Yesterday was HOT, hitting well over 100 by the time we left the rock climbing gym. The kids wanted to go swimming, but the level of adult supervision required for that cool antidote to the day’s temperature escaped me. I was much more interested in RESTING. And then I noticed the nail on my left big toe, the one my daughter Reiley managed to pull half way off a few weeks ago when her sandal caught it as she ran over and by me. (Yes, OUCH!) By yesterday, it had grown back enough that a pedicure would would be fully ten-toes worth it. I suggested a stop at the “Star Nail Salon and Spa” on our way home.
Both girls quickly agreed that was a wonderful idea and immediately began discussing which nail polish colors they would pick. “Sparkly,” as always, for Olivia. Something patriotic – maybe stars and stripes – for Reiley. Parker snarled, slipped down in his seat, crossed his arms over his chest in disgust and asked “What am I going to do?” If his big brother Quentin were home this week (he’s at camp on Catalina Island), EVERYONE would have been “up” for a trip to the spa because the boys usually go to Borders to have a drink and choose a book while we “girls” enjoy being pampered. I bet he thought he’d have to JUST SIT AND BE BORED . But I returned the Nintendo DS he’d lost earlier in the day for failing to feed the cats, Parker sat up with a “Yeah,” and we were off.
Just over ten minutes later, we were inside the “kitty cat” spa (that’s what Olivia calls it because of the black cat logo). Before I could finish signing in, Olivia had selected hot pink nail polish from the rack, managed to open it, and spilled it all over the floor. Tempted to rethink the afternoon’s indulgence, I nearly left…I’m glad I didn’t, though. In addition to missing out on an hour of “cura,” or care, I would have missed terrific, gendered and gender-bending, multicultural experiences.
First, there was the slightly uncomfortable “little” girl with braces and her long hair pulled tightly into a high pony-tail – just like Reiley! “Look, another member of your club!” I told her as we took our seats, dropped our feet into the warm, bubbling water, and turned on the massagers. Reiley smiled and blushed. THEN, following a quick conversation among a triplet of Vietnamese manicurists, the woman filing my finger nails told me that this little girl was not quite 11 and “so tall.” “Just like Reiley,” I responded. “Your daughter is ten also?” She asked. “She turned 11 last month.” “Oh, so tall,” she said and shook her head. Later, Reiley and her new-found soul mate chatted while their toe nails dried. (Reiley’s are bright red with blue and white stripes in the center.) Reiley learned that they are both 5′ 2″ tall, going into sixth grade, and like bright, seasonal nail polish.
Second, there was “the woman with the big arm muscles,” as Parker would tell me when he ran over to alert me that she’d come in. “Yes, I know,” I told him. (From my vantage point, it was nearly impossible to miss new comers to the spa.) To be honest, she does have muscular upper arms. We nodded briefly a few weeks ago at the rock gym, where she’d brought a group of women she is training. Then she turned up at our daughters’ dance class. Olivia usually takes dance on Fridays, but there were a number of weeks we had to attend “make up” class on Thursday, which is when this woman’s daughter dances. We chatted briefly about how much our daughters like to dance, how “girly” they are, and about what kind of work outs we enjoy. And yesterday, there she was at the spa. I love it! Women who work out used to mock those who didn’t, casting them as pampered, simpering, weaklings. Yet here we both were. I was sort of a wreck, having spent the day working at home, then onto the rock gym, with a quick stop on campus to do some research. She was wearing a sundress.
Third, there were the “little girls” – Olivia and this woman’s daughter, who immediately recognized one another. Olivia’s nails – sparkly with flowers – had just finished drying. She ran over and was visibly torn between playing with this little girl’s toys (HER mom was so prepared; she had a tote filled with toys that appeared to be “Polly Pocket” sized dolls and accessories) and running around the spa. Thankfully, she opted for the toys, but not for long. Soon BOTH girls were “boxing” with wax hands – you know, the ones featuring different lengths, polishes, and designs for those getting acrylic nails to choose among? Yes, the girly-girl little dancers transformed themselves into life-sized miniature “rockin’ boppin’ robots.”
Fourth, there was Parker. This kid is so in touch with his feminine side that I’m honestly surprised he didn’t, at least, inquire about the possibility of a pedicure. After all, SOMETIMES there are men having spa treatments when we’re there. He didn’t, though. He played his Nintendo DS until the battery died, then switched to my cell phone until he was bored, and finally resorted to riding the rolling stools that the women sit on while doing pedicures. He’d just nearly lured Olivia away from her boxing match to join him when his father called. I could almost see him roll his eyes when I told him the girls and I were having our nails done. He said he only had one question: “What color are Parker’s toe nails?” Momentarily recalling the days when his older brother used to join me when I was “painting my nails,” I assured him that Parker had passed on the opportunity in favor of video games.
Finally, as a sort of testament to how diverse our suburban world is becoming and how very observant children can be, our spa experience ended with a quick review of My-Thuan Tran’s LA Times article on Vietnamese immigrants who have both found a quick way into the American economy by training as manicurists, and altered that economy by making the “day spa” affordable to middle-class and working women. Once we had paid and were safely back in the car, Parker asked aloud, “Why are all of the ladies who do nails ‘Chinese’?” Before I could offer an explanation, thanks to Ms. Tran, Reiley pointed out that there was one Latina manicurist. There was! And, ironically, her client was the only Asian woman in the spa who wasn’t an employee!