“Wait, where are we going?” I asked my wife.
“To get a manicure,” she said.
“Oh, ok. Well, I’ll drop you off and then go hang out somewhere. Let me know when you’re done.”
“No. This one is for you! This is your surprise for all your hard work. Ta-da!”
I think my wife and I have very different ideas on appropriate surprise gift ideas for me. A new hammer? Yes, that’s always a good gift. I always have a need to whack stuff with stuff, especially with my frustrations with online learning this year. But a manicure? I’m getting this is a feeling that this gift is for her. Maybe for our anniversary I should get her a new hammer?
“Um, I’ve never had a manicure,” I said.
“I know, but I thought you would appreciate it. You type all day. You’ve been teaching the kids, and your conferences just finished up. You’ll love it.”
I love hammers.
But she is right. Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at two different conferences, Dad 2.0 and HomeDadCon. I love it when I get the chance for this, but it takes quite a bit of prep work, and although I’m an extrovert by nature, being “on” for seven straight days can make me feel wiped out. And as a freelancer, I crank out reams and reams of content each week. I’m practically writing a novella from Monday through Friday, and when my writing ends, idea generation starts. My wife is right, I am tired and deserve something pretty.
I sit down in the little salon and a very tiny woman takes my hand. I would guess that she is part of the manicure guild from the City of Oz. From behind a plastic shield and I am reminded of Jane Goodall holding the hand of a great ape. Her tiny little bitty hands disappear in my catcher’s mitts and she starts talking very fast.
I have no idea what she’s saying as her own mask muffles her voice and honestly, I am distracted when she starts pulling out tools that I would see Goldeneye use in James Bond.
“Um, is this going to hurt?” I asked because honestly, those little scissor things look rip for pulling out fingernails.
“You love it. It’s good time,’ she said and I think she laughed in a maniacal way.
Then she goes to work. Sandpaper attached to a stick (an emery board?) scraps off large chunks of my jagged nails and for a second, I’m actually embarrassed. I have no idea why, but for sure I never feel this way with hammers. After that, she brings out a bowl with purple water. She pulls my hand, but I pull back instinctually.
Look, I have no idea what is in that water, but I have been taught in Boy Scouts that if the water isn’t clear, then you don’t touch it. Purple or brown, brain-eating amoebas abound. But the little thing doing my nails is insistent. My hand goes in.
It’s warm and kind of slimy. There’s an oily texture to the water and I’m not sure what is going on.
“It make you cuticles soft,” she said.
“It’s a hard world out there. I need to be hard.” She doesn’t laugh at my joke, which honestly, bothers me. I don’t like bombing in public. I’m not sure how the rest of this is going to go.
And then the smell hits me. It smells like springtime in May. A nice day after a rain through a flower bed. The smell latches onto some part of my brain and I accidentally sigh. It smells pretty, and I don’t know what that means. Hammers do not smell pretty at all.
“It’s lavender,” she said as she continued to work.
One hand goes out and then my other hand goes in. While this one soaks, she takes her tools that look nicer than hammers, now that I have time to notice. She starts pushing back on my cuticles and I expect to feel pain. But I don’t and in my entire life, I have never had another person touch my cuticles. This feels more intimate than I thought it would and I probably blush the same color as my purple water bowl.
But it also feels nice. I don’t know why, but it does. She grabs another pair of scissor things, they look like tiny wire cutters that I keep next to my hammers, and starts cutting my off my skin. I watched, intrigued by what I see. My skin flew, and yet I felt absolutely nothing. She just kept going and going. After a while, the little scissors had a gross build-up on the blades and for the first time in my life, I am embarrassed by my cuticles. Seriously, it was super gross.
“So, um, we’re not going to talk about my cuticles, right?” I said because when I get nervous, I talk too much.
“You cuticles very pretty now.”
“Pretty as my hammers?” I also make random jokes that come from private monologues in my head. She said nothing and kept going. She did the same thing on the other hand, I looked away, but also enjoyed how good I was feeling.
Then my attendant took out something like a buffer that I use on my car, except smaller and I swear, it was like a massage for my fingernails. I sighed again. One and on we went until my Tiger Lady decided it was time to massage my hands. I had no idea this was part of the service, but dear sweet baby Jesus, this was awesome. I did not realize that I carried so much stress in my palms but holy hell, apparently, I do. I caught myself slouching in my chair but decided to roll with it. And who knew that this little thing had such strength in her own fingers? They were little pistons working overtime; hitting each unknown knot with ease.
“All done!” she said. I wanted to ask her to keep going. My hands felt like clouds and not the heavy bricks I normally carry around. My wrists were limber and loose. I don’t know what is supposed to happen at the end of manicure, but I considered giving her a hug. I’m a big guy and would have swallowed her whole in my gorilla arms. That’s probably a bad idea so I said thank you and walked away.
I went to my wife, who was getting a pedicure.
“How was it?” she asked.
“I understand now,” I said as a tear rolled down my cheek. “I understand.”
This is my first manicure ever, but it will not be my last.