Viet Voice

A Poem for Her Nail Techs

by Kimberly Pham | December 26, 2012 | Bookmark +
The following poem was written by Tyneisha Smith, an elementary school language arts teacher and salon client, who wrote about her experience at the Vietnamese nail salon she frequents and her gratitude to the women who work there. "I enjoy life’s simple pleasures. One of those pleasures includes a visit to the nail salon," Smith says. “‘A Culture Beyond Trends’ was written on behalf of anyone who has ever visited a local nail salon and walked out with a smile on their face.”

A Culture Beyond Trends

All kinds:
French tips, American,
Regular powder, gel, solar,
And in-demand-animal prints, too!

My nails as I enter the salon:

Mixed and matched,
Chipped and bitten,
Cuticle care overdue,
One Hot Mess!

“You pick color,”
a petit voice called out from behind a surgical-like mask.
“I’m letting you choose today,”
my response to her.
My trust in the work of a family,
A culture.

Five ladies—Three generations:
Mother, plus 3, and 1 grand.
All masked with eyes reflecting their Vietnam past,
All responding to clients that ID them by their present American-like names:
Cindy, Jen, Janet, Kristi, and Michelle.

Being led to my seat,
I scan the venue.

In compliance,
Workstation walls yield
Lined up licenses bearing native names
Required by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation,
Specifically Code 83.70 Section (e) Responsibilities of Individuals.

Like others in their profession
Following Texas Cosmetolgy Code 16002.002 (Sections 10-12),
All busy: carefully pouring chemicals,
Filling foot spas,
Overlaying, and massaging.

Waiting for my turn,
I listen.
The Mother,
With limited English,
The speaker of her clients’ language
Through services performed,
With plus 3 and 1 grand nearby,
Her life’s joys and personal translators.

The eldest of the 3,
The Boss!
The English communicator,
Though broken, still understood,
With the weight of the family pitched behind the salon’s success,
She is the hope of their prosperity.

Listening transformed into

My nail techs,
With masked happiness
Made visible by rising cheeks
And laughing eyes outlined with fine smile lines,
Rolling on stools to and fro…
Painting and pleasing infinite generations.

Mentioned in the Collins English Dictionary of 2003,
A nail technician is a person
Whose job is to take care of
And decorate people’s fingernails and toenails.

But, my nail techs,
As defined by Yours Truly:
Masters of a craft,
Quickly learned for even quicker money,
Makers of their destiny.

Being serviced in my seat,
I smile.

The artists of my nails.

— Tyneisha Smith

This poem is a touching tribute from a client to her nail techs. In the spirit of the holiday season, I hope her words reach all nail techs in hopes that it brings you the same kind of smile she gets after visiting a nail salon.

— Kim
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