“$30! Mani/Pedi!” screamed the Barney purple sign outside of Yolanda’s Nail & Spa on 2nd Avenue and 45th Street in Manhattan. Big enough, purple enough, and loud enough to lure in the hip, young corporate-types and this wandering tourist. It’s cheaper to get your nails done in New York City than most anywhere else in the continental United States, but that comes with the price of making sure you pick a salon that treats their employees fairly. It was a Friday, which meant the city’s salons upped their prices for the weekend. There’s something about $30, though, that seems both perfectly reasonable and not demeaningly inexpensive.
“Hello! Mani, pedi?” inquired the owner, perched behind her hostess desk. “Yes, please. Thirty dollars?” “Yes! Thirty Dollar! You, go! Pick out nail color!” Aggressively happy to have my business, I walk over the the white column in the middle of the salon, wrapped on all four sides with colorful Essie and Opi nail polishes, and start the arduous task of picking just the right shade of pink.
My nail artist, Zoe, started the process of cleaning up the mess of uneven nail ends and messy cuticles. I’m thankful for her diligence. A good manicure, like a great haircut, is something you appreciate if only because you can never recreate it nearly as well on your own. As she started to apply the light pink nail polish, she stopped abruptly. “This not good. You want white” she advised. I nodded my head, and knew she was spot on as she applied the color I really wanted, but had overlooked.
“Massage?” In New York City, this question holds so much weight. When you’ve been hustling around all day, dealing with hoards of people on the subway and on the sidewalks, constantly being almost late for everything, being asked if you want a massage felt like Mr. Rogers wrapping you in one of his comfort sweaters. “How much?” “Twenty dollar for thirty min” she replied. “Yeah, ok”. Zoe walked me towards the back of the salon and sat me down in the tilted massage chair. I thoroughly melted away as she began to crunch and work the multitude of knots that nested near my shoulder blades. My brain released every bit of dopamine it could produce. I immediately lifted my head, just enough to be heard, and offered to pay for another thirty minutes. I dare say, it was the most relaxed I have ever felt in New York City. I kept thinking how stupid I was for never taking advantage of this when I lived there. It was so relaxing and so recharging that when I got up after it was all over, Zoe and I hugged. It was such a sincere moment; me being grateful to her and her acknowledging how good her work was. I felt as though I found the best nail place, and best nail woman, in New York City. This is my gift to you.