The Magic of Manis

Photo by  Sabina Ciesielska  

When I was in my twenties, I worked for a Big Five publishing house. Part of my job included getting up at quarterly sales conferences and presenting my books to the entire department's editorial, sales, and marketing teams. 

It. Was. Terrifying.

I would psych myself up for this event for weeks in advance, as my anxiety grew and grew. I could practically feel my throat begin to clutch just thinking about presenting. It was an intimidating crowd, and a large one.

At the time, my friend Laura was all about treatments and services. In particular, she was always talking about getting manicures. Aside from manicures I'd gotten for dances back in high school, they were never my jam. After all, I could paint my own nails (granted, my nails generally ended up looking like they'd been painted by a spasmodic 4-year-old, but whatever). Nonetheless, probably as a direct result of hearing Laura talk about manicures all the time, I decided that I needed to get my liquid courage for this presentation in the form of a bottle of nail polish.

The Sunday evening before my presentation, Laura and I ventured over to Pinky's to get manicures. I could hardly believe how luxurious and indulgent we were being. As an editorial assistant living in Manhattan, I didn't exactly have a lot of money to burn. Even though the manicure was probably all of $12, any extra expense was a big deal to me at the time.

All these years later, I can still honestly say that manicure was one of the best $12 I ever spent. To this day, I can still vividly see myself walking up the steps of my brownstone when I came home that night, admiring my nails as I went, then proudly flashing them at my boyfriend the moment I stepped into our apartment. (I don't think he was as impressed as I was, but he certainly appreciated my glee.) 

This manicure served several purposes. The act of sitting in a salon and being pampered with my friend by my side was a great distraction from my stress over the presentation. Likewise, I was so distracted by admiring my newly-polished nails, that it took my focus off of my anxiety. And, when the time for the presentation rolled around the next day, I felt--excuse the pun--more polished and put together than I normally would have. I'm sure no one else even remotely noticed, but I felt a bit better about myself--and, in the end, that's all that really matters.

After that presentation, I started getting manicures before special occasions, like first days of work or first dates. Then, after a few years, I began getting them on outings with friends, as an excuse for a bit of girl time. Finally, I got to the point where they became a regular ritual in my life. A little gift to myself.

Lately, these manicures (and, yes, I've advanced to pedicures, too), have become a very important part of my life. Once a month, I treat myself to a couple of hours in my favorite salon. It is like a hushed Zen haven. I get my nails done as I sit in a cushy massage chair, get rubbed down with homemade peppermint, lavender, and tea tree lotion, and indulge in a hot stone massage. By the time I leave, life looks a little bit crisper.

On a daily basis, while I may not have time (or the inclination) to do my hair or makeup, knowing that my nails are done makes me feel more pulled together. It sounds silly, but it makes me feel more confident and in control.

I used to feel like this monthly mani/pedi habit was indulgent. Until a couple of years ago, I would always hunt down the most reasonably priced salon I could find. I've let go of that now. I'm careful with my budget in pretty much every other area of my life, but I've come to realize that sending a bit more money on myself on a monthly basis to have a truly relaxing and rejuvenating experience is well worth the cost. In fact, it's probably even worth double the cost.

Last night I was a stressed out wreck. I'm in a tizzy getting ready to travel for work next week, and on a bunch of deadlines. After kicking my own ass to get stuff done yesterday, the night ended with my out-of-memory computer crashing, and taking all of the work I'd accomplished that day with it. I finally stopped working around 1:00 a.m., at which point Izzy decided it was the perfect moment to get up and party. So, let's just say that when I woke up this morning, I wasn't feeling exactly chipper.

But, thankfully, today was mani/pedi day. And, wouldn't you know it, I walked back out of those spa doors with my light lavender nails gleaming in the sun, and a new sense of purpose and confidence.