It started out as a typical morning at coffee with the “boys.”
I’ve been having coffee with the guys at City Shop around four years now. We show up any time after 6:00. The boss is there first and the coffee pot is full. “We” means the city employees (minus the clerks), a county commissioner, another councilperson and me. I’m there by invitation — honored to be accepted as “one of the boys.” Work starts at 8:00. I usually leave when the boss begins assigning the day’s tasks, around 7:30. It’s a good way to start the day.
We had exhausted the usual run of topics: baseball (Cardinals versus Cubs); football, which I think is a dumb sport but I do well on the football pool so can’t complain; soccer, which I think is dumb, too, but am beginning to understand it, which worries me; and rugby, with one blood-lusting fan in the group.
Richard’s wife Marcia owns a hair salon. She recently rented space to a manicurist. Richard said, “I can’t believe how many women come in to have their nails fancied up. That woman is busy all the time. I don’t understand how they justify spending the money to have their fingertips colored and sparkled. I could do that for them in five seconds. I’d just dip their fingers in a trough of paint and they’d be done.”
You must understand that Richard is fiscally conservative unless he is spending city money for shop equipment, especially things like new tractors, trucks and sweepers.
Chuck, who is a widower, said, “Sandy used to have her nails done. It’s okay.”
Charlie admitted, “Julie does her nails. She likes them that way.”
“Renee likes her nails to look nice,” said Kim. “Well, they do look nice.”
“I think the women go for the gossip,” added Richard.
And so around the room. Except for Reese, young and single. Reese looked embarrassed by the whole conversation.
I may be the only woman in town who has never had her nails manicured. It just never seemed practical because my fingers were always either planting in the dirt or tearing down furniture, which does nasty things to one’s nails if they aren’t trimmed tight. But I understand the appeal of color, design, glitter, shaping and polish. However, there is more to a manicure than the cosmetic finish.
“Okay, men. Listen up. Obviously, you don’t understand. If I want gossip, I can get all I want from you guys at morning coffee,” I said. “It’s not about gossip. Style is nice but that is not the whole appeal. Think about this for a minute. I know this will be a stretch for you, but try to remember back to when you first began to date the girls. You pick her up in your dad’s Ford Fairlane. You take her to the Grand Theatre, buy tickets to the John Wayne feature of the week, get a bucket of popcorn, two large Cokes, and go sit in the middle of the back row. Remember that? The lights go down. You watch the newsreel, the cartoons, the previews. Finally the movie starts. You wait for just the right moment, after the popcorn is finished, probably when the hero is petting his horse, and you reach over and take her hand in yours. You hold her hand through the rest of the movie. Maybe you even get a goodnight kiss at the door at the end of the date. But the important thing, the thing she remembers for the rest of her life, is that you held her hand.
“No, don’t laugh. What I’m telling you is important. Women love to have their hands held. Men are different. Men are hunters. Once the game is bagged, they ignore it. Once you got married, you never held her hand again, did you? Why would you — now you own her, right? Now you turn your manly attention to other things, like the recliner and the remote. She still remembers when you used to hold her hands.
“So your women go have their nails done because for a half-hour somebody is holding their hands and giving them undivided attention. Think about it.”
“If I went home tonight and held Kim’s hand,” said Dale, “She’d be suspicious I’d done something wrong, stopped at the casino or something.”
“My wife would just say ‘I have a headache,’” offered another guy.
Poor Reese, he blushed. But he’d just as well know the real facts of life.
Coffee with the boys is OK. I learn valuable football skills. But tomorrow I’m going for a girly-girl manicure.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little diffeent. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)