Me, Mike and Manny circa 1966

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Beauty Girls

for V and M in Idaho

In beauty school V and M learned how to wet-curl old ladies’ hair, how to blow dry and flatiron and dye wigs, how to pluck brows, exfoliate skin, how to clip cuticles, shape fingernails, and paint intricate designs on them.  They became best friends.  And when V’s brother saw M on V’s facebook page he said, “Who is that?”  Now they are sisters-in-law too.  Family.  So when they graduated, they came back to this little town in Idaho, a town where most people worked in sugar beet, potato and cheese factories—or in beauty salons, there are tons here— and they went parlor-hopping until they came upon the little gray house in the middle of town.  “Let’s work here,” they said. 
     And so they set up shop. 
      I had been traveling all through the northwest and my fingernails were in sad shape.  It’s hard for a city girl to be without.  I thought I’d stop in for an hour and then head back to the camps where I was researching the lives of Japanese Americans interned during WWII.
     I should have known when V skipped soaking my feet in water.  “Give me your foot,” she said. I lifted my leg and put my right foot in her lap.  She began to take the polish off.
     The second sign should have been when she buffed my nails and started placing polish on it before wiping the dust from the nail beds (forget the washing your hands part), but I was out west and it was not my culture, so I was going with it.
      Little bumps began to form. “It’s clumping,” I said. 
      V pulled my finger forward.  M flashed her cell phone light on it; examined it.  They sanded down the fingernail and started over.  They did that to three or for nails.
      All afternoon they talked to me, simultaneously working on my hands and feet, conferring with each other, giggling all the while.  I felt a little like an experiment.
      I might have been walking through another historic concentration camp, but today I was at the parlor.  And the beauty girls charmed me with their banter, with their earnest attempt to give me the perfect mani-pedi. In that short time, I came to love each one of them and I tipped them probably more than I should have.  And I walked away with fingers and toes that looked worst than when I came in.    

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