Monday, March 19, 2012

Perfection at my Fingertips

Sylvia Fowler: [Showing her nails to Mary] Mary, how do you like that?
Nancy Blake: Too, too adorable.

Sylvia Fowler: Ah, you have no idea how it stays on. I get it at
Sydney's... A wonderful new manicurist, Olga's her name, she's marvelous.Isn't that divine? Jungle Red!
Nancy Blake: Looks like you've been tearing at somebody's throat!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Global climate change. A contentious presidential primary. Afghanistan's a mess. The economy's on life-support. Clearly, it's time to talk about...

Manicures. Sorry, guys, I know you were hoping for a discussion of the Sweet Sixteen, but Ross's beloved Hoyas went down to defeat on Sunday, so we're not talking about college hoops in deference to his loss. I've been thinking about manicures a lot lately -- perhaps because the weather's been so unusually warm (that's going to be the extent of our climate change discussion) and warm weather always means bright, happy nails for me.

When we went off to Florida two weeks ago, I gave myself a quickie pedicure because I realized the day before we left that I'd be showing my feet in public for the first time since August '11. Every since then, I've been admiring my own toes; even when they're only uncovered long enough to take off one pair of socks and put on another, the cheerful coral is like a memento of those warm, sunny days.

Then, last week, my youngest daughter and I spied a sign outside the local day spa. In a bid to get more new customers through the doors (that's today's economic analysis, if you're keeping count) they were running a gel manicure special -- only $20.

Now normally, I'm pretty much a D-I-Y nail painter. I like to change up my color frequently, plus? I'm cheap. But I'd been reading about the super-hard, super-shiny gel manicures that lasted for up to three weeks, and I thought, why not? So Saturday, Youngest and I went in. I selected Cajun Shrimp, a creamy red with coral undertones, and she got Pompeii Pink, shimmery and purpley and suitable for a 6th grader. The nail technician painstakingly applied layer after layer after layer, each of which was baked by ultraviolet light. At the end of the process, my nails looked like someone in the Rolls Royce factory had been hand-lacquering and sanding them. They gleamed. They shone. They looked both expensive and bulletproof.

I had to go home and change my outfit to something worthy of my manicure. Even now, as I type this, I am stopping to admire my flawless fingertips. I'm already planning my next visit. Because if it really does last three weeks, that averages out to less than the cost of a cup of coffee per day. Small price for having one thing in my life that is absolutely, unquestioningly perfect.

How about you, Reds? Manis? Pedis? Or is there some other small beauty treat that makes you feel like you could conquer the world?

LUCY BURDETTE: I was a fiend for painted nails in my earlier incarnation, but now I have to keep them so short, they'd just look silly. The tiniest little extension of fingernail gives me tendonitis when I type--ridiculous!

I've never been a big fan of pedicures--until I tried having one by a pal from exercise class. My feet have never felt so good--and I had no fear about absorbing germs from the masses. My sister-in-law did make fun of me for choosing a color that was pale, pale, pale--next time maybe I'll go wild and ask for Jungle Red:).

And we are SO au courant, Reds. Did you see in this Sunday's NY Times a whole article on gel manicures? I must say, I am completely won over. My fingernails are now happily #33, which isn't as compelling as Cajun Shrimp but at my neighborhood mani place, the gels are by number. But you know me.It's Jungle Red, if I ever saw it.

It really does last three weeks--but I'd say, actually two, because your nails start to grow out, and it looks a little strange. But it does not chip, does not crack, and is impervious to everything far as I can see. I have actually researched whether there's any health drawback to it, and, interestingly, some people suggest wearing little cotton gloves with the fingertips cut off under the UV light that it needs to harden, because you are baking your hands in, essentially, sunlight. Some salons actually put sunscreen on your hands.

