I Could Refer You to a Good Nail Tech, Y'Know

My mother went to cosmetology school right out of high school and became a fully licensed cosmo in California in 1964. By 1967, she had been forced out of the industry because of severe contact dermatitis; she reports that she couldn't make a fist without her skin cracking and bleeding. And her doctor told her that if she didn't quit, she'd be dead by 30 due to the inhalation of the "lacquer" in the hair sprays.


Mind you, she had retired from hairstyling three years before I was even born. Nevertheless, she maintained her license and so it was that I did not step foot inside a salon until I was 15, when my mother took me to have my very first set of acrylic nails done.


All she really wanted was to watch the process so she could do her own at home. They didn't teach acrylic nails back in 1963 when she went to beauty school.


What happened was that I was introduced to my true calling. We went and bought all the "professional" products at the local beauty supply store — and those products are a whole other blog — and Mom proceeded to attempt to do our nails at home. Turns out I was way better at it and that's the shortest version of how I got here today that I have ever told! But this story is about my mother.


So over the course of three decades Mom worked various office jobs and, in the late 1980s, she found one we all thought was going to stick. In the meantime, I got my manicurist license and started settling into my destiny. But for as long as I have done nails, my mother has been a fixture in the salon I work in.


She would come in after she got off work and sit in a corner crocheting and chitchatting with everyone and generally being good entertainment. Then, in 1999, she came by my salon after work and informed me that her boss had fired her. Well, that's another long rant and not at all nail-related; it was a BIG surprise and quite a betrayal — but that is how it came to be that my mother decided to do nails with me.


Since she had let her cosmetology license expire several years before, she had to go through the manicuring course and get a new license. A few years after getting her manicurist license, she decided to go back to school for massage. And so I worked with Mom from 1999 till I closed my last salon in 2007. And then she rented a room at the salon where I was booth renting, so I got to work with her for another two years, until the end of 2008 when she "retired" for medical reasons.


And here she is, sitting in a corner of my new salon, staring out the window keeping everyone in stitches as she pokes fun at the unsuspecting pedestrians of downtown Visalia ... and cleaning under her nails with the stylus of her Palm Pilot! In front of clients!


I said, "Let me get this straight: You are sitting in a nail salon, in front of a nail technician. Your daughter is one of the top-ranked nail techs in the nation — and you're using a stylus to clean under your nails?"


She's still apologizing through the laughter, but I had to say "thank you" because at least it gave me a good story to blog.


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