How Not to be a Dick to Your Manicurist

I love most of my clients, but like any service job, you’ll inevitably get some dicks in the mix.

I’ve met all manner of folks as a professional manicurist and nail artist. I’ve painted thousands of nails, and held hands with total strangers for hours. I love most of my clients, but like any service job, you’ll inevitably get some dicks in the mix. Here’s how to make the time we spend together enjoyable and not awkward.

1. “Are you gonna add another coat? Why does it look streaky? Will you do my thumb?"

With all due respect, I don't come to your cubicle and tell you how to digitally market content to advertisers or whatever. That thing where you’re examining your nail after every brushstroke, turning your fingers toward you and scrutinizing, is possibly my number one peeve.

I’m gonna need you to trust me. I'm a professional who went to school for this, and I promise I'll do everything in my power to ensure that your nails look fabulous. Please note that certain pastel colors, white, or the dreaded Essie "Fiji," go on very streakily and may require more than two coats to look opaque. Sometimes, the process doesn’t look pretty, but the end result will be worth it. (This applies to life in general, marinate on that.)

2. Bring a friend!

Sometimes it's a nice break from the emotional and physical drain of small talk to have you chat with a buddy instead of me. Plus I love overhearing your relationship woes or the gossip about your co-­workers, especially if I don't know these people. I'm a writer! Regarding conversation, I’m trying to feel your style out. If your reply to “How was your weekend?” is monosyllabic, I’ll shut up. If you seem chatty, I will engage.

3. Relax and adjust when asked.

I’m a ball of tension, so I get it, but please relax your hand as much as possible and listen when I gently remind you to. I can't polish your nail correctly if your finger's sticking out like a teenager's boner. Also, could you please scoot your chair closer to the table? My back and neck hurt! I was taught in nail school that I am to bring the client’s arm or leg toward me, and not adjust my body to meet them. Ergonomics, injuries, etc.

4. Don't be a racist.

"I've never had a manicurist who spoke English!" This is not overtly racist, and maybe that's your experience, but it's not exactly OK either. Do not mimic or mock a ESL manicurist’s accent

I once worked on a young tourist who said that back home they only had Chinese salons. "They're Vietnamese!" her mother hissed. "Same thing!" replied Madison. I teasingly told her, "Careful saying that in New York City, darlin'!" because that was literally all I could think of to say in that moment (out loud).

It's not totally appropriate for me­­, a person giving a theoretically relaxing service, ­­to launch into a lecture, just like it wouldn't be cool for your waiter to do that. So, uh, I'm telling you here.

5. Leave the kid or dog at home.

A well­-behaved child who can sit still and be quiet is totally fine once in a while, but do not bring your infant. I certainly don’t think public breastfeeding is offensive or gross, but please don’t do it while I am attempting to do your nails. That’s a guaranteed smudge or ding.

If you bring your dog, please make sure it sits quietly on the floor or in its carrier and not on your lap. Disclaimer: I am a crazy dog lady and will be distracted by its cuteness, resulting in a slower service. Also, nail polish and dog hair do not mix. Gel polish is even worse, because then you have baked-­in dog hair.

6. Don’t eat while you’re sitting at my table.

Grease and moisture are the enemy of your polish’s longevity. Also, the smell of food mingling with the smell of remover and lacquer is just grody. It would be unfortunate if either of those things somehow made it into your lunch.

7. It helps to have an idea of what you want before you come in.

If not, it’s not a huge deal, I’m an indecisive Gemini and totally feel you. But if your decision-making process takes an excessive amount of time, this may cut into your appointment time and make me late for my next client. If you hate the color or design you’ve picked, please let me know after we paint the first nail, and not after all 10 are done, or you’ve been through a cycle of the UV/LED lamp.

8. "Nice tats! What do they mean?"

“What is that one? I don’t have any; I could never pick something that means a lot to me.” :::Touches my arm::: Please see this.

9. Say no to drugs.

I shan’t begrudge you one or two glasses of wine or a couple hits off a joint before your appointment, but please don’t be wasted! I once manicured a woman who was completely strung out on some kind of narcotic. She kept nodding off during her service, and her hand was slipping and rolling in a manner not conducive to clipping or filing nails. (If you’re struggling with addiction, you don’t have to go it alone, and I have some resources for you.)

10. C.R.E.A.M.

Cash tips are greatly appreciated. Credit card tips are usually taxed, and aren’t distributed until paychecks are given out. It’s my understanding that this is standard across the service industry. I personally always try to tip cab drivers, hair stylists, and servers in cash.

Thanks for reading, and stay polished!