red nailsNew York is filled is manicure salons.  “Pretty Nails,” ”Golden Nails,” “Perfect Nails” are just some of the enticing names you can read on their windows. Coming closer you can see that the employees, mostly or only women, are either Asian or Spanish. The Eastern European manicurist is relegated, at least in Manhattan, to the more upscale nail departments of the corporate looking hair salons.

If having your nails done is your idea of fun, then it is very hard not to have your fun in Manhattan. Every 500 yards there is a nail salon, each with a few employees, so the wait cannot go for more than 10 minutes.

I started having my nails done when I reached 40. It was one of the signs that I grew older and had the patience to let a stranger do my nails.

Having your nails done is such an intimate ritual for me. I grew up having may nails cut very short and then filed by dad.

“Tica,”mom would call dad who usually slept or watched TV lying in the living room sofa. “Dana needs her nails cut.” Mom would have made that observation after giving me a bath.

Unfailingly, he would come to the bathroom where I would wait for him hanging onto the door knob or leaning against the wall and reading something or just staring at an imaginary point and thinking about something hard to grasp had it be shared out loud.

Tica would approach me with his nail clipper, which he kept stashed away in his bathroom cabinet, and made me sit on the bathtub rail he would bring a chair and sit next to me and start our Sunday evening ritual.

He took his time. He cut my nails very short, but he never hurt me. He always made them round and smooth. We both knew that had they not been very short I would look dirty within a day and as a child without a good cleaning habit I could get easily sick from whatever dirt would accumulate under my nails. Once cut, he would open the file end of the intimidating nail clipper – it looked very big and shiny — and filed each nail very carefully. Once done, he would ask me to open my hands and we would both admire his work.

I never cut his nails, although early on I developed a strange love for taking care of mom’s nails. I started enjoying cutting and filing mom’s nails and then polish them with nail polish. I also became interested in special scissors for cutting cuticles.

But all this nail-obsession did not translate to my own nails. For years I would just use “Tica’s technique” cutting my nails very short. Having clean and short nails was the only nail fashion I could have as a smoker with yellowish fingers.  However, every time I experience intimacy I would find myself cutting nails and for a moment I would recreate a very dear ritual.

It took me a long time to let someone else touch my nails and take care of them. It took me even longer to stop fixing my cuticles as soon as I would go home.  It’s almost like learning how to take a breath and then let it go. And you know what? There are so many untold stories I can imagine watching those employees take care of my nails, so instead of being fixated in finding out that Tica’s standard remains the golden standard of nail care, I look around and take in the people I see around me and the stories they carry tucked away in their bags, iPods, or books. And their looks, the way they stare at their own imaginary point is so endearing that I really enjoy choosing the color for this nail polishing experience.

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