Racism, Sexism and a Bit of Gingism

Today after work I went to get a pedicure with a friend. We were both badly in need of some TLC on our toes (tender loving care, not T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili) and headed over to the local “Chic Nail Salon”. 

If you know anything about bargain nail salons, you know that they are usually run and operated by nice Vietnamese women. They have insane memories and will remember you even if you don’t go in for a year or two. They won’t remember your name, just strange specifics about you. I haven’t been into this nail salon in a very long time. The owner made sure to comment on the fact that my hair is different and asked if my friend was indeed my friend. I said no, and they all laughed. 


I hate feet, so the thought of other people touching strangers’ feet as a full time job really grosses me out. It even grosses me out and makes me extremely uncomfortable to have them touch my feet and deal with that deep blister that formed when I wore inappropriate shoes to hike around Boston. As is the case with most situations I deem awkward, I cope with the pedicure issue by making snarky comments and joking as much as humanly possible. And never, ever making eye contact. I also like to say things out loud that I think they might find gross, so it sort of takes the fun out of it for them to talk to each other in Vietnamese about it. 

I started out my stint in the pedi-chair by apologizing for my hairy legs (only slightly stubbly, which is the best scenario I can usually manage) and warned her about my crater of a blister as well. She smiled and said, “No Probrem”, and went about her business of telling me to put my foot in or out of the water in the quietest voice I’ve ever almost heard. I would of course never be looking at her face while she sloughed dead skin off of my heel, so she would have to gently shove or pull my leg, whichever was necessary. 

While I was trying to pretend there wasn’t a small Asian woman attached to the end of my leg, I took a phone call. It was my boss who had just gotten her hair did and called to fill me in on the result of the color, as I had asked her to do. Instead of just telling me about it, she decided to be hilarious and simply say, “I have no soul!” So obviously I knew she had gone red. She’s in my ear, talking about how she’s a ginger now and how she has no soul and I would have been laughing if it weren’t for this super-creepy ginger girl, staring into the depths of my soul as if she knew I was internally laughing at her kind. She wanted my soul for her own. She was basically Malachi from “Children of the Corn” and I was terrified. She was in the salon for the duration of our stay and never broke eye contact. I’m getting chills just thinking about her rusty head, milky skin and those dead, evil eyes. 


Once I was able to break my shell-shocked gaze away from the tiny ginger child I honed in on the fact that what I thought was the sound of a light breeze drifting through the salon’s open door was actually the two nail-ladies talking to each other in Vietnamese. And they both appeared to be hearing and understanding the other. I don’t speak Vietnamese, so they could easily be pretending to hear one another and simply saying nonsense words out loud in response, but my guess is that they have super-human hearing, which makes it really hard for me to let out my snark or talk about ginger kids right in front of them. 

In what I assume was a Vietnamese version of a shout, my lady laughed and told me that my hair didn’t cut her hands, so it wasn’t bad. I laughed as well, but nervously in case I had misheard her and she said that my stubble did cut her hands. Because…that would be weird. Then, once it was time for the polish she decided to follow my lead and try out another joke. She tapped my shin, gestured to the clear basecoat she had applied and asked me if I liked the color. I smiled and sort of laughed while she said, “Ha! I just shoking. Just shoking!” You’ve got to give a girl credit for trying to relate to her customers. It was adorable. 

The icing on the racist cake was when I was taking a look at the price-list/menu board and realized that under both Manicures and Pedicures it offered a “hot tower massage” instead of a “hot towel massage”. We’ve all seen the “Engrish is hard” jokes, but this was real life and I laughed hard, despite my experience with Linguistics and my knowledge about why those two letters are so interchangeable for those who speak an Asian language. It’s still funny. 

In closing, I got my feet prettied up, realized I’m more racist than I knew and I’m pretty sure my soul is now in the possession of that terrifying ginger child.


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