Sometimes I worry that my nail person hates me. Seeing as I get about five pedicures a year and don't have a salon to which I am loyal (meaning I don't even really have a "nail person"), I'm not sure exactly why I devote any time to being concerned about this. Regardless, I often spend the first 15 or 20 minutes of a pedicure (never a manicure, since having nail polish on my fingernails makes my hands feel like they can't breathe. Totally normal, right?) tied in knots. And most often, I'm busy worrying that my poor nail technician is disgusted by my leg stubble.
For all I know, my nail lady having to run her hands over my prickly legs is the pedicurial equivalent of nails scratching on a chalkboard. Sure, I could eliminate this entire worry by shaving beforehand, but don't you remember a few years ago there was a big to-do about how nail salons were crawling with flesh-eating bacteria? And if you shaved your legs too soon before getting a pedicure, those nasty little monsters would crawl in through the tiny cuts on your legs and destroy you from the inside out?? See, it's not so simple!
I'm not the only one wrestling with this nail judgment issue. I have one friend who fears that his nail lady is holding back gags as she trims away the cuticles from his "dad toes" and another girl once told me that she gives herself a "pre-pedicure" before her first pedicure of the summer because she doesn't want the nail people to see what a crusty mess her feet have really become over the winter. Sooo, yeah… What are we going to do with ourselves?
Here's an idea: instead of worrying that we are our nail technician's worst customer ever, we could find out what actually annoys them. And then we would have rules to follow, and we would know that as long as we followed those rules, we would not have to worry about being hated and could instead spend our time at the nail salon relaxing in those somewhat painful and spasmodic massage chairs they have. OR, if we are really truly intent on being anxious, we could move on to using our pedicure time to worry about more important things, like the imminent collapse of the global economy or whether our Mexican food delivery guy thinks we do nothing but sit in our apartment in unflattering shorts and eat burritos.
So, for the sake of relieving our collective suffering, I went out and talked to a bunch of nail technicians. They were all very nice. (Well, except for a few of them who refused to talk to me because they thought I was a cop? But, uh, let's not worry about them right now.) It turns out we're not nearly as annoying as we think we are. I mean, sure, some of us are VERY annoying, but most of us are totally fine. Here a few of the things that get under the nail techs' skin the most:
Almost all of the nail techs I talked to mentioned people on phones as their number one pet peeve. It shouldn't come as a surprise that — because they are human beings — nail salon employees find it disrespectful when you walk in on your phone and keep talking while they're trying to set you up for your service. Probably if you are the kind of person who worries about annoying others, you'd never do this in the first place, but just in case you needed a reminder: get off the phone and pay a little bit of attention to the staff as you pick out your color, get settled, etc.
And the same rule goes for when you're receiving your service(s). Most of the nail techs said they don't care if you answer your phone and say something to the effect of "I'm getting a manicure, I'll call you back later." But they're not psyched about you carrying on extended phone conversations. They know your droning on is annoying to the other customers in the salon. This puts them in the bad position of feeling like they should ask you to shut up so that the other customers can relax but then also not wanting to piss you off because they still want you to tip them.
Though it turns out they don't mind it if you come with a friend and chat quietly, or even if you bring your child with you (as long the kid is well-behaved and doesn't take up space they need for another client). They don't even mind talking to you themselves, if they're comfortable speaking English. A few of the techs I spoke to who weren't fluent said it was stressful to try to make conversation. So, you can play that one by ear, but mostly they're happy as long as you're not disrupting other customers.
This was another very common complaint, especially among the nail techs who work in higher end salons and spas that run on an appointment-only basis. It seems that a lot of people don't take their nail appointments very seriously and do things like show up 45 minutes late or book an appointment for a mani/pedi and then decide at the last second that they really only want the pedi. This wastes time and causes the nail people to lose money, which, as you can imagine, they find quite annoying. So, if you want to stay on your nail lady's good side, respect her time. Another thing: it bugs them if you ask for a manicure or pedicure and then don't really want most of the services included in it (cuticles pushed back, exfoliation, massage, etc.) because then they have nothing to do for most of the time slot they've set aside for you. If you really just want the basics, book a polish change instead. It's cheaper for you and doesn't waste their time.
Nobody likes a customer who is rude or demanding, but in the minds of a few of the ladies I talked to, being wishy-washy was just as bad. Some examples of irksome behaviors: taking 20 minutes to choose the PERFECT nail color or asking for the tech to change your nail color after she's already painted all of your nails. (Have them do one nail as a sample first if you're unsure about the color; that's fine.) The nail ladies all want you to be happy with your manicure, but they don't want you to endlessly obsess over every tiny thing. As one woman smartly put it, "They're just nails — there are bigger problems to worry about in the world." Amen, sister.
I don't even like typing the words "nail fungus," so imagine how your nail technician would feel about touching it. Shudder So, if you've got fungus and you know it, clap your hands. Just kidding, go get it treated before you go into the nail salon, dingbat! They don't want it spreading all over them and their equipment. Also, in most places they're not even allowed to work on your nails if you have fungus. Thus, if your nail tech informs you that you have it and gives you some resources to get it treated (as any good one should), take care of it. Nothing drives them crazier than when you reappear the following week or month with the same problem that caused them to turn you away before! Also, it is a universal truth that large cuts and blisters are gross and nail treatments should be avoided when you've got them. Sure, the nail techs don't want to massage a gaping wound, but more importantly, do you really want stray bacteria crawling in through it? And wouldn't it also kill to have one of those callous stones run right over a fresh blister. Yikes! Don't be crazy, people. If you've got a festering sore, stay home.
The Good News
Think about all the things that are not on the above list: unshaven legs, toe jam, super cracked heels, smelly feet, weirdly shaped thumbnails, freckles, large toes, extra tiny hands, ticklish cuticles, shabby flip-flops, etc. Basically, any of the grooming laziness or physical quirks you've been obsessing about are of no concern to your friendly neighborhood nail person. I asked them all repeatedly, trying to get them to admit that they actually found hairy man feet gross or secretly could not stand when someone bites their fingernails, but the truth is they just really don't care. After all, this is their job, and they've see thousands of hands and feet. In the same way that your gynecologist does not find your vagina disgusting (or does s/he?!?!?!), your nail person is not repulsed by your appendages or put off by the work required to keep them in working order.
Unless you are a walking nightmare who can't stop talking to your friends on the phone about how you're covered in fungus and always shows up late to appointments because you have to stop every five feet to tend to your oozing wounds, you can stop worrying that your nail person hates you.
Cassie Murdoch is a writer living in New York. She leans towards Vermillionare.
Image via sspopov/Shutterstock.com.