her own vagina!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin ...yet looks amazing in Saran wrap.
"Towanda! Righter of Wrongs, Queen Beyond Compare!"

(Also, this reminds me: I need a good bee charmer in my life.)


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Man, if I ever pulled a Ruth and told someone Idgie-esque to cut me out of her life so she could "settle down", and she said "I'm as settled as I ever hope to be", I would probably die happy (start watching at 0:41 to get right to the Feels).

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin And she says it with such intensity. Oh, my heart.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Yeah, I have to look away sometimes during that part, because it makes me want things I mightn't ever have.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin NOOOOO don't say that. Want it all!


I get gel manis now every 10-14 days to protect my hands from myself. I bite my nails and gel manis do protect me from me and I finally have nice hands, though sometimes they do look to femmy and I get sick of it. But instead of obsessing over biting my nails I can obsess over the manicure and that works for me. My feet I get every once in awhile for the same reason, I can massacre my nails if I'm anxious.

I always go on a weekday morning but I'm never alone. And there's always the TV blaring. Once the day after my boy and I had a kind of breakup talk over the phone and I was in all kinds of shreds, they were playing Family Feud (which is is still on. A creepy reminder of my childhood) on the TV. The word was SHALLOW. And these people were guessing the most idiotic stuff. I kept yelling at the TV "SHALLOW GRAVE! SHALLOW GRAVE!" This actually was never one of the answers at all, so the survey was dumb, but also I was crazy girl shouting at the TV in the nail place.


@scazza sofija I had to stop going to the gym when Jeopardy was on for the same reason. Last week I caught the Final Jeopardy (it was Celebrity, too) and it was all I could do not to yell "ELI WHITNEY!! COME ON, ANDERSON COOPER, YOU KNOW THIS!" Can't blame it on a breakup, even...just a family who habitually yells at the TV.


I pretty constantly live in fear of hearing and getting dragged into conversations like that.


Pam needs to read about that lady who got dismembered here last month, it would answer pretty much all of her questions

sarah girl

I wish there was a way to get the painted toenails without all of the other horrible foot stuff. I always end up turning a little pale and sitting up really straight, when inside I want to scream "AAAAHHHHH why are you doing things under my toenails STOP!!!" And I'm scared to ask them to be more gentle because the very few times I went there was a serious language barrier and agh, it stresses me out.

This is such a first world problem, but whatever.

maybe partying will help

@Sarah H.

The first time I got a manicure, the technician asked me repeatedly if I was ok, because I looked like I was about to cry. This was probably because I was about to cry.

I do like the pedicure though, despite being ticklish, because I enjoy the leg massage! Hmmm now I want a pedicure.

Plant Fire

@Sarah H. I also wish this was an option! I've had a bunch of operations on my toes and the few times I've had a pedicure it always left me in a ton of pain and one time it lead to another operation. But for some reason painting them myself never turns out as nice? Although, to be completely honest I don't like the whole pedicure experience so maybe I should just find a tutorial on how to paint nails better (I seem to remember there being one on the hairpin...)


@Sarah H. You can just ask for a polish change at most nail salons. For your hands or toes. Usually they will not charge you as much either. Lots of people do it, like my friend who is waaay too ticklish for the full pedicure. Just getting them painted tickles her a little.


@Sarah H. Truth! I got pressured into getting a manicure ONCE in my whole life and it made me bleed. I'm reluctant to ever try manicures or pedicures again because there's so much painful stuff involved, and they try to take your cuticles away from you!


This is why I just paint my own stupid toenails in my living room.


@Sarah H. You can ask for a polish change! Ahhhh damn you Punk-ass Book Jockey I wanted to be the deliverer of amazing knowledge!

Depending on the place, apparently some will also file the nails a bit when you go in for a polish change, although I personally have not experienced this.

sarah girl

@werewolfbarmitzvah Yep, I've gotten one manicure and I am never doing it again. So much bleeding, and even though the technician was a fluent English speaker she still didn't listen to my repeated "OUCH" remarks.

@Punk-assBookJockey, ooh, that's fascinating! So just ask for "polish change"? I'm definitely going to try that.


@redheaded&crazie Ha, sorry! It is an exciting factoid!

@Sarah H. Yeah definitely! Or if your nails are bare just say you would like them painted only. Depending on how blunt they are (in my experience some manicurists can be quite blunt, almost to the point of rudeness) they might tell you you need a full pedicure or trimming or filing, but if you just do all that before you go in it shouldn't be a problem.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Sarah H. My first pedicure was going along swimmingly, then the lady started rubbing her thumb up my shin bone and smacking around my calf muscle, in what I'm assuming she thought was a massage? But due to shin splints and whatnot, I almost started crying. Not worth it.


@Sarah H. BLEEDING?? Where the F did you go? OMG.


@werewolfbarmitzvah ME TOO (in fact, I should do that tonight). I never got hurt during one of the few pedicures I've had but I kind of think it wouldn't make the experience any worse anyway. I feel uncomfortable sitting there even if I have a book, and I generally don't enjoy people doing all that touching. And I hate the massage part most of all! Same goes for manicures (and you can't even read a book then).

However, if I ever have to get either of those things done (and I just can't see needing someone else to do my feet--they're always pretty good. But sometimes I damage my fingernails so far beyond my own skill set that I debate having someone else clean up my mess), I can go to my hair guy's wife who works in the same salon; maybe she can do it while my color is percolating or whatever it does for 20 minutes.


Count me among the people in perpetual cringe when confronted with a mani/pedi. What is the opposite of relaxing? Oh yeah, full on torture. Someone else filing my nails makes the nerve endings in my fingertips shoot signals to my fight or flight response area, it is almost painful. Foot scraping does make me want to kick the person doing it. Something is very, very wrong with me.


