Complicated characters

My sister’s and mom’s nails always look nice, and even my dad, a farmer who dug in the dirt for thirty years, could probably win a hand model competition over me. But I decided to get my nails done with the new shellac that’s all the rage in hopes my hands would look less like gorilla hands, so I made an appointment with some woman over a Groupon, Mari, who took three months to schedule.

First: my nails do look a lot better. And because it was shellac you can’t ruin the finish, so you at least know you’re not going to look jacked walking out of the nail salon because you walked into the wall (true story).


Second: Mari. Oh, Mari. I learned a lot about her in our hour and a half together. She has over twenty tattoos; her son is fourteen and has a girlfriend and at least one ex-girlfriend; Mari is overweight but is taking special B12 and Lipo shots to address this, and the woman who gives her the shots is a real doctor even though she agreed to come to the salon to give the shots because three of the hairdressers are now getting them; she told me her actual weight and said some people think she looks sixty pounds lighter; I know a decent bit about her health problems; she is very good with dogs and gave enough examples I believe her. I heard about the ex’s sister, the boyfriend’s daughter, the dead niece. I know her family ate hamburger helper for dinner last night but that she had “shit on a shingle” i.e., hamburger and gravy on two pieces of toast, because, according to Mari, it’s healthier. I know she didn’t eat it all and her boyfriend finished it for her. I know her go-to dinner is tuna on a bagel. There are many more things I know about Mari, but like holding back her actual weight, I feel the need to protect her privacy even if she doesn’t.

Why is it people like to confess to other people, and to me in particular? I think a lot of it is the anonymity–I’m a stranger, what does she care?–but she also gave me a card and encouraged me to come back. Is it that some people don’t care who judges them? And if so, should I be jealous of that? Because I am someone who worries constantly that someone’s judging me, even the cats.

I think one difference between me and Mari is that what I view as confession she views as conversation, the differentiation being if it had been a real confession she would have cared about my reaction, but as it was, she couldn’t have given two shits what I thought. I guess I could have said to her, “Listen, Mari. I think it’s wrong to laugh when your son says something racist. And I think it’s short-sighted and problematic you think all your clients will agree it’s funny.” But I didn’t say this because, even though I had a complicated reaction to Mari throughout the course of the morning, I wanted her to like me. Did she like me? I think so, because if she hadn’t, I would have heard about it. Did she care if I liked her? I don’t think it even occurred to her.

By the end of it, I was kind of like, look at you, Mari. Look at you not giving a shit. While I disagreed with her about a lot of her stances, I did admire that she took them. I don’t necessarily want to tell people what I had for dinner (unless they come to this blog looking for it, at which point I’ll let you know it was leftover Italian chicken thighs, brown rice, and two Hersheys nuggets) but there’s something to be said for feeling you have the right to say it.

I think I could learn a lot from someone like this, and I think she could learn a lot from me. I do hope she’ll take my advice to at least talk to her real doctor about the shots, and I’m still a little nervous about the tattoo she’s planning with the boyfriend. She’s trying to decide between their zodiac signs (which I think is a good idea, because if they break up she can just add the rest of the calendar), or some Chinese or Japanese characters, but that seems like a conflicted message when she made some questionable comments about foreigners and their inability to speak English.

But I will say this for Mari: like her or not, she hooked me into the story.

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