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Why I Refuse to Get My Daughter a Salon Manicure

Photograph by Twenty20

When I go for my monthly pedicure—don't hate, I live in California where it's sandal weather all year round—I always see at least one mother with a young daughter. They're adorable, getting their side-by-side manis, and no doubt it's easier to schedule self-care when you can keep your kid busy doing the same thing. But tempting as it might be to bring my 5-year-old to the salon, I'm not going to do it. Not when she's 8. Not when she's 10.

Not until she gets a job.

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I got my first professional manicure when I was in my 20s, and I paid for it myself. Making that choice, to spend part of my pathetic entry-level salary on getting my nails done, felt like a real treat, one that I earned. It might have been more responsible to save for a rainy day, but I rationalized that I was "dressing for the job I wanted" by looking sleek and professional with my French tips. As a teenager, I'd shellacked my own nails with sparkly Wet 'n Wild polish or my mom helped. Graduating to a real manicure, and learning not to chip the paint while flipping through an irresistible salon copy of Vogue or Cosmo, made me feel so adult.

It seems like a total inversion of what I'm trying to teach her, about respecting adults, following directions and being helpful.

You know who's not an adult? My 5-year-old. It's not that she wouldn't love to join me—as a princess-in-training and budding fashionista, she already begs to wear my makeup (no), try on my clothes (sure) and walk around the house in my heels (funny). She'd love to get her nails done like Mama, but if she has that experience on a regular basis as a child, what will she have to look forward to? How will she ever appreciate life's little pleasures if they're all automatic?

I also don't think my little girl should be waited on by a grown woman. It seems like a total inversion of what I'm trying to teach her, about respecting adults, following directions and being helpful. I'm sure my kid would be polite and thankful to the manicurist, but somehow it still just feels wrong.

So, yeah, not happening.

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Holding this limit shouldn't be a problem, I mean, really, but I've actually had some awkward moments turning down "manicure playdates" (yes, this is at thing) and I assume it's only going to get worse as the girls get older. What will I do when all her friends are getting their hair blown out, or their makeup professionally applied? It sounds so absurd, yet I'm quite certain that in our silly, affluent neighborhood with fancy moms that these opportunities will come up. And I'll have to draw the line somewhere.

Prom, fine. Kindergarten, no way!

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