It Takes a Village to be a Brazilian Woman

I have a nail lady. One specific lady who knows my name and knows that I like my nails cut really short. So short that it almost hurts. Oh, and I have a standing appointment with my nail lady. Every other week. Thursday at 4pm. I’m a little behind on this whole commitment to nail ladies, so I don’t have a prime time like Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings. Those are all taken. My sister goes every other Saturday at 1pm. My mother takes the alternate Saturdays.

I currently don’t have a waxing lady because she moved. But my mom, sister and I have had a lady who waxes us from eyebrow to armpit to ankle since I was….ten? Eleven?

While others have a car guy and an air conditioning guy and a repair guy—we have nail women. Waxing women. Hair women. My cousins in Brazil did the permanent makeup thing where you tattoo(?) eyeliner on. Some women do the same for their lips, some staining that lasts months.

My aunt gets her nails and her hair done every Saturday morning. Her nail person goes to her house and, after clipping and polishing and painting, she stays for lunch. Then my aunt goes to the hair salon after lunch. Her whole day is gone.

You guys. It’s a lot.

And I can go into how ridiculous it is. I call it The Tax On Women. Not just the money we pay for all these services and products, but the time. The time it takes to put on makeup before work. The time it takes to make sure your hair looks presentable. To hide the blemishes men are fine being seen with. And just the time it takes to put a bra on, you guys. It’s usually fine, but when you’re half asleep and you get the clasp wrong the first time, it’ll take at least 2 more tries to get it right. That’s what happens with me, anyway. Get it wrong once? Doomed.

But I won’t. I won’t go into that. Instead, I’ll talk about the comradeship that happens when you have a woman who sees you every other week and sits across from you holding your hand in hers. She will get married and invite you. Or she will get married and it’s too late to invite you because you just started going to see her, but she would have invited you if it hadn’t been too late.

Regardless, you will see pictures. She will tell you how she met her now-husband. How her father is now in Brazil because he was deported and how he didn’t get to walk her down the aisle. She will show you pictures of her sister. And pictures of the new litter of puppies her dog just gave birth to. She will say she’s only selling the puppies to people she trusts—and she will offer to sell one to you at a better price because she knows your current dog is 14 years old. So, obviously, you know what you’re doing dog-wise.

She will help you pick out your nail color, suggesting you stray away from the usual dark colors you prefer. How about pink this time? Red? She will ask you if your thyroid deficiency is better and say she thinks you need to find a specialist. She might poke your thumb too hard and you say you’re going to tell on her to your mom and she laughs because she knows your mom and you’re both grown women. She will listen to you rant about how the Brazilian novela that’s supposed to be set in India is the most ridiculous and racist thing you’ve ever seen. She tells you her sister has an Indian friend whom she asked if the caste system was still a thing and the friend had said no. So she knows the novela is a lie.

She will ask you if sometimes you doubt God exists. You will tentatively say yes. Yes, you do doubt. But you’ll say it carefully, because even though you’re all about knocking over weak things, you don’t want to push too hard with her. You try to explain C.S. Lewis to her in Portuguese. You apologize because your Portuguese is elementary. She says you speak it well.

She says it’s her dream to go to college and be an engineer. You say you can help her understand the process and that she can ask you any question she has.

You say you’re going to have a Harry Potter party and she says she loves Harry Potter. You make a mental note to invite her and her new husband.

And you know, The Woman Tax, the extra time and money spent, it’s all kind of worth it. My nail lady has a steady payment from me. She hustles. And I contribute. But not only that, there’s a special connection you build with the women who are invested in your look. I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s worth it.