Betty, who has the most rockin’ of clients, got a voucher from a client. It promised her a mini-manicure at Lucy and the Powder Room, the new swanky salon at the incredibly swish Department Store. Betty, therefore, tootled up to the Powder Room after her morning at the studio was done. It was a chillin’ time at the salon: the place was mostly populated by two beauty therapists, or, as they may have been, nail artistes: they were pleasingly dressed in chic grey smocks, such as might be worn by, say, the supervising sisters at an alternate-reality 1960 unwed mothers’ home, and they had gold nurses’ watches pinned to their fronts.
Betty chose a polish in a kind of post-apocalyptic Williamsburg blue, or like a slightly iridescent dolphin; the artiste led her to a sweet little table for two and laid her hands, palm-reader-style (but, of course, palms down), on an expanse of white towel. “They’re very short,” said the artiste. She was referring to Betty’s nails, not her hands, which are in fact rather long; Betty will remind readers that a bored haematologist once caught sight of Betty’s hands and impulsively measured her wingspan, investigated her palate and proceeded to X-ray her in search of a Marfan’s index. This diagnosis did not eventuate. The artiste regretfully informed Betty that she would have to go for what she technically termed a “roundy shape”, the (apparently much cooler) “squary shape” being unavailable on such short nails. Betty readily acquiesced (she is a roundy, not a squary, anyway), and the artiste proceeded to file, buff, scrape, press, clip, again buff, clean and finally polish Betty’s nails.
One wonders why it was termed a mini-manicure, because it took about fifty minutes; Betty had a very pleasant time chatting to the artiste. At the end, the artiste advised Betty to be careful of her nails for the rest of the day, and not to wash in hard water.
So. A question. Why, when one’s nails are still soft, does one find that one bumps them into every little thing all the time? With a heightened sense of her nails, Betty still found it near-impossible to avoid denting them on the car key, or smacking them into the steering wheel, never mind the temptation to run them idly through her hair. It is a puzzling and yet intriguing somatic exercise, this polishing of the nails.