Friday Read: “The Price of Nice Nails” by Sarah Maslin Nir
I, like everyone else on the internet yesterday, read “The Price of Nice Nails,” an extremely well-reported New York Times story on the abuse and exploitation of nail salon workers. And I, like many people who were talking about the piece, was shocked by the details. Manicurists in the tri-state area are extremely underpaid and face ethnic discrimination. Most of the anecdotes shared by interviewed manicurists are upsetting to read, whether or not you’re a person who regularly gets their nails done in a salon.
A lot of the discussion I’ve seen following “The Price of Nice Nails” has centered on how to support nail salon workers now that their labor conditions have been exposed to the greater (New York Times-reading) population. I read one comment that suggested the only responsible way for people to react is to do their nails at home, unless they could afford to tip 100%. This made me feel conflicted.
I get my nails done, if not regularly, then semi-regularly. I’m impatient when it comes to performing any sort of beauty routine – I can barely stand spending ten minutes applying minimal makeup each morning – and my nail painting skill level has never risen above kinda shitty. I love having nice nails and I don’t want to do them myself. I also love the experience of getting a manicure. That’s why I spend around $40 – including tip – for a gel manicure at a fancy-ish chain of salons in North Brooklyn every month or six weeks. Every time I get my nails done, I tip 20%. I know that’s not generous, but I thought it was perfectly acceptable. I can afford to spend $40 on my nails once a month. I cannot afford to spend twice – well, a little less than – that once a month. I wondered if I should, in fact, give up this small luxury.
Sarah Maslin Nir, the author of the article, also published this: “3 Ways to Be a Socially Conscious Nail Salon Consumer.” She suggests that the next time you go to a nail salon, you interview your manicurist, look for a timecard system, and pay (not necessarily tip) more. That seems fair enough to me.
Part 2 of the series, called Unvarnished, was published today. “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers” will be something I read later today. I was also interested in how this all came to be, so I read this interview in the Times with Sarah Maslin Nir, as well as this interview on Vice.
What else did I read this week? (And last week, since I neglected to post last week.)
Another story that made me feel conflicted, “Welcome to Pariahville” is about a community of sex offenders in Florida. (GQ)
This, on ZPM Espresso, a Kickstarter project that failed to launch. (NYT Magazine)
Emily Nussbaum on Amy Schumer’s “raucous feminism.” (The New Yorker)
Sheila Heti’s short story, “My Life Is A Joke” (The New Yorker)
Alana Massey on “The Dickonomics of Tinder” (Matter)
An interview with one of my favorite musicians of late, Mitski. (The Cut)
Brendan O’Connor on “The Mysterious Persistence of the Cronut” (NYT Magazine)
“Split Image,” about the hidden life of Madison Holleran, the Penn athlete who committed suicide last year (ESPN)
I continue to read Kate Bolick’s Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, but I keep getting hung up on the fact that she never really seemed to be alone? Like, she always has boyfriends, even though she doesn’t really want them. I don’t know. The book is about more than her own life and I’m interested in what she has to say about her “spinster” role models, so I’m going to try to dive back in this weekend and reserve judgment for after I’ve finished (if I do).
I also just purchased People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo – and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry. This was my own pick for book club this month, so I’m hoping it’s as good as everyone says it is. (It was on this Oyster list of the 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far.)