Two Jews in a Nail Salon: Stories of SoCal
Sounds like the beginning of a corny joke, right?
This week, after a long work day, I decided to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure. I drove up to the salon, and did my New York walk (purse on my arm, phone to my ear) up to the salon door. The last time I had stepped foot in there was eight years before; it had peeling white walls, broken desks, and plastic containers to replace the broken pedicure spa baths. I was shocked to find that the salon had transformed into a warm, friendly salon, the walls recoated in a homey shade of orange, and pedicure spas very much in use. I was immediately greeted by the chirpy manager. Her warm smile and shiny hair, an intense shade of auburn, reflected against the sun, almost blinding me. She took down my name, and motioned me to the color wall.
Within moments, I was transported into a blissful state, my feet soaking away. I pulled out a copy of my latest read “The Committed Marriage” by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, and left reality for a little while.
“Are you married?” The nail technician said, as she applied the thick, red polish to my toes.
“Engaged,” I answered, half aware of the question.
“Do you find that reading books like that helps?”
“It’s interesting to read different people’s perspectives on marriage.”
“Those never worked for me, hopefully you’ll have better luck.”
I smiled, not sure how to answer. She went right back to the polishing processing, ending the conversation.
With my fingers and toes freshly lacquered, she helped me off the massage chair, and onto a spinning chair on other side of the salon. She turned around, gathered my belongings, and promptly plopped them on the desk in front of me. She turned on a fan, motioned for me to hold my hands up to it, and then quickly disappeared out the door for a coffee break.
In the chair to my right, a middle aged woman, with thin brown hair and tired eyes, was dozing off in the middle of her manicure. She came in and out of consciousness, as I sat there, holding my nails up to a fan that obviously didn’t have enough power to dry them. When she came to, she turned to her left and jumped.
“Oh, look at that! I fall asleep, and sleeping beauty has come to sit next to me! Aren’t you a beautiful woman!” she sighed.
“Thank you,” I murmured. I could feel my cheeks burning up.
Silence again. My back was beginning to ache from bending towards the small fan. I began to gather my belongings.
“I hope this is not too forward of me,” the woman on my right began. “But are you Middle Eastern by any chance?”
“Ah, I knew it! One Jew can always spot another!”
I smiled. She began to ask me questions about my life, my time spent in Israel, and shared thoughts of her own. When she saw my copy of ‘The Committed Marriage” she too asked about my relationship status.
“So, you’re going to cover your hair?” she asked when I told her I was engaged.
“Yes, ma’am. With a wig.”
Now a third woman chimed in: “I didn’t know Orthodox Jews covered their hair with wigs, I thought they wore burkhas! Good to know.”
I smiled, and explained to her the difference in customs to the best of my knowledge.
The woman on my right quickly changed the subject: “What’s your name sweetie?”
“Well, that’s a Jewish name, if I ever heard one! I’m Leslie Berger. What do you do, Miss Leigh?”
“I’m a writer.”
“Ah, how wonderful!” With that, she opened her purse and handed me her card.
“Find me on Facebook, I’d love to keep up with your writing and your plans.”
I smiled, then big my farewell from them, and made my way towards the door. Leslie too gathered her belongings, and walked out behind me.
“It’s always so nice to meet another Jew. I want you to know, and I hope you don’t judge me for this: I converted to Christianity several years ago. I very much belief in God, and I believe in the bible. I just see things differently. I hope you’ll still find me. May I hug you?”
“Of course,” I said, allowing her to envelope me in her arms. “I try not to judge people’s decisions,” I explained, as she let go of me.
“Well, I hope this doesn’t alter the nature of our friendship.”You have a nice day, Miss Leigh, and good luck with your wedding plans! And thank you for understanding my decision.”
“Nice to meet you, Leslie. All the best to you!”
I made my way towards my car, my mind filled with thoughts…
How soon is too soon to invite her for Shabbos?