@sovereignann@twitter Yes, I ALWAYS cringe when they file.

fondue with cheddar

@sovereignann@twitter I can't even file my OWN nails. I use clippers.

Judith Slutler

@sovereignann@twitter I'm the same way with my feet. I can't imagine ever letting anyone else do a pedicure on me. When I broke my foot a couple years ago, my physical therapy involved foot massages, and even just that had me clutching the arm rests of my chair and gritting my teeth to avoid instinctively kicking. aaaaaaaaa stop touching my feeeeeeeeeet


@Emmanuelle Cunt Agreed!! Attempts by former partners at "sensual foot massage" have ended in bloody noses before...

Roaring Girl

@swirrlygrrl My husband is a little obsessed with my feet, not because he's really into feet, but because he isn't allowed to touch mine. Very, very occasionally, I will put my feet in his lap and give him EXTREMELY SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS about what he can do to them (not kinky things, just squeeze the heel and ball of my foot very gently and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT TOUCH THE ARCH OR MESS WITH MY TOES OR I WILL KICK YOU IN THE FACE).

fondue with cheddar

@Roaring Girl Wow...that's trust.


@swirrlygrrl Yeah, I'm with you guys. I had a facial once, because I felt it was something I ought to experience, and it was horrible. Nobody is ever going near my feet, and I can paint my own fingernails. I have horsewoman's hands and feet anyway, so it'd pretty much be wasted effort.


Last summer I had a fascinating discussion with a group of grad students in China about the one-child policy. It has some really interesting loopholes!


@Xanthophyllippa Like what??

fondue with cheddar

@Xanthophyllippa Aren't you allowed to have more, only you have to pay a fine if you do?

That entire conversation was PAINFUL.

hahahaha, ja.

I believe you can have multiple children if you
a) are fabulously wealthy, or
b) live in a rural area and your first child is a girl.

There are probably others that I'm forgetting. I think (b) is more complicated than I'm remembering, something about how many siblings you both have. And there's probably exceptions for government employees.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Yes, more or less -- you can have more children if (as hahahaha, ja. says) you live in a rural area and your first child (or children, even!) are girls, or if you are able to pay a certain fee. One of the grad students I met was one of two daughters, both of whom went to college, and one of the other grad students was a man with four older sisters. Government officials and other folks with leverage are also more or less exempt because, like most laws in China, whether and how strictly the one-child policy is enforced has a lot to do with the status of the family involved.


@Xanthophyllippa And (most of the time?) if you are from a non-Han ethnic group.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Are you really you? OR are there a bunch of new people with new names just putting (formerly Jen325) on the end of their names, to confuuuuseee meeeee?!

Also, if you and your partner are both single children you can apply to have more than one kid. Again, depending on your status and who you know. It's aaallll about who you know.

fondue with cheddar

@Craftastrophies Haha, I'm really me! Hey there. I'm just trying to keep everyone on their toes!

I know it's totally confusing, but I inadvertently chose a new username that was too similar to someone else's so I had to change it.


My nail salon is going to be closed on Sundays until next summer, which makes me deeply sad because that was part of my Sunday routine. Will have to squeeze it in some other time during the week. But they are the BEST. $10 manicures, which is unheard of in Boston. And they are very nice and clean and the owner is a little crazy.

And, I've never seen this before, but they have televisions in the salon! It's kinda kinda great. Sometimes COPS is on, which might be one of the weirdest things you can watch while getting a mani/pedi.


@Kirs Hey, I live in Boston....where is the magical $10 manicure?


@jelama I want to know this too!


@angelinha @jelama Gala Nails in Egleston Square. Convenient for me since I live around the corner. Probably not so convenient if you don't live in that area of JP.


@Kirs Heeeey JP! Thanks for the tip. Soleil Tan and Spa on Centre was getting to expensive for me. Plus, they always stick me with a guy who doesn't do as good a job as the other ladies who work there.


Captain No-Fun here to ruin the party by pointing out that the thing everyone's nervous about getting from pedicure thrones (which are impossible to fully sanitize between clients)isn't your run-of-the-mill toenail fungus or athlete's foot, but a bacterial infection that looks like giant weeping cigar burns all over your legs, that you could have for life. It's horrid. I worked at a couple of salons where I had to watch the same, super-graphic industry video about it and I'll never get the visuals out of my head.
So I love pedicures, but I don't do thrones, or any basin with jets. It's worth the extra cash not to worry about it.


Oh god, I wish the lady who did my pedicure only asked if I ran. Instead, she asked if I did WINTER SPORTS & I was too confused to lie, so I just said "uh, ha ha, no?" & she exchanged this contemptuous look with the other pedicurist(?) that made me shrivel inside.
-reasons why I don't get pedicures.


The only time I ever got a manicure, the nail technician scolded me for not calling my mother every day, not calling my boyfriend every day, not liking America enough, and not liking freedom enough.


Reading this gave me anxiety. It's kind of like when Steve Carrell does something really awful on The Office. Sometimes I have to walk away because I can't handle how awkward and uncomfortable everyone is about to be.


@whimseywisp I have mixed feelings about this type of situation--so mixed. There's the cringiness but also this gleeful curiosity that makes me hope it goes on for a long time. But then there's the fact that I have no poker face and can't not laugh and then I feel like an eavesdropping and judgmental asshole who might be hurting someone's feelings or making other people think I agree with whatever nonsense the nonsense-sayer is saying...

And then there's the part where, before I realize what I'm doing, I blurt. Whether or not it's any of my business or I should know better than to prolong the horror... I blurt.

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