Adventures In Unassertiveness: Why Can't I Just Say When I Don't Like Something?

I know it's ridiculous. Still, I fought against my inner voice and paid for something I knew I didn't like.
Publish date:
October 25, 2013
nail color, assertiveness, say something

A few weeks ago in L.A., where I live, I was scrambling get ready for a trip to Pittsburgh for a wedding. I spent the day rushing around picking up my dress from the dry cleaners ($12), finding the right bra to go under the dress ($38) buying new pantyhose when I realized all of mine had runs ($6).

I made a trip to the pharmacy for my migraine prescription just to make sure I wouldn’t get caught in Pittsburgh with a champagne-induced migraine ($29) Then, there was the personal grooming part of the wedding-weekend prep: a brow threading ($12) hair cut and color ($125) and now great nails would be the icing on the wedding cake!

I had made an appointment at the nail salon, but the hair took longer than I expected, so I got to “Holiday Nails” a half hour late. It has taken me years to find the perfect nail place, but I did: their equipment is sterilized and put into clearly labeled fresh paper and plastic bags, the footbath is always done with a clean new plastic wrap over the tub; they are meticulous about cleanliness, have never made me bleed (this is key,) remember my name and that I like my nails filed into a squoval. AND, it’s three blocks from my apartment.

So, you’ll understand my hesitation to piss anyone off.

Despite my tardiness, Jenni, a warm Vietnamese woman and my trusted manicurist, squeezed me in with a smile. I looked up at the price menu. Regular manicure, $12. Gelicure $27. Hmm. I do reserve gelicures for special events like weddings or vacations, and I usually do them in French, which tacks on another $7. But I had just spent a small fortune getting everything else together: did I really want to spend more than I had to on my nails?

Then again, gelicures do last for two weeks. Then again, I just got a hospital bill for $6,000 for cervical surgery, so did I really need extra shiny, chip-proof nails?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Like any good California gal, I indulge in a mani/pedi at least once a month (more in the summer). I often get a regular manicure with a natural-looking, sheer hush of pink on my fingers, something like Essie’s “Ballet Slippers.” At first I decided I wanted a French gelicure, but thinking about the extra time it takes (about ten minutes) I couldn’t justify it. I still had so much to do – clean my place, pack – the thought of sitting through the painstaking detail of the French was too much. Instead, I went to the wall of gel color samples – round plastic disks of plastic gel colored nails – and chose a warm, pinky nude.

Jenni, my usual and trusted manicurist said they were out of that color. She picked out what she thought to be a similar color for me. It didn’t come with a plastic sample nail, so she picked up the actual the bottle and glossed a single-coat stripe over one of my nails. It looked like a lovely, natural baby pink tone, and I said (and meant), “Looks great to me!”

I relaxed in her knowledgeable and experienced hands. After all, she had never steered me wrong. I sank into the massage chair and closed my eyes.

After the first coat, I looked down at my hands: they looked nice: natural, light, pretty. “Perfect,” I said, and closed my eyes again, letting her work her magic.

A few minutes later, I looked down to check out the handiwork: I was dismayed to see that my nails, so soft and pretty during the first coat, had turned the chalky shade of a fluorescent light bulb: more a violet-tinged white than a soft, natural pink.

“Oh!” I said.

“It’s nice, eh?” Jenni smiled.

I hated it.

My first impulse was to tell her to please stop: I don’t like the color, and can we change it to something else? But while that would have been simple enough during a regular manicure, it was something of an ordeal with a gelicure. There would be soaking, scraping, removal of polish, and maybe more sanding. So I fought against my inner voice and paid for something I knew I didn't like.

When I got in the car I looked down at my hands as they turned the key in the ignition. Ugh. Ugly. Why didn’t I say something?

In a way, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She thought it looked great. But as the night went on it grated at me. $27 plus tip for nails I hated! I looked at them under a different light. I tried to like them. Couldn’t.

“It’s fine, Sarah,” I told myself. “They’re just nails. Don’t be so picky. And it’s only for two weeks.”

Yes, yes, all true. But there were deeper issues here: why couldn’t I just tell her, “I’m so sorry, but this end-result color is very different than the one I agreed to. Would you mind redoing it?” I had a talk with myself.

Assertive self: “Just say something! She’d WANT you to be happy with your nails!”

Unassertive self: “You can’t waste her time.”

Assertive self: “It’s a lot of money. You should be happy with the result.”

Unassertive self: “You’ll seem snotty and ungrateful.”

Assertive self: “Just be polite but honest: it really isn’t the color you were shown.”

Unassertive self: “This is what comes of trying something new. Damn it! Next time, stick to what you know!”

Fortunately, once I was at the wedding reception, in the soft, candlelit glow of the ballroom, they didn’t look that bad. It was the rest of the two weeks, in natural lighting, that annoyed me. All because I decided it was too impolite to ask my manicurist to change the color halfway through. $32 later, I regretted it.

xoJaners, what would you have done? Should I have asked for a redo? When have you been in a similar situation, and what did you do?