I can imagine some of the Reds HOWLING with laughter. I know, more than you wanna know. But hey. I vote this is a good thing.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Daughters are dangerous, Julia! Mine got me hooked on pedis a couple of years ago, and like any addiction, there is no going back. I love my Vietnamese nail salon (I'm wondering if the Dallas area is world capitol of Vietnamese nail salons?) and even if I can only afford a polish change, I keep my toes done from March to October (flip flop weather in Big D.) But the Deluxe Pedicure? With sea salt scrub, minty clay wrap, and hot stone massage? Absolute bliss. Makes me feel like a million dollars.

I did a gel manicure for the first time before my book launch in February, and you're right--it looked like the finish on a Rolls Royce. I did a dark purple, so it showed when it started to chip at the cuticles at almost three weeks. Next time I'll do a lighter color and maybe can go four weeks. Unfortunately, our salons charge more than $10....

Thanks for the frivolous boost!

JAN BROGAN - I love pedicures - because they last at least three weeks without the gel. I had my love affair with gel manicures last fall - it was awesome how great they looked for how long, but then I had one that left my nails looking like they'd been digging weeds in the Sahara, so I haven't been back. Like we are talking serious NAIL ABUSE. I think, though, it probably depends WHERE you have them done.

I'm pretty much into anything that smacks of vanity, but like Roberta, I have to keep my nails short. I play acoustic guitar, which those nails are always wrecking a chord, so I don't have a lot of incentive to keep them painted. I also get fidgety in the salon, unless of course, it's an event, and I take my daughter. I think pretty much everything you do is more fun when you have your daughter with you (more expensive, too, though.)

RHYS BOWEN: I have the world's most depressing finger nails. They break and rip and have to be kept short. I've had a few manicures in my life but I'm lucky if they last for the big day before they chip. However, I have never tried gel. Maybe this time...
But pedicures are something else. MY daughter took me to my first and I loved the massage chair, the foot massage and the red-purple polish lasted until it started to grow out. Now it's close to sandal season in Arizona I might think of another visit to the salon (why are they all Vietnamese? Did you ever see the famous skit?)

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Of course I love the look of a pedicure but I am really really squeamish about anyone touching these little piggies. I've had two friends tell me they'll never go with me again because I embarassed the heck out of them by squirming as if I was being tortured. I do the best I can on my own and stay with pale pinkish beige on the tootsies. And between gardening, baking and the keyboard most manicures don't last long for me. Plus my nails grow ridiculously fast, like my hair.

As it happens I watched The Women this weekend and got a kick out of the flashing jungle red nails - but my fave nail polish scene in a movie (and kudos for getting that shot from Scarlet Street) is from Lolita. James Mason polishing Sue Lyons' toenails - oh dear!

JULIA: How about you, dear reader? Do you have a standing appointment at the salon? Or does your nail routine consist of a set of clippers once in a while? Let your hair down and dish -- after all, getting your nails done is a great time to catch up on gossip!


  1. Julia, reading this blog was like having a sleep-over with my girlfriends. Nails. Hair. Chips. Swapping clothes. Junk food. Losing a contact. And of course - loud music.

    Hank, you always take such good care of everyone. But. Um. No white gloves. No. They would look silly with my Red Sox hat.

  2. Very fun post, Julia! I had my first pedicure ten years ago with my soon-to-be ex-sisters-in-law. We told the three (Vietnamese) women doing our feet we were sisters-in-law and they said, "We are too!" So now I go every month or so in the summer. The foot and calf massage is heavenly and then you can admire your toes every day. But I'm also a short-fingernail gal.

  3. I'm searching right now for a nail salon that is only a bus ride away. Love manicures but don't do the polish because the minute I walk out the door, it's smeared.

  4. Ah, pedicures, the reward for being a good girl every time. The best gift of all is a gift certificate for salon services, in my opinion.

    I don't indulge often; my lifestyle is rather like Rosemary's. But it is heavenly to give oneself over to the hands of a competent manicurist.

