Give Them a Hand!Erev Shabbos in Jewish homes across the world (or at least in London), women such as myself, are busy playing ‘beat the clock’ before Shabbos comes in.
Not so in Monsey NY.
Erev Shabbos in Monsey finds the average Eshes Chayil in the nail salon.
On Friday afternoon, completely organised and relaxed knowing that they have Shabbos completely prepared at home. (Halevei of mir gezucht!)
In Monsey, there are as many nail salons as there are Minyanim. In spite of this, these ‘manicure havens’ are all really homogonous and their staff are literally interchangeable.
These nail salons are all owned and operated by Koreans although to the untrained Monsey eye, they all look Chinese. It is always run by the one Korean ‘Mamasan’ (okay, that’s Japanese. Sue me.) who can speak ‘Engrish’ so she can translate to the rest of her workforce that do not. Ironically, although they can’t say a full English sentence, they all have nametags with monikers stolen straight from an All-American cheerleader squad. You can have your nails done by Jenny, Jessica or Tiffany. They all smile at you sweetly, then yell at each other in Korean (which the Monseyiites would swear is Chinese) then smile at you sweetly again. They won’t understand any of the bright, witty, remarks and observations you make. Although they will laugh politely. Quite possibly at you.
What a waste of good material.
They grab the hand they need to work on and tap your rings to show that you must remove them. Then before they remove polish your nails, they say the only three words in English they know, “You pay now”. Which of course you do, making sure to tip them well so they don’t spit in your polish. You choose from a selection of nail polishes with names like; Moda Skooda, Ador-a ball, Raisinuts, Prima Ballerina and Limo Scene.
When you are done they deposit you by a huge table covered with nail dryers. They then carefully move your sheitel to the side (knowing that it is just a tug away from coming off) and proceed to massage your neck. After around one minute of bliss, they take their tiny fists and start to rhythmically beat you on the back until you thank them profusely or scream, “Mercy!”
But all of that is ‘de rigour’.
What I find so interesting on my Erev Shabbos Monsey expeditions are my fellow seekers in search of the perfect set of nails. Many moons ago, when I grew up in Monsey, Monsey was run primarily by the ‘Sensible Women Brigade’. You know, the type; sensible shoes, sensible hair, and mix and match clothes. In the good old days, these women would never be caught alive, doing something as vain as getting their nails done.
Not so anymore!
The Sensible Woman Brigade sits alongside the pretty and the pampered and make sure their nails are beautifully shaped and lacquered.
I say good on them!
And what is even better is the achdus the nail-drying tables facilitate. You have double decker women (sheitels and hats) wearing bullet proof tights and sitting beside women wearing very long sheitels with sheer tights, and women who wear no sheitels and no tights at all.
This bizarre gathering of interspecies creates an opportunity for instantaneous bonding where deep, meaningful conversations can take place.
My personal favourite debate is; is it correct to bring a baby to non family Chuppah?
Not once do they discuss kugels or chicken soup.
As I said earlier, these superwomen are super organised. Their food is ready and waiting for them to be warmed up and served. All that’s left for them is to be indulged and improved. After all, you wouldn’t want to greet the Shabbos Queen with mangy nails. These Nashim Tzidkanios look down on their gleaming fingernails as they light candles and bring light into the world and they feel great.
This promotes Sholom Bayis.
I guess that makes Jessica, Jennifer and co. the most unlikely shlichim.
Viva La Difference!