A Thumbnail Sketch


I risked a visit to the mall today in the search of a pair of sandals. By some miracle I found a rough approximation of what I was looking for and made my exit as directly as I could.
“Hey, can I ask you something?” a young gentleman manning a booth in the central aisle called out to me.
Fully aware that he was preying on my proclivity for politeness, but unable to ignore said proclivity, I stopped and went over to him. He wanted to know if I always kept my nails so short. “Yes I do.” Before I knew what was happening he was polishing my thumb nail with a vigorous intensity all the while explaining in fake technicalities what surface of the buffer he was using and why. I now have 9 normal nails and one that shines with an unnatural brilliance.  I could use it to redirect the sun and blind people or send signals to ships at sea. “That looks a little weird.” I mumbled. But he ignored me as he was mid-pitch showing me the box set that there was no way in hell I would purchase, proudly proclaiming that the sheen would last for weeks no matter what I did! He then paused:

“Are you married or happy?” he asked me.
“Beg your pardon? Am I married or happy?”
English was not his first language but he looked me in the eye and repeated the question. I looked back at him, bewildered. I was stumped. “Neither,” I laughed, knowing that the truth is of course more complicated. It is possible to be both and neither at the same time. At least for me.


11 responses to “A Thumbnail Sketch

  1. Maybe he knows more than you think. Statistics – for what they are worth- seem to suggest that men are happier in a relationship and live longer but women are better off single. So maybe the men should settle down together and the women of a certain age take to being out of control singletons.

  2. You got caught in a good sales technique of “showing” rather than “telling” you about a product.

    Marriage is technically only a legal contract. I consider marriage to be a dead institution.

    • Marriage is also a social ritual that still holds a lot of value to some people. It is a chance for families to meet, for the couple to make a public declaration of their commitment to each other. Like baptisms and funerals, marriages are rituals of our life cycle. But only the last one is non negotiable.

  3. I had my nail polished in a mall once too! You describe the shine well!

  4. Personally, I think he still needs to polish his sales technique.

    Additionally, I wonder how the exchange would go if he had polished the nail of your middle finger?

  5. Sucker is really the adequate word for this guy. I can’t even call him a man. If this was a sales technique, it was quite a bad one. Really bad!

    1.The way he approached you (asking if you’ve always had your nails THIS/THAT short) is “per si” awfully destructive of the other’s image. It may work with people with low self-esteem, but should never, ever be done. One doesn’t need to / shouldn’t hurt other people’s feelings to try to sell a product.
    2. He started polishing your nail without asking for permission. You didn’t even notice what was going on. I can figure the situation! Ridiculous!
    3. (I don’t know how that nail shine looks like. ‘Have never tried it! Thank God! But I wouldn’t come home back home with a different nail. Just because…)
    4. That stupid “but trying to look clever” question “Are you married or happy” is unbelievable! I could write a whole essay on that.
    a)The question is entirely inappropriate. But let’s ‘forgive’ him ’cause English was not his mother tongue. Maybe he was trying to say something different; maybe he was trying to flatter you, but simply was unable to do so..
    b)We don’t know about his social / cultural backgrounds. That would be important. But he was working, not having an informal conversation to get to know someone. He ought to act politely.
    c) There’s a lot of prejudice towards non-married women. Marriage carries a sort of a status. A single man at 40, 45 is easily acceptable and being a bachelor even has its charm; a single woman at the same age, “has something wrong”, and is nothing else but a spinster. I talk a bit for myself and for what happens in my country, although I really don’t care. “Things have changed a lot”, people say. However they haven’t changed that much.
    d) Barbara is right when she says men are happier in a relationship. Because men are much more passive than women and as long as they have sex and all the work done at home (these type of men still exist and we have thousands of them here, even young men!), why wouldn’t they be happy? Women work, as well, and are most of the time too tired to go out with them. So they have fun with their male friends. See? These men found the perfect substitutes for their mothers, carry on having the same freedom (playing single, sometimes), and exhibit a wife (and kids) when needed, playing “the perfect family”. Isn’t that beautiful?
    e) Naturally that an independent woman, a woman who can think, who’s aware of who she is and of her own value is not going to marry such a type of creature so closely connected to a primate. Who needs that? Who deserves that? And it is in fact possible to be both single and happy. “Better alone than in bad company”, that’s how we use to say here.
    And (this is what I think) you don’t need to let your nails grow and polish them. You may do it, if you wish to do so. But not because you’re desperate looking for a man! (Why do men tend to think we dress ourselves for them?)
    The important thing is that you look at yourself in the mirror and that you like what you see. And the beauty you see is the reflection of your inside beauty. And that’s why you shine.

    • I glad I’m not the only only one who found it a very strange exchange-sending me off onto a tangent! I always worry I’m being too sensitive. I agree with all you wrote. Not having a wedding ring on for the first time since I was a young girl has been a very interesting experience. As a matter of fact when I initially left my husband I wore a different ring on that finger just to avoid…..I’m not sure what, but I knew there was(and there IS) something to avoid in the way of peoples attitudes.

      • Well… I answered without knowing whether you’re married or not. And it doesn’t really matter.
        You’re not being too sensitive, otherwise so am I. Respect is very nice and I like it! You probably too. It’s not a ring that will make a difference and you’ll make you (me) happy, although I perfectly understand how you may have felt. Something was missing, even there on your finger…
        We simply have to be ourselves. If we behave in a way to avoid attitudes and comments and to please others… we’ll lose ourselves in-between and we’ll never get there.
        After all people “love” when we’re down, don’t they?
        Let them be… Let us live!


  6. Sorry for being so long… I got lost in time!



  7. Reblogged this on nós and commented:
    A real sucker… Just another one among thousands… It can be applied to some women, too. Keep on the good posts, Jessica!

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