The Artist Dates: Solar Nails

This is part three in the saga of Dang Julia July.

As anyone who reads my columns in the Wacoan magazine knows, I’ve only had two pedicures in my life: before I got married and before my mom’s funeral. When I decided to get a pedicure for my artist date, I knew it would be the first one I paid for myself.

I let my daughter go first because that’s what a mom does. While I waited, I was fought tears. This is stupid. It’s too expensive. It’ll wash off in the pool tomorrow morning. 

But the couple running Solar Nails, Tony and Kathy, was just too nice. They didn’t like seeing me sitting alone, obviously sad. So Tony motioned me over and prepped me while he finished my daughter’s pedicure. I had forgotten that those chairs have a massage function. It’s supposed to be relaxing, but it freaks me out.

I kept remembering my last pedicure, arranged by my sister-in-law, Amy, who very thoughtfully brought along white wine in red Solo cups, and how those Vietnamese women in the other salon had giggled when she showed them.

Tony and Kathy at Solar Nails were also Vietnamese. I knew this because the calendar was from Vietnam, there was a Vietnamese travel show on the TV, there were knick-knacks from Vietnam all around the shop, and then, there were their real names (not Tony and Kathy) posted where you write the checks. The whole time I was thinking, My son has a Vietnamese friend whose parents own a nail salon.

Tony finished my daughter’s pedicure finished, and everyone in the shop began talking: the woman in the chair next to me, the woman paying, the woman waiting her turn, Tony and Kathy. I love mindless chitchat. It takes the pressure away from having to say something intelligent or meaningful. I love that everyone, no matter where you’re from, can discuss weather.

Kathy asked how old my daughter was and then wanted to know if I had any other kids.

“Yes, a son.”

“Oh, what grade?”


“Oh, does he know Dat?”

I said, “You’re Dat’s parents?”


I said, “My son spent the night at your house on the last night of school.”

“Oh, yes!”

Welcome to my small town.

“Is he taking a class at ACC [Austin Community College]?” Kathy asked.

“Yes. Government. Dat?”

“U.S. History,” Kathy said. “Are you going away this summer?”

“No. Not with the kids’ schedules.”

Kathy nodded. “Last year we went to Vietnam, but not this year.”

Then she and Tony started talking about Vietnam. I tried to listen, but between their accents and the surgeon’s masks they wore, it was hard to follow. But I did hear this sentence as clear as the hot summer sky outside: “Your son should come with us next time.”

When Kathy finished with me, she called my daughter back over. “Would you like a flower?”

My daughter looked at me, telegraphing silently, “Is it OK?”

“Oh, it’s free,” Kathy said, reading our glances.

She painted intricate and adorable white flowers on my daughter’s big toenails.

It was time to pay. I had brought a checkbook, just in case they didn’t take credit cards, but they did. I wrote a check anyway. I almost never write them anymore.

“Who do I make it out to?” I asked Tony.

“To my wife. Her name is there,” and he pointed to a sign over the counter. He motioned to leave it by the phone.

As we left, my daughter said, “Mom, I haven’t seen you so happy in so long!”

“I’m happy with my friends,” I said. “You just don’t see me with them. You only see me at home.”

“Yeah.” she said. “Isn’t Vietnam dangerous?”

“No. Mexico’s dangerous.”

“Yeah,” she said. “My friends have told me.”

Then I started to wonder—was I supposed to tip? Was a pedicure like a haircut?

“Hey, hon,” I said to my daughter. “Did Grandma tip when she got you a pedicure up in Estes last year?”

“I don’t know.”

I texted Amy, Wonder Woman & Sister-In-Law. “Help! Are you supposed to tip for a pedicure?”

She texted back immediately. “Yes,” and told me what she tipped.

Oh, no.

By this time I was in my writer’s group. I didn’t mind looking like a fool; I minded looking like a cheapskate. When the meeting was over, I drove home to retrieve the box of leftover quarters from our recent garage sale. (Believe me, it was a LOT of quarters.) I grabbed the box, drove to the bank, traded the quarters for cash, and the total came to exactly what I wanted to give: what Amy recommended, times two, plus $5 extra for being tardy. Because I am a cheapskate, but I do the right thing.

I drove back to Solar Nails. Kathy was busy with a customer, so I set the money by the phone. Just then, Tony saw me and looked concerned.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I forgot to tip. And you worked us in without an appointment and did the flowers for free. Here.”

Tony hugged me and laughed.

I promised my daughter that we’ll come back when marching season is over and get manicures. Just in time for the holidays, when we can show Amy.


  1. Beautiful, lovely, I can so relate to the blessings of this small town…I am so lucky to have you as a friend! I’m glad you got the pedicure – they last longer than manicures.

  2. I loved this, Megan, the easy tone and honesty- and great story telling.
    PS., I’ve never had a mani or pedi….but I’ve accompanied my daughters on several occasions.

  3. You remind me of why you make me smile.

    This is wonderful. 🙂

  4. Good story, Megan. I just love stories…

  5. I don’t drink liquor or coffee. I don’t smoke cigarettes or cigars. Or pipes, either. But I do get a pedicure every month. And a buffed manicure, too. I started about 2 years ago, trying to help two sisters who got tossed out of a nail salon I used to visit maybe 3 times a year. They started their own and are delightful people. And here’s an interesting, ugly fact about aging – you need more help maintaining good foot health as you get older. At least that’s what I tell myself. :>) And I love the massage chair. A lot. :>)

  6. I don’t like those massage chairs either. There was a pedi place about a mile from the hospice home. That was the last I’ve been. And I can probably count on one hand (maybe two) the number of times I’ve been. The first time I nearly fell into the tube trying to get into the chair. And I hadn’t had any wine, either.

  7. Oh, I can just picture you during this whole experience…the tears in your eyes…going home to get the quarters…the whole bit. Won’t you please move next door to me? Please? 🙂