Sunday, March 4, 2012

Toe Nails are Overrated!

What does a "me" time mean to you? A spa treatment? Wine tasting with a bunch of your girlfriends? or shopping for the new bag and clothes? My "me" time is running a marathon. Sometimes it can be costly too. But somehow running and partly walking a distance of 26.2 miles is easier than being caged in a building surrounded by people, clothes, shoes, jewelries, bags, perfumes, cosmetics and other goods and cannot make a sound decision on what to purchase. But make a purchase anyway, only to return the item the next day.

I stay away from shopping malls most of the time. But I have three kids. Two of whom are girls. Teenage girls love spend their time at the malls. Last Friday my daughter asked me if she could go to the mall with a couple of her friends. She laid out all their plans; window shopping and shopping. She asked me or rather begged me to supervised them from afar (translation: you can walk around the mall for four hours yourself, and meet us when we are done. I'll text you).

I feel sorry for my daughters. I don't like spending my time and efforts at the malls. I don't want to disappoint them so I offer to spend time with them at a nail salon. I let them have their nails done, while I sit on a comfy sofa staring at fake ficus trees and Buddha statues. I call that "me" time, too.

Lately my daughters have been earning some money from a friend who needs someone to walk her dogs. Their visit to the nail salon has become regular. My staring moment at the Buddhas has also graduated to the point that I started doing yoga breathing during my "happy" hour.

One day my younger daughter asked me why I don't want to have my nails done. My teenage daughter filled in the answer for her sister, " mom is too embarrassed to show her toe nails to the salon people. Remember when we had our nails done in Boston for uncle Chris' wedding? The lady who did her nails told mom that she liked mom's hair but mom's toe nails are ugly." They both giggled over the memory.

If you run like I do. You know what the above story means. Most runners have bad toe nails. Some of mine have deformed. I won't call them ugly because they are my toe nails, but they are not pretty either. I try the best to take care of my toe nails by cleaning them up, soaking them in a warm water mixed with spa salt and lather them with some lotion to make them look decent.

In the last 3 years I have lost 6 toe nails, which grew back and fell off again, and again. When I ran 50K race back in October 2011, I felt that the toe nail on my left big toe seemed overly sensitive. I had experience that sensation before when I ran Chicago Marathon back in 2010. I could see my big right toenail was blackened when I changed my clothes in the car on the way to Evanston to have lunch with the family. This time around, I couldn't see the black toenail because it was covered with red nail polish from the pedicure treatment I got in Boston. As a result, I never knew that the toenail was already dead and dried-part of it-until I cleaned up the polish.

I had run 3 half marathons in January in preparation for my Arizona Marathon last February. The black toenail had changed color back to white,hinting that a new toenail has grown underneath. I pulled out the old toenail by myself one night after stumbled on a pile of dirty laundry,which my eldest forgot to put in the hamper. I felt like a bank robber who managed to escape the police chase after being hit by a bullet, and trying to pull the bullet out of my toenail by myself. I bit one of the dirty shirt from the laundry pile to prevent my scream from waking up the neighbors. I must tell you, It didn't feel as bad as being accused of cheating your marathon time.

Before I left for Arizona, I took my daughters to the nail salon. I didn't get mine done fearing that if anything happened to the nail I wouldn't be able to tell whether I had black toe nail or it's just a soreness. Plus, my left toenail hasn't grown to its fullest. It will be funny to see a half big toenail painted in red, or yellow, if I wanted to match it with the color of my running skirt.

I cover my newly grown big right toenail with oversize band-aid the morning I was getting ready to run the marathon in Phoenix. Surprisingly, nothing happened to it. I came back with my half grown toe nail still half: not more nor less. And I didn't have any other black toenails.

Last Wednesday in my Vinyasa class while doing Uttanasana or standing forward bend pose, my face almost touched my toenails. I couldn't help to glanced at my big toe with the half nail. After two weeks not paying close attention to it, it looked different. It is still crooked like an uneven pavement, but has grown to almost a full nail. I thought of going to a nail salon just to give my feet and the toes a nice treat.

There's a nail salon next to and Indian restaurant which serve all-you-can-eat lunch for $5.99. What a blissful "me" time, I thought; a yoga class coupled with cheap Indian lunch before a nice pedicure treatment.

