The Manicure

from a twitter challenge by @10MinuteWriter to do the unthinkable – 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing:

I didn’t understand the need for the right manicurist until I found her. It’s true – I can possibly be that shallow.

It’s a shocking revelation to me, too, but I suppose I always knew the truth of it. When I was a little girl, living in Pastorita and enjoying a slice of Cuban-adapted Americana by leaving the house in the morning and not returning until lunchtime, I often caught a glimpse of what our mothers were doing while we were out plotting playing.

I never really gave any consideration to what my mother might be doing or need beyond my personal needs – wasn’t she supposed to be clinging to my every need? Of course she was, just as my own children expected it of me.

So to imagine that my mother wanted – no – perhaps, needed a manicure every once in a while was beyond me. Who wanted to be girlie, anyway, when there was a great stickball game going on in the big field behind the houses? But there she was, sitting at the aluminum kitchenette with the plastic seat covers while one of her girlfriends gave her a manicure.

I remember the emerald green of the Palmolive dish soap as she soaked her fingers in the warm sudsy water, the smell of acetone mixing with the heady smell of the nail polish, the laughter, often cut short when we’d run into the kitchen in search of Koolaid, and the pretty red of her nails when they were done.

When I got older and discovered that maybe having pretty nails was a worthy pursuit I followed my mother’s model. When I got together with my girlfriends we did each other’s nails. It was always good enough. After all, within hours they’d be chipped. We may have been old enough to admire the color on our nails, but we probably weren’t mature enough to know how to handle ourselves as young ladies.

I, for one, was pretty likely to find myself caught up in a three-on-three game of basketball or calling dibs on the winner for a ping pong match. My nails were doomed even before the paint had dried.

It didn’t matter. Nail polish is a pretty forgiving commodity. If I chipped the paint, I’d slap another coat on the nail and move on. What in the world was so ceremonial about those afternoons that my mother spent playing manicurist or getting manicures?

I discovered it many years later, after I was grown and had my own family. The ritual of the manicure, at least for me, has less to do with looking good and more to do with getting out of the house and doing something for myself. It’s something that we often forget to do, especially when we are in those years with the little ones running around clinging to us, and expecting us to be an extension of them.

That’s when a little escape, even if it’s just to slap a little paint on the nails, can be a big break – a little vacation for the sake of sanity.

I don’t need that escape anymore – if I find myself needing some time to myself I just ask for it, or close a door. I’m not likely to have my children’s fingers reaching in to me under the door anymore. If one of them did at this point, then they’d deserve having their fingers stuck.

But I still enjoy a manicure. It’s an escape that never loses its allure, even if I go home and chip it right away when I put away the dishes.

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3 thoughts on “The Manicure

  1. Well said… or written, for that matter. We always need some time for ourselves, or we’d go crazy. CraziER, I mean.

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