if you were a jersey girl in the 80s/early-to-mid 90s who went to “the city” w/your street-wise mom on an even a semi-regular basis, you probably grew up with the following advice:
“listen to me. are you listening? walk fast and stare straight ahead. don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at anyone and don’t make eye contact. AND HOLD ONTO YOUR BAG.” (holding onto your bag was key.)
considering that i got those pointers hammered into my head at a fairly young age, i’ve gotten pretty darn good at avoiding anyone who appears even remotely like a threat. holly, once a western pee-ay girl who used to say hi to everyone and “stare at the crazies” (as she did on our first date almost 10 (!!??) years ago), has followed in my footsteps and now also excels at walking fast, staring straight ahead and holding onto her bag. (psych! you know she never carries a bag! i’m the bee-otch always stuck carrying everything in whatever bag/purse i’m dragging around.)
anyway, the story. so if you’ve been at any mall in the past 20 or so years, you know the hallways are full of these kiosks. jewelry kiosks. family photography kiosks. bath fitter (omg, still don’t get that one) kiosks. (i’d like to take the opportunity here to note that a disproportionate amount of kiosks sell cellphone cases. how does one make a living selling cell phone cases?!) and then there are the hair straightener kiosks. and the nail care kiosks. and for whatever the hell reason i don’t understand, the great majority of these last two are manned by israelis.
oh israelis. i love the israelis. i love israel. been there twice. gorgeous, magical place, unbelievable food. but hot damn, israelis are pushy! it’s their “way.” their “charm,” if you will. they are also disproportionately good-looking. this combination makes them extremely good kiosk employees. almost deadly.
here’s a typical exchange at an east coast mall for holly and i.
(handsome israeli man zeros in on two potential customers. they’re both female. double whammy. we make eye contact for .02 seconds. dammit! this is what my mother warned me about!)
(it’s too late. he’s walking towards us. he singles me out.)
“excuuuuse-me! MEEEESS! [“miss”],” he shouts across the hallway. “meeeess! excuuuuuuuuuuse me do you straighten your HAAAAIR?!”
(of course i straighten my hair! i’m jewish! i want to yell. instead i focus on a an invisible spot across the mall and walk faster.)
“keep walking, honey,” i tell holly w/out moving my lips. (suddenly i’m a ventriloquist, too.) “just. keep. walking.”
“MEEEEES! deees will only take a meee-nute! you have very beautiful hair! i make you even more beautiful!” (what he doesn’t realize is that his swarthy charms won’t work on us the way they do on other girls. we are immune.)
“THAT’S OK NO THANKS WE’RE NOT INTERESTED BUT THANKS ANYWAY!” i yell back, trying not to sound rude but failing. i sense holly’s defenses crumbling simply bc she is too nice. i, on the other hand, was raised in new jersey. i grab her arm and drag her. we finally make it out of the danger zone. we both breathe out.
this scenario is repeated fairly frequently. but last week [when we were prowling every hair place in white marsh looking for the perfect product for holly’s hair (don’t get me started, don’t even get me started)] there was a crack in our usual plan. it was…a woman.
we were passing a nail kiosk and a pretty olive-skinned girl spotted us.
“shit honey! she saw us.”
“excuuuuse me!” she shouted. “are you two seeesters?” [“sisters”]
seeing how i’m friggin tired of ppl asking if we’re sisters (hello, we look totally different. but we both have brown hair, are caucasian and under 5’5″ so sure, i guess we look like sisters), i was like, “no. we’re married.” i don’t usually do that, but i figured, what the hell. maybe she’d give up b/c gay girls don’t care about manicures bc we all work on motorcycles when we’re not fixing cars and building ikea furniture. (false, btw. i totally do my nails and hello, i’ve never put together ikea furniture. i get holly to do it for me!)
anyway, i don’t remember what she said, but her accent was so cute and she was so pretty (ok, gorgeous), that, yup, you guessed it. holly and i both stopped.
“let me ask you a queeeestion,” the hot israeli girl asked us both. she knew she had the married girls hooked. “are you reeeady to see something unbelievable?”
“um…yeah?” we both responded. i wanted to run but my legs were glued to the marble floor. i couldn’t move them. it was like a bad dream except not that bad.
she asked to see holly’s hand. i knew what was about to happen. yup, and out came the three-sided puffy nail file (ladies, you know the one i’m talking about). she filed and filed and was talking and talking and honestly? yeah, i don’t remember what she said, just that she was unbelievably pretty.
“try not to yell too loud when you see this, okay? you will simply not belieeeeve dees.”
she lifted the nail file and holy crap, i could practically see my reflection in holly’s nail. then she did it to me while i stood immobilized, unable to tell her to stop or no. when she removed the file, my nail (index finger) was shinier than it’s ever been in my entire life. then she took out some special bottle of oil and put it on our cuticles. and still, we could not run.
“wow,” i said, looking at my nail, preparing to tell her that under no circumstances were we going to buy these nail kits. or even one nail kit for that matter.
“only $34.99!” she said, smiling her thousand-watt israeli smile.
“no…it’s ok, maybe next time,” i croaked, clearing my throat.
be strong, i told myself.
“ok! for you, i give at special price! $29.99!”
“no, seriously,” i said laughing. “we’re ok. no, thanks.”
but no. this didn’t work either. she just thought i was playing hardball.
“come here, come into my office,” she told us, moving towards the kiosk chair. and what did we do? we followed her. like little lambs.
“for you, only for you, i give very special price.” (only for me? geesh.)
she tapped some numbers into a big calculator and turned it around to face us. it read $24.99.
this was my big chance to say no. ain’t no way no how uh-uh not gonna buy it. what did i say instead?
i asked if she worked on commission, for her name and told her we’d be back next week. until then, we each have one insanely shiny fingernail. all of this could have been avoided if we’d just stuck to the plan and run like hell.