I was greeted by the familiar scene of fake tropical trees and small water fall, and of course, Buddhas were there too. A small woman, smaller than me, came running towards me with a big smile. Right when I was about to explain to her that I didn't have an appointment, she threw the question I always get whenever I walk into a nail salon, Asian market or anywhere if someone is curious about my physical appearance, "Are you Filipino?" 

I smiled and shook my head. She went on telling me that she had a friend who is from the Phillippines, but now she lives in Arizona. OoooowKaaaay....can I speak now? Apparently I wasn't allowed to speak until her turn to make sure that I was a Fillipina was achieved. "Maybe you Vietnamese?" She was a bit disappointed to find out that I wasn't what she guessed and hoped I was.

Her smiled dissipated, and she started to order me to sit down. She snatched my bag, and threw on the sofa next to where I sat. She started scrubbed my feet while talking to the other manicurists and pedicurists which I suspected were her husband, brother in-law, sisters and aunts. They talked in Vietnamese. I knew for sure because I lived in San Jose, California for almost 17 years. 

I honestly didn't mind them chatting and giggling as long as the conversation didn't involved me. I don't understand any Vietnamese, but somehow I could connect the dots between their questions to me and the giggles intermittent in the chats.

"So. ip you not prom Pilipin, then where you prom? ( translation: If you are not from the Philippines, then where are you from?) Gosh, Is the Philippines the only country she knew other than USA and Vietnam? I was offended. She claimed she's been to Indonesia. That made me even more upset. But I put out a fake smile for her and the entire family. My country, Indonesia, must have sounded funny to them. They laughed. The real big amused laughs.

I forgot to tell you, I was the only costumer at that time. The other manicurist/pedicurist were sitting around enjoying some Florida tangerines. One was peeling the fruits, the others munching on the segments. One of them talked to the woman who took care of my nails. The woman studied my face for a second before asking me, " you dong take care of your toes. Your feet not good." She looked around to the tangerine munchers, and they all laughed, again. One almost choked on the seeds.

"Your husband American? He rich?" What the hell?....I bit my lips. Should I answer it or should I pretend to falling asleep? I could splash her some hot water,too, if I wanted to. I closed my eyes and took a deep angry breath. I purposely ignored all the bigger-than-life lessons I've learnt in my yoga classes.

I heard them talking and giggling at the same time. I felt her hand stopped half way on my legs, then she tapped me on my knee. I opened my eyes and gave her another fake smile. Uninvited, she blubbered her opinion on how Asian women trying so hard to find American husbands, but ended up being miserable.

At some points, after I ignored many of their questions, or just answered them in nod and shake head forms they burst into a big laugh as if they were watching some funny movie. I laughed along with them because not only laugh is contagious, but I somehow felt it was better to laugh along and look dumb than have a frown face and look dumb. 

In the midst of the group laughter, the pedicurist told me that they were laughing at my toe nails. Wow, thank you so much for making fun of my toe nails. She explained to me that they've never seen anyone with such bad toe nails. 

They also thought that I was either from the Philippines or Laos ( sorry, I was wrong. They knew another country!!) and that I was lying about my nationality. I couldn't believe those people were laughing out loud on my expense. Great, I have another reason to not go to a nail salon. 

I signed my receipt and wrote "bad service" on the blank area where I supposed to write the tip. Well, that's my tip for them to ponder upon. It is possible for me to loose another or two toe nails in the future, but rest assured, I will not go back to that nail salon again. 

This afternoon, as I was helping my daughters cleaning up their chipped polish to get ready for their nail salon treatment on Tuesday, since they got paid from doggie walking, my daughter told me this quote she found on some internet site while browsing for nail polish :

MANICURE [Noun] : Paying $30 to get insulted in another language.

I didn't tell her about my story. We laughed over the quote. We thought it was so true. My youngest daughter who is only 8, revealed to me that she was upset when the last time she had her nail done, the woman who took care of her nails had asked , "Why do you have so much hair on your hands?" and the other women who took care of my older daughter also made comment, " your skin is too dry. You don't take care of your skin?"

 All three of us~mother and daughters have been insulted by nail salon people at some point. I was raged. My girls didn't know how to react to the ridicules they made. We realized how amazing it is to paying a lot of money for some people to mock, criticize and question our parts of body. 

I have found another nail salon which I think will mostly use English as their language for communicating with their customers. I am sure, if any insults aim at the costumers would be discuss behind the curtain. 


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