An overrated rite of passage

Caitlin Brown

Trips to the manicurist are not supposed to result in man-fingers and a trash can full of pink-stained tissues. They are supposed to lighten your mood, increase your girliness and give you that extra feminine edge.

I left with gummy pink nails stained with a slight tinge of blood.

What started out as a trip to the mall with a friend ended with me $15.97 poorer and already scouting for the nail-polish remover. This makes me sad. Not the money part — every girl needs her first manicure, right? But I expected to love it — to feel like a new person, even — but I was depressingly disillusioned.

I signed in on a well-used clipboard. Pages from other days showed the names of dozens of women who had scrawled their signatures, expertly wielding the pen in their curved, inch-long acrylics, no doubt.

There was no wait, so I sat down in a rolling chair in front of a pony-tailed, slightly scowling woman. She grabbed my hand and started filing. All right. No big deal. I can do this. Next came the warm bowl of water, and then she buffed and trimmed. Out came what I like to remember as her miniature pruners.

Like she was cutting a pattern out of fabric, she cut around the three sides of each of my nails, collecting what looked suspiciously like an ever-increasing pile of skin on top of the little shears. When the blood started to flow, my suspicions were confirmed. I stuck it out bravely. Nonplussed, ungloved, she snatched a little blue bottle off her shelf and squirted it onto the offending holes in my flesh. Visions of mutant genes and hideous diseases transferred from this miserable bottle directly into my vulnerable bloodstream danced in my head.

She finished with that, rolled up my sleeves and prepared to put some sort of mango citrus delight of a lotion onto my mangled hide.

Wonderful. I was then instructed to wash my hands in a sink on the other side of the room. This was it. Should I snatch my purse and ditch my friend temporarily while escaping suffering permanently? I decided against it and instead settled back in. Besides, my nails hadn’t even been painted yet.

She gestured to the rack of nail polish sitting to my right. I had a picture in my mind of a light buffy pink — something soft and refined.

There were only three pinks worth considering in that collection, and the wild pinks of I-wore-this-color-spandex-in-the-’90s sort were quickly ruled out. What I got was a pink the exact shade of the carpet I picked out for my room when I was 5 — the same shade I’ve been begging my parents to replace ever since I was, oh, I don’t know . 6. Another layer of pink and a lacquer to seal it later, my wide-nailed fingers (hence the man-hands) were ready for the tanning bed. Another woman — this one smiling — picked up my purse and led me to the light-table so my hands (polish and blood alike, I suppose) could dry. I sat forlornly, every now and then watching my friend get her French manicure filed and polished to a prim, painless perfection.

I left with the rather dejected feeling that somehow, it just wasn’t what I expected. Maybe I’m not used to parting with bits of skin that usually stay quite firmly attached, thank you. Maybe I don’t like spilling blood over femininity. Maybe I’m just na’ve; was this how manicures usually go? I expected some sort of sign, maybe — Welcome to the world of women who get manicures!

So I left that day, went home and showed my new nails off anyway, despite my misgivings. I wasn’t a new person, and there wasn’t a welcoming committee on the other side.

But hey, if I ever decide to buy a bottle of that pink hue myself, maybe for my next “Saved by the Bell” party, at least spilling it on the carpet won’t matter — it will blend right in.

Caitlin Brown is a freshman nursing major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].