This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land…

I am not so great at taking care of myself. I am much better at taking care of others. Tonight I did the one thing I do indulge in as far as pampering myself, I got a manicure. I feel better about myself when my nails are manicured. I know it sounds silly, but it makes me feel more pulled together, at least for all outward appearances. I enjoy the time to sit and do nothing. I also like the massages that come at the end of the nail beautification. I went to my regular place tonight. All of the ladies know me. They know me so well that when I wore pants recently the Indian woman who works there cocked her head and looked at me quizzically while tugging on the side of her own pants. It’s true, I rarely wear pants anymore, they notice these things. They are kind, but not kind enough to compliment me on how great my nails look when I chose a new color that doesn’t quite work. I appreciate their honesty.

Tonight I walked into a completely empty salon. I was there alone from start to finish. Is it not fashionable to have manicured nails for New Year’s? Is everyone waiting until Saturday afternoon? It was a weird ghost town. I felt like I was invading their personal world. They were chatting in their native tongue. I do not know where the Asian women are from. Vietnam? China? Korea? Every time I leave I vow to ask them the next time I go in. I never do. Even the eldest one there would probably reply, “Queens,” when asked. The youngest one was giving herself a manicure. She asked the Indian woman to help her with the topcoat. After her nails were done the two older Asian women asked her what color it was. “Pomegranate,” she replied. “Pom…” “Pom…?” “Pomegranate, “ she repeated. “Pom…?” The older women could not pronounce it. “Pomegranate.” “P…O…L…,” one of the older women said. “No! Pomegranate,” the youngest one said raising her voice. They all gave up after that. The older women went back to eating their cookies. The Indian woman slunk off to the corner and started applying lip-gloss. The young woman sat looking at her nails and feigning interest in what the older women were up to.

I sat with one of the younger Asian women who works there. She is one I barely know. I had to tell her that I like my nails very short and round, I like my cuticles cut, but you have to be careful with my right thumb, it bleeds if you aren’t super careful. She did just fine, well, except for the massage at the end. She started rubbing my shoulders then found the huge knot in my right shoulder. She paused, tentatively rolling her finger over it before attempting to give it some extra attention then quickly moving on. She felt along my scapula and found tension and twitching. Her hands flew back up to my shoulders then worked their way down to my painfully sore biceps. One squeeze was all it took for her to declare that no man’s land. Fear. I could smell it over the nail polish fumes. She was scared of my tension and tightness, like it was some sort of contagious disease. My muscles offering a window into a foreign world, a world that her young, relaxed body does not know and does not want to know. The older women usually take extra time on my knots and then tell me I need to relax more. “Too tight!” “No good!” “You need come in more for massage!” Then they spend a little extra time shoving their thumbs into my knotted muscles. This woman with her uncertainty and forced smile ran like the wind from me and my tight, twitching muscles that tie themselves into knots from time to time. My nails look really nice though.


About djunapassman

I teach yoga, write, and edit. I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is changing faster than I can, or care to, keep up with. Manhattan still beckons me to her island a few subways stops away, reminding me of when I lived amongst her daily hustle and bustle.
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