    My daughter got married last November, and I had the whole deal done: mani-pedi, facial, haircut, and leg waxing. But my fingernails are thin, and if a manicurist so much as touches their file to anything but the tips they peel. For months. I was so mad. Also, the manicure I had before the wedding didn't even last until the day she got married, the polish peeled right off. That was an expensive salon, too. Very disappointing, and I had no time to get it fixed. Luckily it was a pale color.

  5. Hmmm. I'm not a mani or a pedi gal at all. Like Jan, I get the fidgets when I have to sit still on demand.

    What I love about this post is this: Julia's Maine salon adventure (which I'm guessing happened outside of Portland) was described by Hank as au courant.

    The notion that Maine is a fashion backwater is so 2011.

  6. What fun, Julia! I love to read about you all getting manis, pedis, and the works. Gel manicures sound grand, and I enjoyed fantasizing. However, like Roberta, Jan, Rhys, and Rosemary, I have to keep my nails super-short--and like Ro again, I'm so squeamish when someone gets hold of my toes that I make an embarrassing fool of myself. Still, it was so much fun to indulge in a little girlish fantasy!

    Incidentally, for Reine and others, I've found that the little button for email notification disappeared from all Blogger blogs which use a separate comments page (as here) or a pop-up box because of an update. Many bloggers are quite vocally unhappy about this, and it's been booted up to Google to fix. So it's something totally out of the control of JRW or their tech person. We just have to be patient.

  7. I can't believe we didn't put up a pic of the pedicure scene from Bull Durham! Remember that? Remember when Kevin Costner used to be sexy? (Or at least in that movie...) Sigh.

  8. I have my own in-house pedicurist. (Is that a word?) My daughter is the queen of manicures and pedicures. She begins with a dry buff, followed by a soak in her vibrating foot spa and then a foot massage. (Her hands are very strong from years of playing piano.) Lastly she does the polish and it's almost always a surprise. I've had zebra striped toes, black toes with tiny red and black ladybugs, green toes with teeny candy canes, black and yellow bumblebee toes and blue and purple psychedelic swirl toes. I'm very spoiled.

  9. Darlene, May I borrow your daughter? PLEASE?

    Nope,I have never had a pedicure. On occasion I have had a professional manicure. On occasion I have done my own nails. A couple of them crack when I merely LOOK at them and that makes having manicures frustrating. (Around here,most shops are owned by Korean families that commute here to CT from Flushing in NY.) I would love to have another professional manicure but just KNOW that I would catch a finger or two in a drawer within hours of leaving the salon!

    My monthly massage is sacred to me and I would not even CONSIDER skipping it! Because my doctor recommends it,I tell myself that I'm doing it for Medicinal Purposes!

  10. I'm like Rhys--sad, sad fingernails. But I do like a pedi at my favorite Thai nail place when the weather is good. And I can't leave on a trip without a pedi either. I've never heard of gel before...Interesting. But if it needs a special UV light to dry, then I'm automatically not into it. I shudder to think what new-fangled chemicals are in the polishes.

  11. I'm like Rhys--sad, sad fingernails. But I do like a pedi at my favorite Thai nail place when the weather is good. And I can't leave on a trip without a pedi either. I've never heard of gel before...Interesting. But if it needs a special UV light to dry, then I'm automatically not into it. I shudder to think what new-fangled chemicals are in the polishes.

  12. How about the Seinfeld episode where Elaine wants to know what the Korean manicurists are saying about her and she gets someone to come in and translate..

  13. That's a hilarious episode! I have to admit, I sometimes wonder what the Thai ladies are saying to each other...

  14. I went into mourning for weeks when OPI discontinued Kangarooby.

    Pedis only, though -- had my first one for my 50th birthday and have had a standing appt ever since. Even in winter -- I may not see those bare toes often, but I love knowing they're bright and beautiful!

    Ro, you come to West Glacier some summers, right? I promise, if you come down to Bigfork, I'll get you an appt w/Teresa at Blush. She loves "pedicure virgins" and treats them beautifully -- you'll be hooked.

  15. Leslie..I may come this summer just for that!

  16. Linda, thanks for the info on the Blogger email notification button. xo