In my pre-tundra New York days, visiting one of the city’s bazillion manicure and pedicure providers was a long-standing weekend tradition for my friends and me. First, we’d meet at the diner on Saturday or Sunday. Then, we’d head to Zen or Pinky or Cindy’s or Trevi or Lincoln Nails, choose from a rainbow array of sheer pink nail polishes with asinine names, make snide comments about the other girls there, and enjoy some hand grooming.
Please note: regular ‘curing may sound extravagant to those in more remote parts, but in New York, there are nail salons on every corner, and the average manicure costs less than $10. As it happens, I have extremely dry skin and cuticles, so I view manicuring as a health-related expense. But mostly, it’s a nice way to spend time with my friends and engage in some catty commentary.
In Michigan, there were no diners and my only friends were Sloth (ex-husband) and Ollie (dognapped Wheaten terrier — see “Meet Ollie” page), neither of whom could be counted on for manicure companionship. Furthermore, nail care providers in Michigan were much fewer and farther between, more expensive, not as clean, poorer quality, and overall just sucky. I had to take matters into my own unmanicured hands.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned unmanicured hands are less than steady, and eventually I had to give up on polished fingernails. Toes were do-able providing no one looked too closely, but the colors I had with me on the tundra weren’t really foot-appropriate. There happened to be a respectable-looking beauty supply store in the Colonnade, the “ultra-posh” strip mall across the street from our apartment in the equally “ultra-posh” Briar Cove complex. Desperate for something to do, I made nail polish selection my official Wednesday errand and looked forward to this important task.
When I hit the beauty supply store, I spent half an hour poring over various shades and brands of wine-colored nail polish before settling on a delightful, deep burgundy hue called “Berry Hard.”
Eagerly, I headed to the cashier and waited for at least 10 minutes while a mohawked hairdresser paid, in pennies, for approximately 40 bottles of shampoo. Just as the transaction seemed to be wrapping up, the hairdresser noticed a mysterious ingredient in the shampoo he was purchasing: placenta. This fascinated him. He launched into a series of questions about the origins, purpose and effect of “play-say-nta,” as if his upscale clientele in YPSILANTI really gave a shit.
At last it was my turn to pay, and I placed the bottle of “Berry Hard” on the counter with the pride and anticipation of a child who had saved all her life for one toy.
“Cane I see your lay-cense?,” asked the stylish cashier who had obviously bought her outfit at Forever 21 but told herself she was clad in Prada.
“My license? You need my driver’s license for a $3-bottle of nail polish?”
“No,” replied the cashier. “Don’t you hay-ve your byew-uh-tician lay-cense?”
It was hard to refrain from uttering my Michigan mantra — ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? — but I have to admit, I also felt like a dejected moron. I felt like the whole state had broken me.
“No ma’am, no I do not. I am not a licensed beautician.” I could barely speak above a whisper. My shame was evident.
“Well then Aim sorry, you cane not shapp in this store. It’s just for the industry.”
Miserable, I walked home and went online to see if there were any other places I might be able to purchase one little bottle of nail polish. (Keep in mind that while I did have access to a decent CVS, said store did not carry products by Essie, the company that made “Berry Hard.”) It turned out there was another beauty supply store just a short drive away, and they sold “Berry Hard.” Again I found the bottle, caressed it longingly and waited on line to pay. Again I received the news that only lay-censed byew-uh-ticians could dispense cash there. To make matters worse, a lard-ass manicurist at the register next to me was buying several bottles of THE VERY SAME SHADE. It was a cruel trick of the pedicure gods.
There was one more option: a place on the other side of town.
This time, I didn’t get my hopes up. Before heading down Nail Polish Row and checking to see if “Berry Hard” was an option, I asked if one had to be a licensed beautician to shop there. It was a question I never in a million years imagined I’d have to utter.
A kindly salesperson replied that the store was open to shoppers of all professions.
“Even out-of-work publicity writers?!”
“Even out-of-work publicity writers.”
She was like Glynda the Good Witch. I wanted to hug her.
At last, “Berry Hard” would be mine. If only that store SOLD “Berry Hard.”
That night, I relayed the story to Sloth. I hoped he’d be so upset about my trauma that he’d offer to quit his job the next day and move back to civilization pronto. But he found it rioutously funny.
He was still chuckling a few hours later when I came out of the bathroom sporting two coats of “God Save the Queen’s Nails.”